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Uncharted: The Lost Legacy review: who needs Nathan Drake?

A new lead provides the blueprint for Uncharted’s future

Uncharted: The Lost Legacy

Since its inception, the Uncharted series has been focused on one man: treasure hunter Nathan Drake. But that changes next week with the release of Uncharted: The Lost Legacy on PS4. The spinoff has everything you’d expect from an Uncharted adventure: high-stakes drama, soaring jungle vistas, ancient tombs filled with secrets, and a few too many gunfights. But Drake’s smirking face is nowhere to be seen. Instead, the game stars longtime series side character Chloe Frazer, alongside Uncharted 4 antagonist Nadine Ross. The pair don’t change the way the game plays all that much, but the new faces help keep the aging Uncharted formula interesting for at least one more game.

The Lost Legacy takes place sometime after the events of Uncharted 4. It opens with Chloe — who series veterans will remember dating all the way back to 2009’s Uncharted 2 — in a war-torn Indian city. As part of her search for an ancient relic being held by a notorious militia leader, Chloe partners with Nadine, a former mercenary who has found herself without an army to lead following the events of the previous game. The early moments of Lost Legacy do a great job of separating the game from its predecessors, at least visually. The garbage-strewn city streets are a striking contrast to the lush jungles and ancient temples you typically explore in Uncharted. It’s a dark, harsh-looking place, accented by glaring neon signs in bright purples, pinks, and yellows. As Chloe, you’ll find yourself avoiding the gaze of patrolling soldiers in claustrophobic streets, and bounding across rooftops like some kind of superhero.

Uncharted: The Lost Legacy

But things start to feel more familiar once the quest really gets started. As is the way in Uncharted, the relic Chloe is in search of is actually a key to finding a long-lost city, one thought to hold an even greater treasure called the “Horn of Ganesh.” As soon as you leave the city and head out into the wilderness, The Lost Legacy starts to look a lot like Uncharted 4 — almost identical in parts. You drive a similar-looking Jeep through similar-looking terrain, stopping at similar-looking ruins to fight off similar-looking armed soldiers. The structure remains almost entirely unchanged here. It’s a mix of light puzzle solving and exploration, with lengthy gun skirmishes tossed in. When you enter an area you can tell by looking at it whether you’ll spend the next 15 minutes climbing crumbling statues or ducking behind cover to shoot at waves of bad guys. It’s all well-worn territory at this point.

‘Uncharted’ is a roller coaster ride — but one filled with heart

That may sound like an indictment of the game, but nobody comes to Uncharted expecting surprise. It’s a series built on a foundation of cinematic cliches, from its stereotypical hero to its copious action movie-style set pieces. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t compelling. Uncharted has become a blockbuster series because it’s so incredibly well done. Even when you just know that the stone bridge will collapse beneath you, the ensuing death-defying escape will still make your heart pound. Developer Naughty Dog has an unparalleled ability to turn seemingly cookie-cutter sequences into unforgettable moments. Uncharted is a roller coaster ride — but one filled with heart.

All of that is still true in The Lost Legacy. The game doesn’t stray from the formula at all, and if you loved Uncharted 4 — a game that, in my estimation, was the pinnacle of the series’ formula — then The Lost Legacy is simply more of the same. What helps keep it interesting is the new characters. Uncharted 4 introduced incidental dialogue to the series, as characters would chatter in the background while you drove through muddy streams or climbed precariously along the edge of a mountain. The Lost Legacytakes things a step further. The relationship between Chloe and Nadine forms naturally over the course of the game, primarily through that incidental dialogue found in the smaller, quieter moments when you’re doing things other than watching cut-scenes.

In the beginning they bicker constantly, and call each other Frazer and Ross, instead of by their first names. Chloe struggles to accept help from her new comrade; early on, when Nadine asks to drive, saying she’s perfectly capable, Chloe replies: “I’m sure you are honey. I just prefer to.” But they grow steadily closer over the course of their quest. It’s not really surprising to see this — that’s what usually happens in buddy dramas — but it feels natural here. Their relationship builds in ways both obvious and subtle, relayed in exposition-heavy cutscenes and through the gameplay itself. The first time Chloe reaches up to grab Nadine’s hand while you’re climbing a towering statue feels important and well-earned.

Uncharted: The Lost Legacy

The two leads also provide an interesting contrast in styles. Chloe is, in a lot of ways, just like Nathan: self-deprecating and cocky, but ultimately a good and caring person despite ostensibly being a glamorous thief. Nadine, meanwhile, is much more cold and serious. Their differences are exemplified in an early scene in the city: while Chloe slowly tries to pick the lock to an office — her hair contains a never-ending supply of lock-picking bobby pins — Nadine simple smashes the glass and opens the door.

For fans, The Lost Legacy a chance to spend some much welcome time in its world. The Lost Legacy is comparably brief — its seven chapters span about nine hours of play time — but packs in everything you’d expect from a typical Uncharted adventure. The dialogue is charming and witty, the action tense and exciting. Each new area you explore somehow reveals it to be even more gorgeous than the last, with stunning vistas and elaborate ancient structures. It’s almost enough to leave you speechless, something the characters even comment on during the game. “At this point, I’ve run out of words,” Chloe says toward the end, as the pair uncover yet another mysterious statue.

And while it’s a somewhat short side-story, The Lost Legacy also shows the path forward for the long-running series. According to Naughty Dog, Uncharted 4 was the last adventure for Nathan Drake, putting an end to his illustrious treasure-hunting career. But The Lost Legacy proves that there’s more to Uncharted than just its former lead character. Nathan Drake had a perfect send-off — now it’s time to give someone else a chance.

Uncharted: The Lost Legacy is coming to PS4 on August 22nd.