Almost from the start, Uncharted has been a series that doesn't follow the rules, especially where big franchises are involved. Developer Naughty Dog has consistently prioritized creativity and quality, and we've gotten far fewer entries - but higher quality products - because of it.
Nathan Drake's story came to a definitive conclusion with A Thief's End, while the recently released standalone 'The Lost Legacy' successfully passed the series over to Chloe Frazier. There's likely a temptation at this point to continue onward, now that it's been shown Uncharted can succeed without Nathan Drake at the helm.
But it's precisely because of Uncharted following its own rules that it should quit here. To resist the temptation to move beyond Nathan Drake and his friends.
'The Lost Legacy' Has Been A Successful Addition, But The Series Is Showing Its Age
It's to the credit of Naughty Dog and this franchise that 'The Lost Legacy' - a one-time story-based DLC that evolved into its own standalone - succeeded as well as it did. Not just as one that relies less on previous entries in much the way A Thief's End did, but that it moved the focus to Chloe Frazier, with no Nathan Drake to be seen.
To its credit, this points to a franchise less tethered to its lead character than many a comparable series, in spite of the shared iconic status of both. The storytelling and characters of 'The Lost Legacy' are all on point, as we've come to expect from Naughty Dog.
At the same time, the game's biggest weaknesses involve the core Uncharted formula, which hasn't changed much in the last ten years. Your enjoyment of the game could largely be based on how much tolerance you have for that formula five entries in (six if you count Golden Abyss for the PS Vita). And with 'The Lost Legacy' we see just how little it's changed, and what its limitations are.
There's a spectacular climax in 'The Lost Legacy' that culminates in a train sequence that hearkens back to Among Thieves. Chloe Frazier and companion Nadine Ross traverse the length of a moving train toward the front. It incorporates a variety of new concepts evoked in newer entries, including the grappling hook, fighting off enemies in surrounding motorcycles, and jumping between the train and jeeps in order to progress forward.
Yet at the same time, there's only so much more that can be done in the way of large action setpieces before it starts to become redundant. While it serves as a wonderful homage, the train sequence of 'The Lost Legacy' also suggests that there's not much further to go from here.
Uncharted Was Never A Typical Video Game Franchise
There's argument to be made that the ending of Nate's story doesn't have to mean the end of the franchise altogether. Uncharted is both a beloved and massively successful franchise that has regularly performed among the best-selling and most critically acclaimed titles for the PlayStatio, two generations running. And it’s not entirely without precedent for a larger franchise to pass the reins off from character to character, rather than pinning itself down on only one specific figure.
Yet 'The Lost Legacy' shows how much these games are having to play catch-up with evolving expectations within the industry. While the more linear, cinematically-driven, action-powered experience worked very well for it in the past, there's not much room for such titles in today's changing field.
Uncharted Would Have To Evolve
There’s a de facto open-world section that comes about midway through the latest expansion, which Naughty Dog themselves have described as the biggest of its kind they’ve ever developed for an Uncharted title. This comes complete with story-driven content that can be completed in any order, as well as an optional side quest involving the collection of various items. In its own, comparatively small way, this feels like the developer starting to integrate the growing demand for open-world material.
It is arguably the most out-of-place area of the game, because it breaks from much of the traditional Uncharted formula to incorporate open-world mechanics, but not with the totality of what makes open-world gaming work. What's more, it speaks to the fundamental difficulty of incorporating ideas that are so at odds with the core ethos of Uncharted's traditional gameplay.
And this is what Naughty Dog would have to do for the series to continue onward. With the increasing demand for open-world content in every franchise, Uncharted would have to change so significantly to the point that it might not even be Uncharted anymore.
At this point, it's better to have the series quit while it’s ahead. For everything 'The Lost Legacy does well, it does still bear an overly familiar formula that is the core of every Uncharted game. And trying to evolve into the modern era of gaming could also very well tear the franchise apart. Which, in turn, could damage the legacy of the franchise; it would be dispiriting to ever look back after countless, increasingly forgettable Uncharted entries and say “remember when it used to be great?”
'The Lost Legacy' did the series proud, acting as an emotional final note to a beloved series - one last go-around with some of the franchise's most interesting characters. Now is the perfect time to put Uncharted to rest altogether, and let Naughty Dog move on to new projects.
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