You'll love it if:
- You’re into cinematic style adventures
- Treasure hunt was your favourite game growing up
- Keeping up with the Drakes could be your TV show of choice
- You’re looking for a game that gets you from one cliffhanger to the next, sometimes quite literally
Not for you if:
- You’re not very good at solving puzzles
- Climbing is not for you
The Legacy of Thieves Collection contains Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End (2016) and Uncharted: The Lost Legacy (2017), fully remastered for the PlayStation 5, with visual enhancements that take full advantage of next-gen’s horsepower. The Legacy of Thieves Collection is expected to be released for PC sometime in 2022, but there’s still no concrete date. Until then, you can get it in retail format or digital, exclusively on PS5. If you’ve already bought one of the two games in the Legacy of Thieves Collection, you can upgrade to the new version for a small fee through the PlayStation Store.
Before we begin, I have to clarify that this is my first time playing any of the Uncharted games. I know, that’s unheard of. The reality is that I was exclusively Team Xbox up to this gen, so I haven’t kept up with any of the iconic Sony franchises from the PS2 era and afterward. Many of these Remasters that we get to review are brand new experiences for me. Just like Roy, who did a magnificent review for the PC port of God of War. So what you get here is a critical analysis of A Thief’s End and Lost Legacy, from the point of view of someone who going through them for the first time.
The Legacy of Thieves Collection is the absolute best that the cinematic adventure genre has to offer.
Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End
Most times when a game is referred to as “the best of its kind”, I can’t help but think they’re overselling it. It’s not easy to rate something if you haven’t experienced it for yourself. Naughty Dog is very often cited as having the best storytelling techniques in the industry. Sometimes for Uncharted, but more often for The Last of Us, which I haven’t played yet, but we’ll get to that in time (maybe in a future episode of The Vault?). Looking through the keyhole, I never really understood what made Naughty Dog so special. And yet, by the time I finished Uncharted 4, in just 18 hours, I felt like I had known the characters in that game for a lifetime. And turns out, that is what makes Naughty Dog’s games stand out. Let’s jump right in:
Uncharted 4 is visually impressive, to say the least. Very few games manage to set up such a well-connected world to tell such a concise story. If you’ve read any of my other reviews (e.g. Guardians of the Galaxy), then you know that I am a firm believer that not every game needs to be open-world. And I feel that Uncharted 4 does some great justice on that front.
Uncharted 4 is set up like a Hollywood movie. Instead of a big, open world, it takes place in many different locations. From the prisons of Panama to a luxurious Italian villa and from there to Scottish mountain tops. Each place you visit has its own feel and serves a very specific purpose narrative-wise. In fact, many of the cut-scenes take us to locations we never see again. Even those are full of tiny little memorable details. And you have no idea how much this stands out in today’s industry that heavily relies on reused assets.
Let’s go sightseeing
The places you have to explore usually start from a single area, that constantly expands as you progress through the story beats. You rarely have to go back to an area for a second time. They’re linear levels, that keep expanding as you go on. Uncharted 4 has no loading screens, and this is not only due to PS5’s SSD, but to the game design choices. The areas are structured in a way, that only a small part of the game world is loaded at a time. This means that once you enter a new area, you can’t go back to the previous one, as it’s unloaded from the memory. That’s why there’s no backtracking in this game.
It’s honestly impressive how inextricably designed the “worlds” within the game are. They may not be as interact-able as worlds in other games, even of the same genre, but as a result, Uncharted 4 seems to be extremely focused on the story it wants to tell. The plot is not consumed by the world, but rather the opposite seems to be the case. The locations look like scenes from a big-budget film, and that is exactly how the game as a whole plays out.
Like watching your favourite action movie
Animations, especially facial expressions, are second to none. I hope the animators and those who worked in motion capture were paid overtime because they certainly worked very hard on all this. Uncharted takes advantage of the small cast of characters to take the visual fidelity to new heights. The cinematic feel that the game offers is on another level. Each screenshot you take could very well be your next wallpaper. The game knows this, and now and then, it throws in some small pauses, during which you can take a minute to admire the landscape or take a quick screenshot.
The faces, the costumes, the flashbacks, everything is neatly put together. The game moves you back and forth in time plenty of times, and the design of the characters reflects that quite nicely. Of course, this is a long-running franchise and so, most of these might have been established in earlier games, but honestly, I cannot dwell enough on how polished all of this is.
