— This post contains spoilers for The Lost Legacy.
2 + 4 = AWESOME
When I sat down to write about Hellblade, I was filled with hesitation. I wasn't sure how to broach the game's difficult subject matter, and, for a while, it stayed my pen. But not for too long. In comparison, it's taken me considerably longer to try putting something together about The Lost Legacy. Sitting down to give it a shot, I'm once again filled with hesitation — in this case, though, it stems from the fear of not being able to do the game justice; it stems from the fact that I loved it so much… which is a relief, because I wasn't at all sure I would.
I was fairly certain I'd like it, but there's quite a difference between liking something and loving it, and given the game's origins as mere DLC for Uncharted 4, I had some concerns.
More than anything, I was worried that playing as Chloe would simply feel like playing as Drake, reskinned.
I needn't have been.
There are, of course, similarities — Chloe, too, has discovered the many and varied wonders of a grapple since we saw her last, and manages to stumble upon not one conveniently abandoned piton, but two! — but despite them, Chloe is entirely her own character from the moment you're given control of her in the bustling market of yet another war-torn city. Desperate times, indeed.
She isn't, though, quite the Chloe you might remember from Among Thieves or Drake's Deception. On the surface, this is because — as much as I love the studio — Naughty Dog is just as as fond as various other developers of that perennial pet peeve of mine: overhauling a character's appearance just because they can.
Just as Uncharted 3’s Chloe looks very little like Uncharted 2’s, The Lost Legacy’s version looks markedly different from her predecessors.
I suppose there is, to this latest redesign, an element of bringing Chloe's appearance more in line with her expanded backstory — which is understandable, but does nothing to endear it to me. It might seem like a relatively trivial hill to die on, this, but I'm going to continue calling it out. Again and again. These days more than any, graphical improvements needn't cancel out familiarity.
Beneath the redesigned surface, though, there's a lot more to Chloe here than there was before. Much of this also comes as a result of said expanded backstory, but certain actions speak volumes, too — perhaps the most notable coming towards the end of the game, when she heads off to save that world that, back in the days of the PS3, 'didn't care.'
The Lost Legacy’s Chloe is funny, flawed, and surprisingly emotional. There is, as I said, simply a lot more to her — but the real triumph is that, though she's not quite the character we remember from the days of Nathan Drake, she feels faithful to her, a natural evolution. Getting to know her, a character I already thought I knew quite well, was one of The Lost Legacy’s foremost highlights.
Of course, Chloe isn't the only character you'll be spending a lot of time with. She shares her quest for the Tusk of Ganesh with an old nemesis: she of the dodgy accent, Nadine Ross — formerly of Shoreline, now out to take it back.
I didn't much warm to Nadine over the course of Uncharted 4. I loved how she made her exit — 'Oh, I'm just leaving…' — but, otherwise, I felt a near complete ambivalence towards her. No longer.
As with Chloe, The Lost Legacy adds a great deal of depth to its deuteragonist, and, in doing so, elevates her to being one of my favourite characters in the series. The triumph of Chloe's writing applies here, too: none of Nadine's added depth comes at the expense of her character. She's still very much the Nadine Ross we remember from A Thief's End, but The Lost Legacy gives us a glimpse of what drives her. It makes her human.
When she left Avery's burning ship at the climax of A Thief's End, I couldn't have cared if I ever saw Nadine again. Now, though, I'm eager to see where she goes next, to find out if she ever gets to see those Northern Lights.
(And speaking of the writing, there's also a nice touch of self-awareness in there, too, with the writers seeming to wink at players by having Chloe state that Sam just seemed to drop out of nowhere. Well played…)
While there's much to be said about Chloe and Nadine's narrative journey, that of their gameplay is fairly standard fare, taking the familiar form of partner-based exploration that has become Naughty Dog's bread and butter — and which really made me appreciate those few sections in which Chloe operates alone. There's nothing particularly wrong with the partner-based stuff, but I couldn't shake a sense of 'been there, done that' as I played. It's become 'same-y', familiar.
And in being 'same-y' and familiar, it's far from the only thing The Lost Legacy brings to the table. Similar to PlayStation Vita's Golden Abyss, The Lost Legacy features both original soundtrack alongside stuff we've heard before, and, similar to PlayStation Vita's Golden Abyss, I was slightly disappointed by this. I found the various snippets from Uncharted 4’s score jarring, and though none of the music is bad, it nevertheless took me momentarily out of the experience. It doesn't belong.
They're not always negative, though, these familiarities.
In many ways, The Lost Legacy wears its influences on its sleeve.
Its gameplay is, quite obviously, a direct result of that of Uncharted 4, but in the opening sequence, often spectacular set-pieces and the climactic sequence on the train, there's a healthy dose of Uncharted 2 (fitting given that that was the game that introduced us to Chloe). You'll even find the fingerprints of The Last of Us in there, too, in the scene in which Chloe and Nadine stumble upon an injured elephant, and what follows — a slightly corny affair offset nicely by the realism of the elephants' subsequent defence of their calf.
The one downside here is that you could argue that the game is overly formulaic. Taken with the aforementioned gameplay, it all adds up to a feeling of The Lost Legacy being paint-by-numbers Naughty Dog. Been there. Done that. Got the Trophies.
Of course, in expanding upon Uncharted 4’s concept of more open environments, it does push the envelope a little, too.
I remember being filled with dread when Naughty Dog started talking about more open areas in Uncharted 4, thinking, as I often do, 'Does everything have to be open world?!'
To my great and genuine surprise, though, I ended up enjoying those areas in Uncharted 4, and loved them in The Lost Legacy. Driving this way and that around the Western Ghats in search of the many Hoysala tokens hidden there, before tending to anything else in the area, was a shining highlight of my time with the game.
Of course, Naughty Dog's characters adhere to something that greatly frustrates me about some modern games: they talk. A lot. And, just to be absolutely clear — though I suspect you're well aware of what I'm getting at — I don't mean during those sections in which you'd expect them to speak, cutscenes and the like, but during normal gameplay.
I've touched on these frustrations before with my thoughts on what I'd like to see from the future of Tomb Raider — and will have a hell of a lot to say about Aloy's incessant nattering when I manage to put together something about Horizon — but the reason I bring up said frustrations here, however, is because, somehow, The Lost Legacy manages to subvert them.
In fact, the same can be said of all the Uncharted games — such was the case with Nathan Drake, and such is the case with Chloe Frazer. Unlike in those other games, with Naughty Dog, the extra dialogue feels — nine times out of ten… — natural, not forced or out of place.
And that, I suppose, is my ultimate feeling about The Lost Legacy: it doesn't feel out of place. With my concerns about its origins as DLC, I was worried it wouldn't quite measure up to the other games in the series, but I could not have been more mistaken. It belongs.
In many ways, in fact, it belongs more than its predecessor.
Don't get me wrong, I'm a sucker for the tone of Uncharted 4, but its considerable baggage prevented it from feeling 100% Uncharted, and though The Lost Legacy isn't at all lacking in depth, it doesn't have that problem. It's Uncharted through-and-through, and I loved every second of it. It is definitive, resounding proof that the series can be a-okay without Nathan Drake.
Question is… what's next?