The thief, the muscle, and their lost 'McGuffin'.
With Uncharted 4: A Thief's End capping off the adventures of Nathan Drake and his crew of companions, it was difficult to imagine the series continuing without its leading man. But with the reveal of Uncharted: The Lost Legacy late last year, it's clear that Naughty Dog isn't done with the series just yet. During a special hands-on event last week, we played a sizable amount of the upcoming adventure and spoke with game director Kurt Margenau about letting Uncharted's supporting cast take center stage.
“There was never any doubt in our minds that Uncharted is more than just Nathan Drake,” Margenau said. “While Nate was the center of this series, we felt that this presented a blank slate for us to show off others that we didn't explore all that [much]. And to build them to be as fully featured and complex as Nathan Drake, but in a different way. For Nate, he has this hero complex, but for Chloe, she's more selfish and focused on self-preservation. It's an interesting idea to play as someone like that, but also it allows us to stay fresh and stay flexible. We can set our characters in an interesting location, with Chloe herself being half-indian and her being in India allows her to have explore her own background with the tusk, and of her father, who was an archeologist.”
Initially developed as DLC for Uncharted 4, The Lost Legacy grew beyond what Naughty Dog expected, and will be a standalone release. The game takes place after the events of Uncharted 4: A Thief's End. Nathan Drake has left the treasure hunting game, leaving the elusive and self-reliant Chloe Frazer to fill in the gap. In pursuit of the Tusk of Ganesha, an ancient Indian artifact of great value--and with a connection to her archeologist father--she must keep it out of the hands of a dangerous warmonger named Asav, who has his own plans for the relic. But in order to stay one step ahead of Asav and his army, Chloe will have to enlist the aid of gun-for-hire and former leader of the Shoreline mercenary group, Nadine Ross. Forming a somewhat uneasy partnership, Chloe and Nadine travel to exotic locales fighting mercenaries and looting tombs, all while trying to keep their alliance from falling apart.
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During our play session, we got to explore one of the early levels of the game set in the Western Ghats, a lush jungle landscape on the West Indian peninsula populated with ancient ruins. The Lost Legacy takes the open exploration in A Thief's End even further. With the Western Ghats being the largest open space Naughty Dog has ever placed in an Uncharted title, they focused more on allowing a non-linear approach to things.
Much like in Uncharted 4, you'll have access to an all-terrain vehicle with a winch and cable, letting you freely travel across a large space at your leisure. However, the glaring absence of a sprint button makes hoofing it back to your vehicle a bit of a hassle. Still, it was refreshing to have more room--so to speak--to explore and rummage about. Which felt more in line with true treasure hunting, where finding clues and traveling large distances is a key part of the work. While the scripted and linear levels that put Uncharted on the map are still present and accounted for, Naughty Dog saw an opportunity to branch out further with the open spaces in The Lost Legacy.
"On the gameplay side, we wanted to do something bigger," said Margenau. "We took the Madagascar space from Uncharted 4, which was to us Uncharted 4 at its best. It was just firing on all cylinders, allowing you to freely explore the space and without giving you a super targeted goal. To just allow the players explore, let them go off and discover things, and to take the reigns off. It was to let these character relationships grow, as they galavant around these gorgeous ruins in the Western Ghats.”
"The open areas are just one part of the game, and we're making them fit into the broader picture of the game. It's always a challenge for us to make sure that the games have this momentum to them. We're always pushing the narrative for it, and now we're in this big space trying to make sure we're still progressing the plot, narrative, and relationships."
While in the Western Ghats, Chloe and Nadine have to locate a series of unique ruins, each corresponding to deities from ancient Indian mythos. Some of these ruins are atop steep mountain trails, while others require swimming and shimmying through narrow passages. With the larger scope, The Lost Legacy has an expanded array of weapons and treasure to find, creating more variety and incentives to see what's around the corner. While you can head straight to each destination, there's still a set of side objectives and diversions to find.
It was certainly refreshing exploring through the space, and it offered many opportunities to cut loose and listen in on Chloe and Nadine's conversations while trekking through the jungle. As it turns out, Nadine as an adorable affection for monkeys, which was revealed in an amusing scene where the duo stumble upon a nest in one of the ruins. This scene also gives way to a side-quest involving hidden tokens associated with various idols. After finding them all, you'll unlock access to a special area where the monkeys live. It's an incredibly charming scene and a wonderful character moment showing the gentler side of Nadine.
Calling on her skills as a thief, Chloe can use a variety of tools to overcome many problems in the field. For instance, Chloe's lockpick adds a new lockpicking mechanic to chests and locked doors, which gets you access to new weapons, rare relics, and other valuables. Of course, finding these chests is a challenge in itself, and they're often sitting in enemy encampments. But with Nadine in tow, the two are able to take on a number of challenges that may have tripped up Nate, Sully, and Sam on their exploits. Though you'll primarily play as Chloe, Nadine is more than capable of holding her own in combat--those who played Uncharted 4 can easily attest to this, making her the most reliable side-character to have in a fight.
In The Lost Legacy, there's a greater focus on letting players be resourceful. Chloe carries a cell phone, which makes record keeping and information gathering much simpler and helps the pair feel more prepared for the dangers ahead. That's important, considering there's plenty of opportunities for combat. Just like in the last game, you'll be able to mark enemies, take them out with stealth--including new silenced weapons--or go in guns blazing. If you're especially crafty, it's possible to evade encounters using the grappling hook and tall grass to hide from patrols.
Considering the scope, Uncharted: The Lost Legacy is ambitious for a budget release. At $40, the package includes a new single-player campaign and all multiplayer and survival mode content released for Uncharted 4. Whether this is it for Uncharted or a new beginning remains to be seen. However, the developers at Naughty Dog seem rather content with Uncharted's next foray into the unknown--if not just to have another adventure with the series' colorful cast of characters, but also to give a new perspective on the high-stakes and action-packed game of treasure hunting.
"[The Last of Us:] Left Behind really gave us confidence in doing a smaller project for Uncharted, and of course the catch was that we couldn't do something like that,” said Margenau. “We wanted Uncharted 4 to be meaningful; we didn't want to touch those characters again. So we looked at other characters from the entire series and thought, 'who have we not explored, who's interesting, who would have great chemistry together?' And we landed on Chloe. She's a fan favorite, she's our favorite, and Nadine, who was this bad guy, plays on your side now, [which] was an interesting idea. The dubious moral compasses of these two really interested us, where you don't really know their allegiances, and they have this self-preservation mentality. That was a really great jumping off point for us."