Team chemistry abounds in Uncharted: The Lost Legacy, which is not surprising for a side story to a series famous for its AI-partner-driven gameplay. A decade's worth of adventures and a conclusive epilogue might place franchise mainstay Nathan Drake on permanent retirement, so now is as fitting a moment as any to wander and fight through a new Uncharted from a fresh perspective. With a roster of characters as large as Uncharted's, developer Naughty Dog had a wealth of promising pairings to choose from. After playing through The Lost Legacy, it's hard to imagine a better Drake-less pairing than the treasure hunter Chloe Frazer and ex-mercenary Nadine Ross. Not only do they prove themselves as capable adventurers, but also entertaining ones with the kind of chemistry that doesn't rely on Nathan Drake-inspired wisecracks.
The duo's vastly different backgrounds and motivations create a dynamic ripe for a classic apprehensive alliance and the tensions that come with it. Seeking an artifact called the Tusk of Ganesh in the Western Ghats of India, the pair find themselves racing against Asav, a perpetually angry warlord who places highly in the Uncharted villain ruthlessness power rankings. It's also a quest rich in exposition and substance, with lot of credit given to the well-written banter between Chloe and Nadine. Not only is it engaging to hear them bring down their emotional barriers of mistrust, but the small talk helps fill in the blanks since the events of Uncharted 4. Moveover, the dialogue eventually reveals the meaning of the game's subtitle, which shines a light on Chloe's personal drive to find the tusk. Just the fact that her history differs from Nathan Drake's opens the door for new insights on recurring Uncharted themes, namely the dangers of ambition and the relationships that can suffer as a result. These are messages that adventure genre fans can appreciate even without a connection to the series' past.
The dense vegetation of India and its peppering of ruins reflect Naughty Dog's amusingly consistent attachment to jungles in Uncharted. In The Lost Legacy, the studio doubles down on tropical forests with striking results. The lush surroundings and detailed remains of ancient civilizations are fitting trivia-laden conversation starters for Chloe and Nadine. And despite that The Lost Legacy is shorter than even the first Uncharted--six hours compared to eight--these insightful archeological chats about Hindu mythology don't feel forced or rushed.
Such refined moments are indicative of The Lost Legacy's impressive conciseness, packing a ton of Uncharted history in its moment-to-moment experiences. For those new to Uncharted, that translates to a lot of death-defying stunts any given minute. Moreover, the stealth tutorial is fittingly brief, chase sequences are consistently riveting, and climbing sections never feel drawn out. All the while there's an ebb and flow to both the pacing of the narrative and how gameplay sections are spread out. In other words, for every instance of high intensity, there's a well-placed opportunity to take a breather.
The jungles also provide the ideal setting for Naughty Dog to expand and refine its open, free-roaming designs previously seen in the much praised Madagascar map of A Thief's End. This new open map--which is the setting of two of The Lost Legacy's chapters--demands a lot of driving, but going over your own beaten paths doesn't feels like a chore. This is thanks to the wealth of timeworn man-made remains worth exploring and--more often than not--climbing. While you're challenged with navigating up these structures, thoughtful level design ensures the way down is an easy and quick descent. For a game that originated as a more modest expansion to Uncharted 4 with the projected size and scale of The Last of Us: Left Behind, this section alone illustrates why Chloe and Nadine's adventure warranted a larger production.
Both expansive and confined areas prove memorable for the host of combat encounters that invite player ingenuity and improvisation. Many of The Lost Legacy's shootouts offer a wealth of emergent and new gunplay opportunities after every death and retry. It's not a mere race of exchanging gunfire; there are plenty of chances to outflank Asav's army by making use of columns and elevated platforms rather than fighting enemies head-on. It's a showcase of easily executable simple pleasures, like striking enemies from above and knocking out a soldier from around a corner.
That's not to say there are no other ways to outwit these squads. Clearing a fully-staffed patrol with a dozen discreetly-thrown grenades with zero detection isn't only possible but also a satisfying rush. Playing as a ninja and triggering no alert states is even harder, but many of the combat areas are large and well-designed enough that such gratifying outcomes are possible. Just don't expect many--if any--opportunities to play the pacifist; the more linear levels require full sweeps and takedowns of whole crews.
There’s never been a more even mix of puzzles, combat, and exploration in the Uncharted series than in The Lost Legacy. While the series has had its share of dry switch-activation chores disguised as puzzles, this game keeps such sections to a minimum. This new batch of quandaries will stump you long enough to make the feeling of solving them rewarding. And sinces these obstacles are visually themed on the Hindu gods that are the focus of the duo's quest, no prior Uncharted experience is necessary to solve these puzzles.
Unfortunately, adequate time was not available to evaluate the game's multiplayer and wave-based Survival modes. As these are the exact game types of Uncharted 4's online component--that use the same servers no less--you can expect a level of chaotic gunplay and melee combat not found in The Lost Legacy's story mode. A contrast to the less aggressive enemies in the campaign, fighting against real-life players is a veritable free-for-all where you're using everything from rope swinging to RPGs to survive. The common supernatural powers found in sought-after artifacts, the motivation of earning gold to summon AI support soldiers, and a time-sucking progression system adds depth to what would've been an otherwise forgettable adversarial online mode.
The Lost Legacy doesn't signify a new era for Uncharted so much as it presents an opportunity to show the series from new perspectives, for which Chloe and the AI-controlled Nadine are perfectly capable. With a new playable treasure hunter comes new settings and character motivations, wrapped in a comfortingly familiar Uncharted package. The thrill of playing through set pieces that call back scenes from the earlier games is all the more enhanced when seen through the gameplay mechanics introduced in A Thief's End. The initial hours of The Lost Legacy give an "Uncharted Greatest Hits" vibe, but it grows into a more nuanced, clever experience, ranking among the best in the series while also making its own mark as a standalone Uncharted that isn't anchored to Nathan Drake's harrowing exploits.