Uncharted: The Lost Legacy proves two things about the Uncharted series: One, Uncharted games do not need Nathan Drake. Two, Uncharted games do need an overhaul from the ground up. I love most of the characters in this series. I love the writing—which is largely unparalleled in the video game industry—and I love going on adventures with Nate and co. But I can’t play another game like this. Not for a while, at least. The formula is stale and desperately needs a shakeup.
Despite the switch in protagonist from Nate to Chloe, The Lost Legacy feels distinctly like a reskin of Uncharted 4. Chloe feels exactly same to control as Nate, you’ll spend a lot of time driving a jeep in an environment that looks a lot like Uncharted 4’s Madagascar level, and the only new combat mechanic is the introduction of a silenced pistol. This repetition might have been acceptable if The Lost Legacy were priced at around $20, but for $40 I expect more new content.
The familiarity is disappointing, however it means everything I loved about Uncharted 4 is all here in a neat seven-hour package. I barely noticed Nate’s absence, thanks to the equally hilarious and sarcastic Chloe, although more than once I wanted to swap out Nadine for Sam, Sully, or pretty much anyone else we’ve seen in the series.
The shorter run time leads to a tighter and less convoluted story which takes place nearly entirely in India’s luscious Western Ghats. Chloe and Nadine are after a piece of Ganesh’s tusk, which was supposedly chopped off by Parashurama using an axe gifted to him by Shiva. The tusk is hidden at Halibedu, the capital city of the Hoysala, an ancient civilization from around 1,000 AD. Chloe knows where the city is located, but to get through the gate she needs to steal a key from the game’s big bad, Asav. He’s the head of a rebel militia in India which is trying its explosive best to start a civil war. Asav doesn’t get a ton of screen time to flesh out his character, but he still manages to be more interesting than most of Uncharted’s villains. Overthrowing the Indian government is at least more original than chasing immortality or money.
Chloe and Nadine both have their own motivations for going up against another armed milita. Chloe is half Indian and her father was obsessed with the tusk. Nadine is desperate for a big payday to regain control of Shoreline after being betrayed in Uncharted 4. I didn’t like Nadine’s character in Uncharted 4, however by the end of this adventure I liked her. A bit. Nadine developed a personality as she bonded with Chloe over her ties to Asav and the Drake brothers. She isn’t much use during combat though. Her contributions are largely limited to scripted moments and she is strangely reluctant to use her gun for the former head of a private military corporation.
The most notable improvement from Uncharted 4 to The Lost Legacy is the quality of the puzzles. Previous Uncharted games often snuck in puzzles that were challenging in their obscurity, however the puzzles in The Lost Legacy always have a clear set of rules and an objective. You’ll immediately know what you need to do, so it becomes a case of solving the puzzle not the video game logic. I also enjoyed the way many of the puzzles developed or reinforced the main story. They aren’t utterly disconnected from the experience. For example, Shiva’s weapon was an axe, so when in a Shiva-themed environment, the puzzle has you avoiding axe swings. A few times, the puzzles even reinforce and develop the game’s story, but to say more would be a spoiler.
There is also a scattering of mini-puzzles this time around thanks to Uncharted’s first open world level. An optional prize awaits you if you collect 11 coins dotted around the world and most of them require you to solve a short environmental puzzle. These coins are infinitely more satisfying to find than the main treasure collectibles which—as per the Uncharted formula—are just lying around out in the open without so much as a description of the treasure to reward you for exploration.
Unfortunately, these hidden coins are the only interesting aspects of the open world, which is otherwise just a series of three combat encounters that you can do in any order. There are no opportunities to approach these encounters from a different direction or get the jump on any enemies. Even the smaller puzzle sections have to be approached from one particular direction and God-forbid you try to climb up a cliff that isn’t specifically marked up with the right color of handholds. Instead of adding variety to the game, the open-world simply pads out the story and contributes to a tedious few hours that had me wondering whether this adventure was going to be a rare dud from Naughty Dog.
The second half is a huge improvement and by the time I finished the game I was almost breathless from the incredible finale consisting of probably the best set-piece in the Uncharted series. I’m still in awe at how well Naughty Dog executed the final chapter. These moments have always been the highlight of Uncharted games and The Lost Legacy is no exception.
The Lost Legacy brings over the bad aspects of Uncharted 4 along with the good. I didn’t enjoy Uncharted 4’s combat and stealth mechanics, and the introduction of a silenced pistol is not enough to change that. You still spend far too much time hiding behind cover or crouching in tall grass thanks to the game’s hit-scan weapons. I much prefer the run-and-gun action movie approach and, as a result, I had more fun playing on the lower difficulty settings.
Naughty Dog did at least recognize criticisms of Uncharted 4’s overuse of crates, so they are barely present in The Lost Legacy. Instead, they’ve been replaced by equally tedious lockpicking. One step forward, one step back, I guess.
By the end of my seven hours with The Lost Legacy, I felt a profound amount of fatigue with the Uncharted series, especially the risk-free climbing and lackluster combat. Witty protagonists and incredible set pieces pull the game out of mediocrity, but its systems are in drastic need of a redesign.
The writing is as incredible as ever, leading to strong character moments between Chloe and Nadine, and more than one laugh-out-loud moment. Plus, the ending is nothing short of phenomenal. And yet, I find it hard to wholeheartedly recommend the game. If you haven’t played other Uncharted games then you should absolutely start with the remastered collection and Uncharted 4. If you have played those games then you really don’t need to play this one, especially not for $40. The Lost Legacy is another very good game in a franchise almost unrivaled in its consistently high quality. It’s just a shame we’ve seen it all before.