It’s no surprise that Naughty Dog-delivered games are nothing short of excellent, but that serves up an issue unto itself, leaving us with one important question: How is something that is arguably perfect in the first place able to be improved?
This isn’t a problem Naughty Dog necessarily tackles with its new addition to the Uncharted franchise, The Lost Legacy, as the studio instead aims to expand on the solid foundations of the property and explore a universe so many fans have fallen in love with. It’s a smart, strong move.
I was fortunate enough to preview the game before its August 23 release as well as speak to Naughty Dog’s Senior Communications Manager Scott Lowe about what makes Uncharted: The Lost Legacy a standout experience in a stellar franchise. Some franchises risk the loss of character or a disconnection with the players when a protagonist or location is shifted. This isn’t the case with Uncharted: The Lost Legacy, which maintains Naughty Dogs high bar of quality in its phenomenal storytelling and cinematic style.
Uncharted: The Lost Legacy places you in the shoes of Nathan Drake’s close friend Chloe Frazer (voiced by Claudia Black), an Indian-Australian treasure hunter with a quick wit and insatiable lust for adventure, as she attempts to find the location of the Tusk of Ganesh, an ancient artifact from Hoysala Empire period. Chloe isn’t alone on her search, though, as she’s joined by Uncharted 4’s sometimes antagonist, sometimes ally Nadine Ross (voiced by Laura Bailey), who finds herself in allegiance with Chloe in the hopes of re-gaining control of her family’s mercenary business, Shoreline.
I asked Scott Lowe what lead to the decision to select these two lead characters and why they decided to deviate away from Nathan Drake, a lead character synonymous with the series.
“We felt [that] over the last 10 years, we had told the main story of Nathan Drake, and even though he is the anchor to that world in so many ways, the universe has grown and expanded beyond him,” said Lowe. “We have all these characters we’ve built along the way, and Chloe is chief among them. She is one of the most memorable, and beloved of those characters.”
Lowe continued, describing how The Lost Legacy both borrows the skeleton of the Uncharted series and branches out into its own territory, a move that’s motivated by the focus on Nadine and Chloe.
“This game really shows the DNA of Uncharted, that grand scale of adventure that’s driven by narrative and characters. This game is still true to every ounce of this DNA, it’s just has a new set of characters that are still in the spirit of what made this franchise really enjoyable to fans,” Lowe explained before discussing Chloe’s verve. “Chloe, in particular, is a great protagonist in this case as she similarly to Drake, has this great sense of humour that brings levity to the experience, but it’s unique to her in the sense of her personality. She’s [a] more sly, wise-cracking enigmatic character, but it’s clear she has a lot more going on beneath the surface so she keeps everyone at arm’s length. So, the opportunity to come back to her character and give new life and a new perspective on her was a tremendous opportunity for the team.”
Of course, it wouldn’t be a true Uncharted experience without a devious antagonist to halt our heroines at every turn. The villainous character in question for The Lost Legacy is a Asav (Usman Ally), a highly educated, well-spoken Indian rebel leader whose twisted perceptions have led him to believe he is the rightful owner of the Tusk of Ganesh.
Lowe dove a bit deeper into Asav’s background, elaborating on his motivations and explaining what makes him such a terrifying villain.
“Asav is a really exciting antagonist in the scope of the series, because he is this intelligent, well-educated but menacing character,” said Lowe. “He’s principled, he has this belief that he has a rightful claim to the land. He uses history and brute force to create chaos and wrestle control of these regions in India. He’s very calm and calculating but still terrifying in his own way.”
The section of the game I had the pleasure to tackle was the Western Ghats, a large mountain range in India’s west peninsula where Chloe and Nadine hope to find clues that reveal the location of the Tusk of Ganesh.
“The cool thing about this project was that we already had such a foundation, so we were able to focus on areas that pushed the envelope of what we have done before,” Lowe said of the expansive new region. “In this case, if you just look around the environment in the Western Ghats, it’s not only bigger it’s so much more detailed than anything we’ve done before, just the shear amount of vegetation and detail that goes into the world, in such a small amount of time. We’re always learning always pushing, we’ve innovated that way.”
This colossal area, the biggest single area Naughty Dog has designed in its 30-year history, is where Uncharted: The Lost Legacy finds its unique foothold, completely unbinding its traditional linear shackles and gifting the player with total freedom. The game doesn’t hold your hand here, or point you in a singular direction. Instead, it grants the players with multiple locations on the map to tackle. During my session, it was up to me to figure out how I wanted to play.
The map is important here, because, unlike Drake, Chloe doesn’t have incredible sketching skills and a hipster notebook to keep of track iconic locations and symbolism she comes across. Instead, like any wise treasure hunter, Chloe alternatively possesses just a map to mark key locations and her mobile phone, which players can bring up at certain times to photograph and document critical imagery.
This isn’t the only new tool Chloe has at her disposal, however. With her sly thief skills, Chloe is able to lock-pick supply crates scattered throughout the world. Though the mechanic is rudimentary, these lock boxes result in a heightened sense of risk reward for the player. The first chest I snuck up to was centered in the middle of an enemy patrol, and though it was a dangerous maneuver, I was glad to see the chest contained a weapon that allowed me to take out the surrounding enemies.
As for The Lost Legacy’s core mechanics, well if it’s not broken, don’t fix it. Thankfully, that’s exactly the principle Naughty Dog has chosen to run with in the upcoming installment.
The intuitive controls and fluid cover system players have become accustomed to in Uncharted are as tight as ever, and the game still offers up more than its fair shares of tools to utilize in differing play-styles, whether that be a riotous guns a-blazing attitude or a quieter, stealth-based approach.
Another aspect to Uncharted: The Lost Legacy’s combat is Nadine herself, who, unlike previous companions in Uncharted, is easily the best ally to have in the middle of a fire fight.
The Lost Legacy also seems to be a lot more puzzled-focused, with the Western Ghats being filled with optional puzzles to solve, each of which reward you with a type of collectible different from the game’s traditional treasure. These Hoysala tokens are acquired upon completing varying puzzles and platforming sections that vary in difficulty. I managed to gather four of the dozen or so located in the Western Ghats before being stumped by a particularly difficult puzzle that Lowe referred to as a “tricky one.”
Though Uncharted: The Lost Legacy is queuing up to be yet another stellar game in an illustrious franchise, it still manages to promise to deliver an adventure unique in its own right. With Naughty Dog’s incredible track record, and the impressions left on me by this preview, my hopes are high for the treasure hunting adventures the Uncharted series is about to throw our way.
Thank you to Sony Interactive Entertainment Australia for holding this preview session, and to Scott Lowe, Senior Communications Manager at Naughty Dog, for hosting and for allowing the opportunity for an interview.