Last month, I was lucky enough to get a sneak peek at an early version of Uncharted: The Lost Legacy. Though still early in development, it’s showing loads of promise. I was able to get unprecedented access to the minds at developer Naughty Dog to learn more about its next Uncharted adventure.
First, the setting. In moving the action to the southern tip of India, The Lost Legacy injects a fresh surge of color and personality — closer to the pulpier feel of the original Uncharted, in some ways. “Beautiful, big landscapes to traverse and explore, that sense of a surprise around every corner,” Creative Director Shaun Escayg told me. “We wanted to bring more of that back.”
The Lost Legacy is a new story set six to 12 months after the events of Uncharted 4. The action kicks off with a search for a priceless relic — the Tusk of Ganesh — and a decidedly unlikely pairing.
Chloe Frazer and Nadine Ross are reluctant partners who don’t always see eye-to-eye, but who must work together to obtain the priceless Tusk from a mysterious warlord named Asav. “I like to figure things out as I go,” Chloe mutters at one point in the gameplay demo. “I noticed,” Nadine snorts.
Why revisit Chloe? For Naughty Dog, it was an easy decision. She’s an interesting character with a darker moral compass compared to Drake. Writer Josh Scherr remarks: “They’re both treasure hunters. Drake has a bit of a hero complex, but Chloe looks out for number one, first and foremost.” It’s Chloe who initiates the hunt for the Tusk.
Nadine reenters the picture for different reasons, partially born out of the consequences of her actions in Uncharted 4. With Shoreline crumbling, she’s out of work and desperate.
“Chloe would need somebody with military expertise,” Escayg said. “In all of Uncharted, Nadine is probably the most rational and practical character we’ve ever introduced,” Scherr added. “She tends to take a direct approach.”
Bringing them together helps each character accentuate the other. “They’re opposites. Chloe is spontaneous and impulsive, where Nadine is by the book, structured,” Escayg explained. “That made for a good pairing.”
And you better believe that relationship is going to develop over the course of the game. “Both of them are in positions they aren’t used to being in,” Game Director Kurt Margenau said. “Chloe, in terms of taking charge. Nadine, who is used to running the show, is now the hired gun. They’re both figuring it out as they go.”
With characters and the setup out of the way, it was time to get a closer look at the game itself. Based on what I saw, The Lost Legacy’s overall gameplay style will be familiar to Uncharted 4 veterans. But Naughty Dog is determined to add further refinements and enhancements based on lessons learned during Uncharted 4’s lengthy development cycle.
Starting with the level design. In one pivotal section of the game, the team wants to provide a more expansive environment that gives players more ways to explore at their own pace — “the biggest [area] ever for an Uncharted game,” Margenau mentioned.
While developing Uncharted 4, Naughty Dog had hoped to go even bigger on certain huge locations such as Madagascar, Art Director Tate Mosesian explained to me. But some concessions had to be made in the interests of maintaining the game’s development schedule. Not so with The Lost Legacy, where the game will benefit from an updated production process that can see up to five teams working on one location at a time.
In The Lost Legacy, this translates into a sprawling level with traversal challenges, environmental puzzles, shootouts, and more.
It’s honeycombed with secrets too, with new hidden treasures that will reward persistent players who try to traverse everything they can see.
There’s loads of environmental variety, too, partly thanks to the natural diversity seen in the Western Ghats region of southern India. You’ll explore lush jungles, soaring mountains, and ancient temples, in addition to the war-torn urban environment seen in the PSX 2016 reveal.
Tools of the Trade
There is some new combat gear to master, too. A silenced pistol (The first lethal stealth weapon in Uncharted history!) will add new tactical wrinkles to The Lost Legacy’s stealth play and expand your combat options.
Meanwhile, C4 proved so popular among Uncharted 4’s loyal multiplayer community that Naughty Dog couldn’t resist adding it to The Lost Legacy. Why not?
There also seems to be an increased range of options available for combat encounters. “There are entire combat setups that you can skip, go around, or approach from any direction,” Margenau explained. “It’s got a bigger, more organic feel, with more player choice and more stealth options.”
Another new mechanic, lockpicking, was first seen in the game’s PlayStation Experience 2016 debut trailer. Though the exact lockpicking mechanics are still a work in progress, the team was so fixated on capturing the tactile feel of the act in-game that they purchased a real lockpicking kit to practice with. That’s dedication!
One thing that definitely won’t be changing, though, is Naughty Dog’s approach to the series’ iconic action set pieces — some of the most memorable moments in gaming. “We obviously love them,” Margenau teased, adding that The Lost Legacy will include set pieces that do “things we’ve never done.” Sorry folks — I couldn’t squeeze anything more out of him than that.
To Catch a Thief
It’s worth noting that The Lost Legacy, which will be launching later this year as a standalone game, will be a lengthier experience than The Last of Us: Left Behind, but shorter than Uncharted 4.
As for fans hoping for a Nathan Drake cameo in The Lost Legacy? “We entertained a few possible ideas around including Nate as a secondary character,” Scherr explained. “But everything we did felt superfluous because we tied it all up with Uncharted 4.” Margenau was even more direct. “We’re not going to touch on Nathan Drake in this, at all.” So, uh, maybe don’t hold your breath.
“You can sort of imagine Drake sitting on the couch playing Crash Bandicoot while Chloe and Nadine are off galavanting,” Scherr joked. “Yeah, the Crash Bandicoot remaster,” Margenau added.