It may have sent some of my earlier A Thief’s End predictions swiftly to an early grave, but Tuesday’s Game Informer article brought so much new information to the table that I’m not particularly bothered about it. I was wrong — very wrong… — yes, but I’m more excited than ever for it.
My biggest prediction — and I was absolutely sure of this one’s accuracy — was that A Thief’s End would take place quite a while after Drake’s Deception. Drake’s haggard appearance in the E3 Trailer, and the specific mention that he had been ‘out of the game’ made me think that a considerable amount of time had gone by since his last adventure. I wasn’t suggesting fifteen years or anything as radical, but I would have bet on around seven.
The gameplay shown at the PlayStation Experience, however, planted the first seeds of doubt in my head. Drake didn’t look quite as aged in the gameplay as he had in the probably-cutscene E3 footage. Still, I wasn’t about to just let my hunch go. In my post A Thief’s End, The Second Coming, I put forward the theory that the game may open a good lot of years ahead of it’s main story. As I wrote the article, I thought I’d hit the nail on the head with that one. After publishing it, however, I realised that I was almost certainly wrong. Why? Drake’s clothes. Somehow, I doubt he’d be sporting the same garments after several trips around the sun…
The Game Informer article clears the matter up. A Thief’s End is set three years after Drake’s Deception. Nate has settled down with Elena, and is trying to lead a normal life — until his thought-to-be-dead brother shows up, that is.
I’m interested to see how Naughty Dog handles Sam. His showing up after having been believed to have been dead is fine, but the really intriguing thing to ponder is how he lines up with the opening of Drake’s Deception. Where was he then? Had his ‘death’ already taken place? It’s stated that Sam is around five years older than Nate, so could Drake Jr. have been with his brother prior to his going it alone in Cartagena. And could that brother have anything to do with the whole being-related-to-Francis-Drake thing? Sam seems quite informed on matters of antiquity — so could he have planted the seed in Nate’s impressionable young head?
The Game Informer article states that A Thief’s End will see Drake and Sam venture into Libertalia — a legendary pirate colony on Madagascar — but that we’re ‘not going to spend the whole game on this island because we [Naughty Dog] were concerned about pacing and showing other things.’
Neil Druckmann goes on to state that we, the players, will be seeing various environments and locations on Madagascar itself, but it seems that Game Informer were also treated to teases of ‘snowy locales and urban landscapes as possible destinations for Drake’. This is very interesting, because it’s possible that we might already have had a glimpse of one of those locations.
Cast your mind back. Remember this?
At the time, this was presumed to be a leak of a PS4-bound Uncharted trilogy, with the title suggesting that the particular capture came from Drake’s Deception. The thing is, as noticed by myself and almost every other Uncharted aficionado on the Internet, the thumbnail features a location utterly unlike any seen in that game. Now, however, that A Thief’s End has been hinted at featuring ‘snowy locales’, the image enters a whole new realm of possibilities. It’s very, very interesting — and, for now, we’ll leave it at that. God knows there’s a lot more to talk about…
Rival treasure hunters Rafe and Nadine will bring the conflict to A Thief’s End’s story, and the exciting thing about these two is that — from what I’ve read — Naughty Dog seem determined to really flesh them out. This is refreshing, because if there’s one criticism that can be levelled at the previous Uncharted games, it’s that their villains have been a little one-note in their characterisation. Not that this has taken away from the sheer brilliance of Drake’s Fortune, Among Thieves, or Drake’s Deception — but notably deeper villains will, I think, make for a more impactful story than we’ve seen before.
Despite the fact that we’re likely to get a lot of banter between Nate and Sam, the story will also examine the issue of what their relationship will do to the life he’s built with Elena and Sully. I don’t know about you, but the idea of exploring these deeper issues really excites me. Who knows what we’re going to know about our favourite fortune hunter when we’re through with A Thief’s End?
These story revelations also allow for new speculation regarding the game’s title. Could A Thief’s End refer to Nate’s attempt to get ‘out of the game’? Whatever the case, I hope Uncharted 4’s moniker has some deeper meaning than merely referencing some character’s — probably, Sam’s — demise.
Gameplay is also set to evolve in this next instalment. Naughty Dog are well aware that that of the previous Uncharted entries is solid, and, rather than reinventing it, seem more focused on building upon its foundation — this is good news — by improving what was already there and adding various new mechanics.
The game also seems set to bring something of a reinvention to Uncharted’s pre-existing treasure-finding. The little trinkets Nate happens upon throughout the world will now actively contribute to each individual player’s experience, leading to new objectives and opening up new paths. Paths, in fact, are another aspect of the game Naughty Dog seem keen to expand on, wanting to offer the player more choices in how to approach various situations. All of this is very, very positive and — though these are still early days — it really does seem as though A Thief’s End is shaping up to be a fantastic entry in an already fantastic series.
I can’t move past the gameplay without mentioning the not-so-much-a-revelation but more of a confirmation-of-what-we-could-already-guess reveal that A Thief’s End will feature multiplayer. I’m torn on this one, but not as much as I might have been were it another game. I thoroughly enjoyed Among Thieves’ multiplayer, and while I thought that of Drake’s Deception shook things up a little too much, I’m willing to give Naughty Dog’s fourth foray into online play a shot. I only hope the inevitable trophies are reasonable in their requirements…
The part of Game Informer’s article that — for me — stands out as the cause of most debate is a little sub-section titled Drake’s Final Adventure. In it, Neil Druckmann uses the word closure, and Game Informer state that that was a word spoken often during their visit to Naughty Dog. While the studio remain tight-lipped on the subject of whether this is indeed to be Drake’s last hurrah, I firmly agree with Game Informer that there’s some sort of finality on the way with A Thief’s End. I don’t necessarily feel that this is going to be the last instalment in the series, but something, ladies and gentlemen of fortune, is coming.
The article reveals that development of A Thief’s End began right after that of Drake’s Deception ended, and while it provides some nice insights into the process, the only real disappointment I have with the piece is that it doesn’t address the departure of Amy Hennig. The details of said departure are really none of our business, but I can’t deny that I’d like to know what happened there, whether the departure was amicable, or — you know — not-so-amicable. On that subject, Todd Stashwick’s recasting is another issue I’d like to see addressed at some point. I doubt we’ll hear anything before the game’s release, but a mention in the all-but inevitable Making of… content would be nice.
So, that’s that. I’ve skimmed over a lot in this post — to get the complete picture, you’ll have to buy Game Informer’s February Issue — but it’s safe to say that my excitement for A Thief’s End has been given a fresh shot of adrenaline over the past few days. I can’t shake the feeling that this game is going to be something special. It has a lot to live up to, but if Naughty Dog have proven anything, it’s that they really know how to exceed expectations.
All we need now is a release date.