Throughout the build up to release, Naughty Dog has been keen to stress that The Lost Legacy is not DLC for Uncharted 4: A Thief's End, and quite rightly too, because this brand new action-adventure very much stands on its own two feet. Set some months after the events of the studio's final outing with Nathan Drake, it's a standalone adventure that builds on the core themes the series is known for while also trying out a couple of new things.
The biggest change is, of course, the absence of Nathan Drake, who is (spoiler) still off somewhere enjoying his retirement. Instead, The Lost Legacy has you taking control of returning character Chloe Frazer, who along with her AI-controlled partner Nadine Ross is off to India in search of long-lost treasure. This is a story-driven affair so we'll not delve into the narrative too deeply, but we will say that it's an enjoyable action-filled romp, and for the nine or so hours it took us to complete it, we were enthralled.
That's not to say that the story is perfect; it doesn't quite match its predecessor in terms of narrative flair, and you'll see some of the twists and turns coming well in advance of them actually happening. It also feels a little by the book, and the studio doesn't stray too far from the formula laid down in A Thief's End. The old saying tells us that you shouldn't fix something that isn't broken, and while that's certainly true, a couple more new and surprising elements wouldn't have hurt either.
As you might expect given the impressive turnaround between the release of the last game and this one, much is pulled directly from Uncharted 4, but they've done a good job of reworking their assets and decorating the scenery with appropriate relics and architecture, and the result is a small open-world area for players to explore, bookended by a fresh and politically-charged scene set in a city, and an explosive sequence at the end that will undoubtedly get the blood pumping.
Sometimes, while you're dragging your jeep up a wet and muddy hill, you'd be forgiven for thinking that you're still in Madagascar, but then Nadine or Chloe will start chatting again and you'll be pulled back into the moment. Indeed, these leading ladies do a great job of carrying the story forward, and you won't really miss Drake thanks to the wit and charm this pair of complicated but ultimately plausible characters manage to bring to the adventure.
The performances of the cast are, as per usual, of a very high quality, and Claudia Black (Chloe) and Laura Bailey (Nadine) both do a fine job. The transition between cutscenes and gameplay is usually seamless, and once again Naughty Dog has proved itself among the very best when it comes to this brand of big budget storytelling. This might be a fairly tightly controlled experience in many ways, but the view is always stunning and there are enough ups and downs to keep you on the edge of your seat throughout.
While this treasure hunting roller coaster ride takes less than ten hours to complete if you're mainly focused on the story, perhaps it would have benefitted from an extra scene or two and in the latter part of the story as it felt a little rushed towards the end. That said, you can pad the experience out a bit if you really dig deep into the setting and search out its hidden secrets. Finding items around the world is only one part of the game, though, and a lot of the time you'll either be stealthing through groups of patrolling guards and listening to their chatter, or getting stuck into high octane gun battles. The stealth and combat mechanics are lifted from A Thief's End fully intact, with Chloe and Nadine both capable killers as well as subtle sneaks.
You're always in control of Chloe, but Nadine is a big part of the experience, not just via the illuminating conversations between the pair that we're witness to, but in the support that she offers during combat. Naughty Dog has returned to the tried and tested formula that allows you to concentrate on your own actions when sneaking, and enemies never notice what your AI-controlled partner is up to when you're in stealth mode, no matter how obvious their movements are. It works, though, and it's an approach that creates zero frustration for the player as they're free to live or die based on their own mistakes, and initiate combat on their own terms.
Uncharted has always boasted rock solid mechanics, and here they expand into the existing Survival and Multiplayer modes that you get access to with The Lost Legacy. The wave-based add-on is exactly what you think it is, with hordes of enemies charging your position on custom maps while small teams work together as they aim for collective glory. Arena survival has been added, which means more waves and scenarios to test players waiting on a new challenge. Then, of course, there's the adversarial mode that has two teams battle it out with so-called mysticals and sidekicks shifting the dynamic away from the core single-player gameplay experience.
While it was originally intended to be an expansion for Uncharted 4, part of the season pass before the expanding scope of the project saw its creators revise their plans, multiplayer is now the chief link between The Lost Legacy and A Thief's End. The whole multiplayer portion of the game is available here, and it's this crossover that stopped Naughty Dog from calling this latest game a completely separate entity. If you've been playing MP since last year, you'll have seen it all before and there's not much in the way of added value, but if you're a newcomer then you'll no doubt be impressed by the overall scope of this standalone offering. Either way, it's a nice addition that ties the games together and keeps the community strong, as well as making both of them feel complete on their own.
In fact, the whole package here is strong. The writing, as you'd expect from Naughty Dog, is witty, clever, and their chief characters are likable and interesting. The story, while not particularly inventive nor original, is hugely entertaining. The action is intense and well-polished, with a nice blend of combat and stealth. The visuals are captivating and the setting exotic and full of intrigue. The multiplayer is a nice addition for newcomers to the series and further enhances the value proposition, as well as bringing in new blood for existing players.
All told, then, Uncharted: The Lost Legacy is a fine addition to the series. Nadine and Chloe have proven themselves more than capable of picking up the reins from Nathan Drake, and the ease with which Naughty Dog made this transition points to a promising future for the series, where different characters and settings can be explored and more stories can be told. A Thief's End still stands as the pinnacle of all things Uncharted, and the story might well have ended there, but this latest foray into the world of action-packed treasure hunting has shown us that there's plenty of life in the old dog yet.