Uncharted: The Lost Legacy is the best kind of spinoff, an enjoyable action romp that continues a beloved series without compromising the completed story arc of its predecessors. It demonstrates that Uncharted still has plenty of vitality, even if it does raise some questions about Sony’s faith in the franchise without longtime protagonist Nathan Drake.
From the onset, The Lost Legacy wisely distances itself from the original quadrilogy. For starters, series mainstays Nathan Drake, Elena Fisher, and Victor Sullivan are nowhere to be found. The focus instead shifts to Chloe Frazer, Nate’s former co-worker/love interest from Uncharted 2 and an accomplished treasure hunter in her own right. Her sidekick is Nadine Ross, the mercenary last seen beating the tar out of Nate and his brother Sam in Uncharted 4.
Together they make a formidable team with some delightful chemistry. The plot revolves around the Tusk of Ganesh, a legendary Hindu relic of the Hoysala empire of ancient India. Chloe and Nadine are racing against an Indian warlord name Asav, who hopes to use the Tusk to advance his military insurgency in the country. The lost legacy is inherited from Chloe’s father, who left his family (and lost his life) while searching for the Tusk decades earlier.
That’s pretty much all you need to know about a game that otherwise adheres to the standard Uncharted formula. Part platformer and part cover shooter, you spend half your time scrambling over ancient ruins and the other half bringing down waves of soldiers in frantic gunfights. As usual, it makes for a thrilling balance, and the pacing is damn near perfect. The game shifts seamlessly between combat encounters, climbing sequences, and puzzles, many of which require genuine thought and rank with the best the series has to offer. The combat is also a little more forgiving than it was in the punishing Uncharted 4, which is a welcome concession that makes the later stages a lot less frustrating.
If there’s a problem, it’s only that The Lost Legacy is smaller than previous installments. The game is roughly half the length of the first four Uncharted games, and that includes a lengthy (and optional) side quest in the early portion of the game. It doesn’t detract from the quality of the content – everything that makes the cut is excellent – but it does feel like a few key elements are missing from the typical Uncharted experience.
That’s particularly true in what would have been the first and last thirds of the game. For instance, the difficulty curve is comparable to Uncharted 4, but the game itself is much easier because The Lost Legacy ends before it gets to the brutal encounters that usually dot the last few hours of an Uncharted campaign. There just aren’t as many show-stopping set pieces (though there are a few good ones, including a climactic showdown on a train), while the vistas aren’t quite as panoramic as they have been in the past.
The game also neglects a lot of early narrative legwork. The Lost Legacy never really takes the time to establish Asav as a villain, and it takes far too long to explain what the Tusk represents and why it’s so important. Recalling previous games, there’s always a scene – whether in real time or in flashback – where everything stops and Nate breathlessly details the historical significance of El Dorado or Libertalia. The Lost Legacy has no such primer. It tries to make up for it in the middle third, but for the first few chapters, you find yourself battling a warlord without really knowing what the stakes are for Chloe and Nadine.
Again, that doesn’t diminish the overall quality of the game, and at 11 hours, The Lost Legacy is a perfectly satisfying standalone experience. I mention it only because the brevity feels conspicuous when measured against the scope of its predecessors. Is The Lost Legacy a side project that reflects some understandable developer and franchise fatigue? Or did it get cut short because Sony wasn’t willing to commit the same resources to a game that stars two women of colour? I have no way of knowing one way or the other, so the question is purely speculative. It just seems like one worth asking given the troubled history of the medium.
However, that’s a meta-commentary of the industry at large, not a critique of The Lost Legacy itself. Naughty Dog has long been doing some of the best character work in the business, and that remains true here, to the point that it’s probably the best reason to recommend the game. Chloe and Nadine are both fully realized protagonists with their own motivations for being in India, and they obliterate the Bechdel Test with a steady stream of banter (it’s comparable to Nate’s ‘wit’ – similar in tone, but different in substance). It’s rare to see heroes like Nadine and Chloe headlining a blockbuster action franchise like Uncharted, and The Lost Legacy aptly demonstrates why it’s something that needs to happen far more often.
At the very least, I would happily play a full trilogy featuring Chloe and Nadine, especially if the The Lost Legacy does well and Naughty Dog gets more ambitious with the sequels. As it stands, the new game is an entertaining diversion, a relaxed take on the Uncharted brand that delivers a lot of the same thrills with only a fraction of the stress and aggravation. The entire game is basically one long second act, but it’s a fun hangout with a satisfying emotional payoff and I wanted to keep playing once the plot kicked into gear.
That’s ultimately all anyone can ask for. Though slighter in stature, The Lost Legacy is a worthy inheritor of the Uncharted mantle that carves out new creative space for future installments. It also proves that the extended universe is diverse enough to sustain a new set of adventurers. If Sony is unwilling to let go of such a lucrative property, then Uncharted: The Lost Legacy is a fantastic way to keep the party going.
Our review copy of Uncharted: The Lost Legacy was provided by Sony.