I expected Uncharted: The Lost Legacy to address my main problems with Nathan Drake. From what I had seen and played of the Uncharted games, Drake never really felt like a treasure hunter. He didn’t spend much time actually exploring—he goes where the game makes him, and the player follows along. Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End had a few segments where you could stray off the scripted path to pick up some collectibles, but they weren’t memorable. The general consensus around The Lost Legacy highlighted an open-world section that was more on par with what I was looking for from the series, though, and perhaps its change in protagonists would also bring a change in structure. The natural progression of A Thief’s End’s exploration enticed me, so I decided to give Lost Legacy a go when the Legacy of Thieves Collection was released on PlayStation 5 early this year.
While the introduction is pretty much what you would come to expect by now, it didn’t take long for the game to open up and allow for protagonists Chloe Frazer and Nadine Ross to wander around a large open area. There are two main tools at your disposal here: A jeep that you can drive around freely, which was first introduced in A Thief’s End, and a map. The latter is curious—instead of appearing as a UI element on the bottom of the screen or as a static screen that you can quickly tap in and out, the camera switches to a first-person perspective of Chloe actually holding the physical paper.
Aside from a few general pointers and directions, the only way to fill the map is to actually explore the area. Whenever you discover a landmark or point of interest, Chloe automatically scribbles it down. I saw this as a bold choice for a series that has always been more than eager to hold your hand and only provide scattered moments of player agency. And it gave me hope that, perhaps, this time the exploration would be different as a result.
I spent hours taking in the sights. Chloe and Nadine chit-chatted while I drove through mud and lakes. Whenever something piqued my interest, I knew that was my cue to pull the brake and start exploring. Turns out that aside from collectibles, there is an optional objective that involves finding tokens scattered around the area. The steps to get them are surprisingly varied. Sometimes you have to confront an enemy group, sure, but there are some Tomb Raider-esque caves or underwater sections, as well as light puzzles that were fun to solve on my own. At last, I had a treasure hunt in my hands—quite literally.
The problem, and one I couldn’t anticipate as I purposefully avoided looking for guides and tried to embrace the sense of adventure myself, is with one specific location. If you interact with the relic inside a cave up north before you finish gathering all of the tokens, all of the locations you haven’t uncovered yourself yet are automatically added to the map. At that moment the sense of adventure crumbled at my feet. I had yet another checklist in front of me to tick items off, instead of a hunt that was giving me the kind of satisfaction I hadn’t found in the series beforehand.
I saw The Lost Legacy as a quick diversion to wind down after a long work day, or whenever I had some time at night and was looking to pick up a game that wouldn’t require too much concentration on my end. During busy seasons, it’s likely that my time playing is going to result in some sort of coverage, which is why I try to reserve short, singleplayer experiences for the calmer months. After spending March through May doing pretty much the former, I wanted to dive into a game that wouldn’t feel like a chore. But my perception took a fast turn when The Lost Legacy turned into one.
During The Last of Us: Part II, there is a similar open area section in Seattle that Ellie and Dina are free to explore. They have a horse as opposed to a jeep, and the landscape couldn’t be more different, but the idea around the map is retained. Having played this before, I had a reference of where developer Naughty Dog had pushed this semi-open world idea. And I believe there were many lessons learned in The Lost Legacy, as the exploration felt much more natural and eager to surprise instead of guide you.
But it’s interesting to see the context of both games around this idea. In The Last of Us: Part II, Ellie and Dina are mostly looking for resources and learning more about the city after being in isolation from the outside world for years, unaware of how both nature and the infection had truly overtaken the streets. Most points of interest are hostile, but others give room to the characters to spend some time with each other—such as the popular “Take On Me” cutscene after Ellie finds a guitar. And most importantly, you can easily miss these moments if you don’t explore every house or building.
You can completely ignore the token hunt in The Lost Legacy as well, but the main objective takes you close to some of the related locations, and it feels like a natural incentive to follow through with. The problem is that the blink-and-you-miss-it approach of The Last of Us doesn’t ring true when Chloe can access all of the locations.
It’s safe to assume that Naughty Dog is going to keep iterating on this open-world idea in the future. And perhaps it’s naive to ask for more from an AAA studio that has a legacy of games designed so thoroughly around set pieces that adventure is often suffocated by a spectacle that only requires pressing a few buttons during a cutscene. But I would have loved to fill that map myself, and part ways with the game feeling that Chloe had been given the chance to be more adventurous than Nathan Drake. I know that it’s part of the bounty hunters trope to betray each other, but I wasn’t expecting the game to follow that rule against the player as well.
Diego Nicolás Argüello is a freelance journalist from Argentina who has learned English thanks to video games. You can read his work in places like Polygon, Washington Post, The Verge, and more, and he’s usually procrastinating on Twitter @diegoarguello66.