Uncharted: Continued Legacy
I completed the campaign for Uncharted: Lost Legacy in about 7 hours, spread over three sittings. When I preordered this game on a whim a mere 10 days before release, I had instant preorder remorse. I am a person who buys videogames compulsively and idiotically, letting them sit on the shelf for months without playing them (just ask my remastered Bulletstorm still sitting on a shelf in shiny plastic). I was afraid I had done the same with the newest installment in the Uncharted franchise. I hovered over the cancel button half a dozen times or more before I decided to keep my purchase. I am an Uncharted fan and I've played each title exhaustively so I figured, even if I didn't play it immediately, I would get to it sooner rather than later. Well, the fates aligned for me the week of its release as the day I received it my videogame schedule was occupied only by increasing the size of my Stardew Valley farm. So, I unboxed it and put it in, expectations hovering just above mediocre and just under ok. 7 hours later and I've got two thoughts. 1: This game was incredible. 2: I am worried about the future of this franchise.
Before I get into this, I feel the need to explain, in brief, my thoughts on the game as a whole. Uncharted: Lost Legacy is a fantastic videogame that deserves to be celebrated. I've seen some people calling this game Uncharted 4.5 because of its un-numbered title and $40 price tag suggesting it is not a substantial entry to the series. While I understand the sentiment, this type of talk sells this game short. The one-two combo of Chloe Frazier and Nadine Ross is more than a breath of fresh air for this franchise, it's a rebirth. The story is fairly typical for an Uncharted game; let's go find an artifact and hopefully we get there before the giant asshole does. However the writing is top notch and the bond that develops between Chloe and Nadine is one of the most genuine representations of a real, human relationship I've ever seen in a game. The gameplay is nothing but Uncharted so there are no surprises, but with the addition of two new protagonists, it feels fresh and inviting. I found myself embracing the stealth element a little more than in other Uncharted titles and I enjoyed seeing the two characters aid each other in taking out unsuspecting foes. There is also a much talked about open worldy segment about 2 hours into the games that displays some really neat ideas about what we could expect out of an Uncharted game in the future. Combine all of this with Naughty Dog's uncanny ability to get crazy good visuals out of the PS4 hardware, and you've got my favorite Uncharted game.
So why am I worried?
Before this game came out, I didn't think that I needed any more Uncharted. It turns out that I was only half right and after further assessment I realized what I truly didn't need. I didn't need any more Nathan Drake. I've got no particular beef with Drake and Sully, but I feel that I've gotten everything I could get out of their story. The crowbarred, forced entrance of Nate's long, lost brother was a story trope that I didn't need out of the last game and, while I enjoyed Uncharted 4, it truly felt like a thief's end. Lost Legacy shows that there is much life left in the franchise. Life that doesn't have to, and shouldn't include Nathan Drake.
At this point I would like to give a bit of a spoiler alert as I'm about to reveal a story detail that comes about 4 hours into Lost Legacy.
After finishing the brilliant open world segment of the game, a segment jam packed with fresh ideas and interesting encounters, Naughty Dog just couldn't keep leave well enough alone and had to force Sam Drake into the story. It is revealed that Sam, Nate's long lost brother that they begged us to care about in Uncharted 4, has been helping the enemy advance their quest to the treasure. At this moment I instantly wondered the reasoning behind this. Why did they feel the need to include a Drake in this story? Sure, his troubled past with Nadine added fuel to the conflict between Nadine and Chloe but any number of storytelling devices could have been utilized to create that conflict. I think they included him because they felt the need to have a Drake in Uncharted. This is where my worry comes from. To me, the dedicated fan, the guy that they depend on preordering future titles, this series has only one way to truly move forward. It needs to be Drake free.
It took only a couple hours of play for me to know certainly that Chloe or Nadine could easily carry their own videogames. That's one of the things that Naughty Dog does so well. Those characters are so well developed that I feel like I not only know their motivations, but I can probably guess what they're going to do next. My worry is that they simply won't do it. I have no idea how this game is selling but, due to the buzz around it, I can only assume it's selling well. In my mind, that should tell Naughty Dog to embrace the new ideas and take the franchise in a brand new direction. Open up the gameplay allowing it to be less linear. Embrace your characters and give them the platform to develop and grow. Use the lessons you've learned to achieve true progress. That's what I believe should happen. Naughty Dog has said time and time again that they are done with the Nathan Drake story. I would love to believe them, but the introduction of Sam Drake into this game shows me that they are not quite willing to leave all of the past behind. I am worried that this type of thing could happen in future adventures. I could imagine them producing a Chloe or Nadine-centric game but having to squeeze Sully in there to smoke cigars and reminisce about how great of a partnership him and Nate had. I would still play that game, but I would be constantly wondering why they aren't letting these characters stand on their own. At least in that fantasy they are making another game based solely on Chloe or Nadine. Do you know what am I truly worried about? I'm truly worried that the next Uncharted game we see will not be this. It will be Uncharted 5: Drake's Return. Or worse yet, it will be nothing at all.