It’s a trend that might go unnoticed by many, but video games as a medium have matured so much over the past decade. As a whole, the industry still has a lot to learn, but in the last few years, we’ve been treated to some truly impactful and meaningful experiences. Games such as Overwatch and Watch Dogs 2 have shown us that diverse casts of characters are no longer a pipe dream, and for many players, Never Alone served as a first foray into the culture and history of indigenous peoples.
As an American of Indian (Asian) descent, I’ve personally longed for more representation, not only in video games, but in American entertainment as a whole. Things have gotten better with respect to movies and TV (with shows like Master of None receiving acclaim from fans and critics), but there’s still a long way to go. When talking about video games specifically, I can only think of a few titles that feature Indian characters that aren’t based on some sort of stereotype, and even then, they are almost always relegated to a secondary or background role.
Perhaps this is why I was immediately drawn to Uncharted: The Lost Legacy. Disregarding my fondness for the series as a whole, it was the new setting and cast of characters, both of which quickly caught my eye. Unlike previous entries, Uncharted: The Lost Legacy follows the exploits of Chloe Frazer (who is of Indian descent), as she ventures deep into the mountains of India in search of the fabled Tusk of Ganesha, an ancient artifact that her father obsessed over during her childhood.
I’ll admit, I was a bit skeptical of how the game would go about representing India and its rich culture, but it seems my fears were unwarranted. In typical fashion, Naughty Dog has outdone themselves once again. From the opening hustle and bustle of a busy city market, to the chitchat between henchmen, everything oozes of authenticity, and the attention to detail is immediately noticeable. War torn streets are littered with trash, cell phone screens easily attract fingerprints, fire and explosions cast a warm glow across the screen; I could detail a hundred little things that have been crammed into the game, but part of the magic comes in experiencing it for yourself.
Still, it’s worth mentioning that the developers have clearly done their homework when it comes to Hinduism and its mythology. Aside from the story centering on the Tusk of Ganesha, conversations between characters help to fill in the gaps, explaining the names and significance of certain Hindu deities. While I doubt it will dethrone your favorite 90’s educational game, The Lost Legacy clearly respects the culture it heavily borrows from, and it’s all the better for it.
Even though it isn’t a numbered entry in the series, The Lost Legacy is as fully-featured as any other Uncharted outing. The game can be played without a copy of Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End, and while it does wrap up some story elements from Nathan Drake’s final adventure, it can be enjoyed as a standalone experience. For those who enjoy the franchise’s multiplayer, you’ll be glad to know that The Lost Legacy includes the same multiplayer from A Thief’s End (with all of its DLC), along with a new Survival Arena mode, as well as a new character (and character skins).
Those who have already played through Uncharted 4 will feel right at home with The Lost Legacy. For the most part, the minute-to-minute action remains largely the same. The series’ patented mix of exploration, puzzle-solving, and combat translates well to the Western Ghats of India, and the stealth mechanics introduced in last year’s game make a triumphant return. Gone are the grenade-loving, bullet sponge henchmen from the PlayStation 3 titles; rather than artificially boosting difficulty through damage-resistant enemies, The Lost Legacy (and its predecessor) rely on smarter, more strategic enemy AI. Coupled with the ability to hide in tall foliage, and level designs that place an emphasis on verticality, it becomes hard to fault the tried-and-true gameplay loop that Naughty Dog perfected last year.
While the grappling hook and piton make a return, Chloe also has a few new tricks up her sleeve. Most notable is her ability to pick locks. Admittedly, its only use is on locked weapon crates left behind by enemy mercenaries, though it does come into play during one of the game’s more intense scripted sequences, which I won’t dare spoil. Additionally, Chloe also has access to a silenced pistol, which is a boon for those who like a little stealth with their gunplay.
Traveling alongside Chloe for the duration of the journey is Nadine Ross, a tough-as-nails mercenary who makes her return from Uncharted 4. This time around, she serves as Chloe’s partner-in-crime, as she tries to restore her name and reputation following the events of the previous game. It might come as a surprise to some, but the relationship between Chloe and Nadine serves as some of the best story bits in the series to date, partly because of their disparate personalities. Chloe’s devil-may-care attitude and her apparent apathy towards others contrast with Nadine’s professional and meticulous nature.
However, once you dig past these surface-level comparisons, it’s interesting to see just how similar these two wildly different characters are. While they might come from different backgrounds and have their own motives and goals, both have had a tough time proving their worth in the past, partly because they both work in male-dominated professions (assuming you can call treasure hunting a profession). The Lost Legacy isn’t afraid to deliver more serious story beats when necessary, though that doesn’t mean that there’s no humor to be found. When the two aren’t exchanging stories during car rides across the game’s map, they often exchange sardonic (and hilarious) quips, and I found myself missing their banter when the game’s credits began to roll.
Speaking of credits, while The Lost Legacy can be completed in eight or so hours, the game’s pacing is much tighter and more focused as a result of its shorter length. The second and third acts are fairly linear in nature, but it’s the opening third which stood out to me the most. After a brief intro sequence, Chloe and Nadine find themselves in a jungle nestled in the Western Ghats, which will undoubtedly draw some comparisons to Uncharted 4’s Madagascar stage. The same “wide linear” design is on display here, though The Lost Legacy has a few surprises up its sleeve.
The first act’s main quest can be tackled in any order (you’re tasked with finding a few temples), though a completely optional side quest will have you exploring ten additional areas, some of which have their own puzzles to solve. The series’ trademark ‘rotating’ and ‘shadow’ puzzles make a return alongside some brand-new ones, which serve as excellent diversions from combat and exploration.
Even without leading man Nathan Drake, Chloe and Nadine find themselves escaping from collapsing ruins and hanging on cliff edges just the same, and the game looks absolutely fantastic in motion. Naughty Dog has always been at the forefront of choreographed action sequences, and their talent is on full display this time around. Whether you’re sliding down mud paths or dodging a nearby explosion, The Lost Legacy never buckles under the weight of its impressive set pieces. The game’s finale, in particular, is a remarkable sequence (and a technical accomplishment), and is easily one of my favorite moments from the entire series. Tying this all together is Henry Jackman’s excellent original score, which, while less grandiose compared to previous games, fits better with the game’s more serious tone and setting by incorporating traditional Indian instruments.
With Uncharted 4 having released last year, I’m sure there will be those who simply dismiss The Lost Legacy as a quick cash grab or unnecessary epilogue, and that would be doing it a huge disservice. Last year saw the end of Nathan, Elena, and Sully’s globetrotting adventures, and while the future of the series remains up in the air, The Lost Legacy opens up the series to new possibilities, and plenty of stories that are just waiting to be told. I sincerely hope that this isn’t the final game in the series, but if it is, rest assured, you won’t be disappointed.
This review is based on the PlayStation 4 Pro version of the game, which we were provided with.
With Uncharted: The Lost Legacy, Naughty Dog has once again raised the bar when it comes to cinematic action games, delivering an experience that is equal parts exhilarating and ambitious.