Review - Uncharted: The Lost Legacy
In an era full of useless season passes and gross microtransactions, we’ve grown used to setting our expectations for add-on content low. With DLC, there has to be a balance. Extra content must be meaningful enough that we pay for it without remorse, but not so meaningful that it makes us feel like it was cut from the game just to get more money out of us. A game has to make us want more DLC, but not make it feel like a requirement. The game developers at Naughty Dog clearly understand.
Uncharted: The Lost Legacy
Uncharted: The Lost Legacy was originally intended as a piece of single-player DLC for Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End. That much is evident given how many mechanics and systems are lifted directly out of Uncharted 4, including features that debuted in that game, such as the rope hook. However, about halfway through Lost Legacy’s 8-hour story, it became apparent why the game was changed to being a standalone title (although, it's a free download for those who purchased the Uncharted 4 season pass).
Lost Legacy is still absolutely an Uncharted game. We’ve come to expect dynamic shootouts, crazy action moments, funny banter, and a gripping story from this series. Lost Legacy delivers on all of that.
You play as Chloe Frazer, a major character in the Uncharted series, who was noticeably absent in the main story of Uncharted 4. In Lost Legacy, she’s on a quest with Uncharted 4 semi-antagonist Nadine Ross, to find the lost tusk of Ganesh. The journey leads them into the mountains of India, where they face opposition from a group of mercenaries, and a treasure hunting madman known as Asav.
That last sentence could very well describe any Uncharted game, and it’s one way Lost Legacy is somewhat difficult to review. It’s a standalone game, but it was originally planned as DLC for Uncharted 4, so there’s very little new here, in a technical sense. It doesn’t feel like a different game, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing when it’s similar to one of the best games ever made. By the standards of add-on content in games, this would be some of the best DLC ever released. Judging it as its own game, though, it doesn't reach the heights of its predecessor.
The only real differences between Lost Legacy and A Thief’s End are story and pacing. Chloe and Nadine are very different people. Chloe (played by Claudia Black) is a fun-loving, Nathan Drake-esque treasure hunter. In the previous Uncharted games, it’s always difficult to nail down her allegiances, and she’s known for some epic betrayals, but otherwise, she’s here to crack wise and find treasure. On the other hand, Nadine (played by Laura Bailey) is an all-business, super tough, military woman. She’s rigid, focused, dangerous, and does not mess around. The personality contrast at play in this game is predictable, but highly entertaining.
Chloe’s infamous shady-ness as a business partner only serves to exacerbate the differences between the pair. Their conflicts highlight some fantastic acting and give layers of depth to two women formerly portrayed as accessories to Drake’s adventures. In one of their bonding moments, there’s even a fun conversation about how treasure hunting, with all its shooting, looting, and underhanded deals, is a male-dominated lifestyle. Without it ever getting on a soapbox about #girlpower, this is an action game starring two women of color, that never makes them sexual objects. I can't overstate how refreshing that is. And even though they kick ass (especially Nadine), Lost Legacy’s heroines never come off as cringe-inducing Lara Croft knock offs. Video game writing has come so far.
My only real issue with Uncharted: The Lost Legacy’s storytelling is a result of its biggest problem: its pacing. Clocking in at 8 hours, Lost Legacy is less than half the length of A Thief's End. Uncharted 4 used its length to cover a lot of ground. Most notably, it concludes multiple character arcs spanning four games, and alters the traditional Uncharted game structure to the point that it almost leans more “adventure” than “action”. That game added open-world segments, avoidable fights, and lengthy stretches of combat-free exploration. These things combined to make A Thief's End less about blockbuster action, and more about its characters and exploration.
Lost Legacy falters because it also includes every one of these ideas. It’s an 8-hour game that has shootouts, puzzles, exploration, long cutscenes, vehicle segments, and an open-world portion. Each component is well executed, but it still felt like either the game needed to be longer, or it needed to have fewer things going on. The shorter length of the game also puts limitations on the story. Since it’s such a short game, the story is almost exclusively told in the form of Nadine and Chloe having one-on-one conversations. Compared to the globetrotting adventures in Uncharted 2-4, this one feels like a fun afternoon romp. The Nadine/Chloe dynamic is great, but it doesn't get enough time to match the web of drama we saw with Nathan Drake and his pals. This, again, is only a problem because Lost Legacy is sold as its own product. The story still feels like a side story, even though the quality level is exceptional.
Ultimately, I still loved Uncharted: The Lost Legacy. It’s a game made by possibly the best game development studio on the planet, and it shows. I’ve been playing games like God of War and Horizon: Zero Dawn lately: games that push the limits of what is possible with video game visuals and animation. Lost Legacy’s presentation hangs with those games, despite it being built on an engine intended for a 2016 game. It also drills home the fact that no developer out there writes dialog better than Naughty Dog.
Lost Legacy is every bit as good as one would expect from the Uncharted team, but it’s also 5 lbs. of sausage in a 1 lb. package. However, due to it being a side story, it requires neither owning Uncharted 4, nor having any knowledge of previous Uncharted games. This low barrier to entry, combined with its low cost (it launched at $40 and can often be found under $20 in 2018), and it just being a good-ass game make Uncharted: The Lost Legacy easy to recommend.
(Great, with clear room for improvement)
That may be the best trophy I've ever earned. Anyway, thanks for reading and if you have friends who might care about Uncharted: The Lost Legacy, share this review with those buttons down there, please.