Uncharted: The Lost Legacy Review
This standalone adventure succeeds on the strength of its characters and writing.
No one should play Uncharted: The Lost Legacy without first playing the rest of Naughty Dog’s epic adventure series. A side effect of that, however, is that no one who plays The Lost Legacy will experience much they haven’t seen before. This standalone adventure, set after the events of Uncharted 4, is packed with the beautiful vistas, exciting action, and memorable characters we expect from an Uncharted game, but the familiarity of it all made Lost Legacy feel more like a by-the-numbers summer blockbuster than the milestone events that came before it.
I had a distinct sense of deja vu with nearly every action scene of this six-hour adventure. Every shootout with disposable guns against mindless paramilitary dudes, every crumbling wall I had to climb and shimmy across, and every floaty driving sequence across the Indian planes felt directly lifted out of the previous Uncharted games. It feels like replaying a great linear action game game – still good, but without the novelty and suspense.
The benefit of rehashing some of the high points of the series is that Lost Legacy mostly trims out some of the more tedious mechanics of Uncharted 4 (I’m looking at you, winching). In fact, it oftentimes subverts expectations in clever, self-referential ways. For example, there’s a moment in the opening act where you have to repeat one of those boring and ubiquitous crate-platforming sections from the last game. But when the crate smashes through the floor and sends your characters plummeting down, one replies “No more crates.” And sure enough, those banal roadblocks are stricken from the rest of the adventure.
Off the Rails
One idea that does feel fresh is the occasional puzzles that block the path, which provide a great palate-cleanser to the action. Solutions often require careful observation of the world around you for environmental clues, such as the way specific light sources cast shadows, which I always loved doing considering just how stupidly gorgeous Naughty Dog’s depiction of India is. The game knows how to draw your eye toward the smallest detail, which is a testament to the art, lighting, and camera work in cinematics.
Lost Legacy looks and sounds spectacular in gameplay, too. It’s peppered with iconic moments that feel like you’re in control of a giant Hollywood action scene. I love how these thrilling sections always give me the sensation of scrambling along the edge of a knife, barely surviving in one piece, even though they’re largely scripted.
The one gameplay area where Lost Legacy tries to switch things up is in its second act, where it goes semi-open-world and we’re given the largest playspace the Uncharted series has ever seen. But no matter how beautiful this area is – and holy moly is it gorgeous – it’s empty when it comes to things to do, and frankly boring.
A good open-world map promotes and rewards exploration and curiosity, but Uncharted’s seems to actively punish those things in several ways. It fills the environment with surfaces that appear climbable but are insurmountable. Nothing destroys your momentum quite like running up to a pillar that you assume you can scramble up, only to have Chloe bump off of it awkwardly. Likewise, there are several spots throughout Lost Legacy with jumps that appear easily doable, but if you attempt them you’ll find yourself dead for no apparent reason. Finally, while there are dozens of collectable trinkets scattered across the world, there’s no real incentive for seeking them out. For a game that’s ultimately about a group of people trying to find treasure, I was disappointed to walk away from this open-world experiment empty handed.
Carrying the Load
The main element that continued to propel me forward through the adventure is the fantastic dynamic between Chloe and Nadine. I really loved the fact that Naughty Dog took these two side characters from past games and put them front and center in this pressure cooker. Exploring their backgrounds, discovering their motivations, and watching them grow was simply fantastic. It’s remarkable how well the pair handle shifts between somber moments of gravity and light comedic interludes. Probably the biggest compliment I can pay the story and characters is that at no point did I think to myself, “Man, I wish Nathan Drake were here.”
The main villain in Lost Legacy, on the other hand, is a bit lacking in his motivations. While I enjoyed how he was written and performed, it just seemed like he was evil for evil’s sake. I was much more interested in watching Chloe and Nadine grow as characters than I was in their direct conflict with this arms dealer.