At last year's PlayStation Experience, Naughty Dog announced the standalone adventure Uncharted: The Lost Legacy, a game the studio is marketing not as an expansion, but as its own experience with content "comparable to earlier Uncharteds". This independent spinoff to the series will land in August, but for the first time it won't be Nathan Drake headlining the game, as Chloe Frazer will be thrust into the spotlight in his place.
We don't know that know much about Chloe right now, except that years ago she was in a relationship with Drake. We do know that she can keep up with his brilliance and archaeological knowledge, and thanks to her performances in Uncharted 2: Among Thieves and Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception, the talented treasure huntress has won over many fans. The question as to which story Naughty Dog wanted to tell next wasn't a very difficult one, then, this according to creative director Shaun Escayg, and now it's Chloe's turn to helm a new chapter in the Uncharted universe.
At her side is Nadine Ross, who we first met in Uncharted 4: A Thief's End where she crossed Nathan Drake's path several times, then as the leader of a paramilitary organisation that went by the name of Shoreline. After Shoreline was dissolved she herself became a mercenary, and now she is joining Chloe on her journey to find a fabled and mysterious artefact in a story that's set about six to twelve months after the conclusion of the main narrative in A Thief's End.
This legendary artefact is called The Tusk of Ganesha, and our journey to find it will take us to the mountains of India, but as usual, we're not alone in searching for this treasure, and this is why we're going to have to prepare ourselves for some violent resistance over the course of the adventure. This time our enemies are directed by a power-obsessed leader who wants to claim the tusk for his own nefarious purposes, and even though we're in this new chapter together with Chloe and Nadine, the popular Uncharted formula still remains the same, and the atmosphere and the gameplay remain true to the franchise's roots.
Within about an hour of playing, we found ourselves in some abandoned ruins, experiencing action-packed battles, as well as being challenged to use the old grey matter to solve some puzzles on the way. While the focus is still on action, we weren't always able to overcome the enemy's strength in a straight up fight, which is why we often had to sneak around, silently disposing of our opponents as we went. Mechanically, everything remains the same, then, but how do the two new characters fare?
Being half-Indian, Chloe already has a lot of knowledge about the history of the country to tell Nadine (and us), and they discuss Indian culture over the course of the trip. The areas we saw were dominated by lush green landscapes, together with breathtaking waterfalls and powerful statues, all reminiscent of things we've seen in previous Uncharted adventures. While Chloe plays the role of the charming survivalist, Nadine Ross offers balance thanks to her cool, calculated composure. With her purposeful style Nadine helps out, especially during battle, although we only play with Chloe, while Nadine is controlled by the AI.
Crafting successful AI companions isn't easy, but Naughty Dog seems to have found a nice balance with its most recent games, and Uncharted: The Lost Legacy promises to continue refining the companion formula, with the behaviour of Nadine convincing us of that. During our time with the game we never had to worry about keeping the mercenary alive, and instead, it was actually her saving us from a premature death on more than one occasion. The intelligent, strong impression of her character doesn't get weakened by her AI handler, it would seem.
Even during dialogue, as we listen to small conversations between the pair, we get the impression that Chloe's humorous style harmonises very well with Nadine's personality and so the friendship seems to be credible and authentic. Chloe looks like a female counterpart to Nathan Drake in many ways, so players who are concerned about a future without the treasure hunter are likely to get used to the new setup very quickly.
In short, Uncharted: The Lost Legacy left us excited. For relative newcomers or someone who hasn't had much experience with older games in the series, it looks like a good entry point into the world of treasure hunting explorers. Leaving Nathan Drake behind and bringing in new blood might be a risk for Naughty Dog and future of a franchise which has lived largely on the strength of its iconic protagonist. In the end, though, the charm of the series, the sense of humour, and the action-packed gameplay, lives on in Chloe Frazer and Nadine Ross, and promises another exciting adventure, this time in the Indian mountains. Whether all of this comes together for a rich and fulfilling experience, however, we'll have to find out on August 23, when Uncharted: The Lost Legacy releases on PlayStation 4.