Although it isn’t the National Treasure crossover with Nic Cage I’ve been waiting for, Uncharted: The Lost Legacy was enough to get my attention. Naughty Dog seems to have a focus on strong linear narratives in their most recent games, so I was surprised to find a more open world approach Lost Legacy. However it’s also the first game to not feature Nathan Drake, instead featuring another character from the series, treasure hunter Chloe Frazer, as the player. Along with Nadine Ross, who made her appearance in Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End, Chloe sets off into the Indian Jungle to continue her father’s quest to find the ancient treasure of the Hoysala empire, known as the tusk of Ganesh.
Once making it through the usual exposition and starting area, players are presented with a lush open jungle in the Indian rain forest, and a 4WD to run wild in. If you’re anything like me, you’ll find the first thing you’ll do is drive straight into a rock. You see, when they were making the open environment for the game, they also made it a pain in the ass to commute through to get between the various mission start points. While getting occasionally stuck in the mud and having a map that’s as helpful as a piss soaked GPS may feel like an authentic rain forest experience, it certainly isn’t a fun part of the game.
Luckily the game does have some fun parts, and when it’s good, it’s really good. Naughty Dog knows how to add satisfying third person gun play, and this game is no exception. Of course there’s also a big emphasis on stealth, and although the stealth system is mechanically basic, when combined with interesting combat environments and enemy AI it really shines. The typical strategy of “stealth until spotted, then go in guns blazing” definitely applies, but it manages to keep a good balance between challenging and rewarding that extends through to the puzzles as well.
Good puzzle elements are part of what have always separated the Uncharted series from the market of third person shooters, and I can at least say that it did make my big brain do a thinking emoji at times. Finding a way to combine puzzle platforming and third person shooters seamlessly is not easily done. The difficulty curve is consistent, but ultimately it felt like it was spread too thin between all the driving and linear climbing. Which actually was a bit of a running theme for the game.
No one is questioning Naughty Dog’s ability to make really nice looking games anytime soon, nor their ability to work huge and exciting action set pieces into them. However when all of the effort goes into a cinematic experience, the gameplay starts to feel a little shallow. Lost Legacy manages to feel basic but refined, which is preferable to overambitious and buggy, but it’s easy to see how something like light RPG elements could add a lot more depth to a game like this, and give players more of an incentive to go anywhere but straight to the main story quests. Not that it really matters, since the game kind of gets sick of having open world elements halfway through anyway, and decides to switch back to being mostly linear for the second half of the game.
In the end I did enjoy Lost Legacy, well parts of it at least, but not enough that I would pay almost full new release price for it. That being said, fans of the Uncharted series will find the spirit of the series present in the game, and it’s definitely a notch in the belt for the library of PS4 exclusives. It’s just that the most enjoyable parts are spread thin between the chore of commuting, whether it be by vehicle or by linear climbing sections, and the word padding comes to mind. Next time, I hope they just get Nicolas Cage in some mocap gear if they’re gonna half ass it.
Also published on Medium.