The PS5 version found in the Legacy of Thieves Collection has, as per usual, two graphics settings. Fidelity runs on a native 4K resolution, locked at 30fps. The Performance option goes for 60fps, with the game running at 1440p, which is upscaled or downscaled depending on your screen’s resolution. If your screen supports a refresh rate up to 120hz, then the Performance+ option becomes available, which will make the game run at 120fps, but in 1080p. However, I think that Fidelity mode is the perfect fit for a cinematic adventure game like this.
All Uncharted games are linear, so I doubt anyone expected anything different. The stories told by Naughty Dog usually take the backseat, and they always have a deep emotional background. The characters, no matter how much the plot is based on them, rarely are an example to imitate, something that’s common in narrative-driven games. They are the ideal, larger-than-life heroes we all once dreamed of becoming. Hold that thought, we will examine it later. In essence, Naughty Dog has created a universe that manages to suck you in. And if I managed to connect with them, after just seeing them for the first time, this should have been a real treat for longtime fans.
One last treasure hunt
The story picks up shortly after the end of Drake’s Deception. Nathan Drake, now married to journalist Elena Fisher, has given up on treasure hunting and is getting used to the routine of a peaceful daily life. Everything changes when his long-lost brother, Sam, whom Nathan considered dead for over 15 years, meets with him and asks him to go on one last treasure hunt. Apparently, Sam had remained imprisoned in Panama, after the Drake brothers’ last visit to the area, when they were looking for the treasure of Henry Avery, the richest pirate in the world.
Sam explains that he managed to escape with the help of one of Latin America’s biggest mobsters, in exchange for half of Avery’s treasure. That’s $ 200 million, no chump change. The problem is that this treasure was never found, despite the years they spent looking for it. No matter how hard Nathan tries to convince himself that this life is over for him, Sam presents a new clue that will lead them to the mythical pirate treasures. With his brother’s life in danger, our protagonist calls his most trusted partner, Sully, asking for his help, for one last time.
A tale of two brothers
The treasure hunt may be in the spotlight, but it’s not the main point of the story, but merely the reason for its narration. Uncharted 4 tells the story of family ties, betrayal, and forgiveness. Like so many other stories we have seen either in movies, series, or even other video games. The charisma of the characters, the unique narrative style of Naughty Dog, and this unique cinematic style are what make this one stand out.
Uncharted never bothers telling you what happens, it shows you. This is where a meaningful connection with the audience is established. You don’t just learn about their adventures, you get to live them alongside the characters. This is something that so many games try, but few succeed. The time and the cost it takes to set up such a blockbuster narrative must be outrageous. But it’s worth it. Because now and then, a genre-defining gem like this one is created through that grueling process.
‘Fun’ doesn’t always have to mean ‘complex’.
Irony can be found everywhere in the script. It’s cleverly laid out. There are times when you’ll think “ah, I see what you did there”, but the screenwriters don’t expect you to think about it, they just point it out for you. I often found myself thinking that these were two separate stories, told as one. The interconnecting points are very smart if think about them, but the constant action leaves little time to analyze the technical aspects of the script. As it should. Games are meant to be fun, not to make you think about how they’re made. That’s my job.
The pacing is very good. It’s genuinely hard to put the controller down. The sequence of outrageous action and moments of calm contemplation is masterful. It’s like swimming underwater and every now and then sticking your head out to take a quick breath before you keep going. The action is over-the-top. It feels like playing a Fast and Furious version of Indiana Jones. Trust me, this is a lot more fun than it sounds.
The main body of the gameplay loop is very simple. You climb and shoot, for 18 hours straight. Jokes aside, there is some variety as this would be quite boring, no matter how the story is. Indeed, you spend most of the game climbing and shooting at enemies. Unless you want to go the stealthier route, in which case you just strangle them from behind. It’s not complicated, because it doesn’t have to be. There’s no unnecessary mechanics, no unnecessary fluff. But every element of the gameplay is greatly polished.
Puzzles and death traps
Uncharted 4 has many puzzles for you to solve, even though they’re not that hard. They’re quite creative though. It will take a lot of effort to come up with the solutions for some of the most complex ones, but even when you don’t get it right the first time, you always have a good understanding of what you need to do. If you get stuck, the game starts giving you hints after a while. This seemed useful to me, not in puzzle-solving, but to find the hidden pathways to some areas. Solving puzzles is a very rewarding process. Some of the pirate traps you have to dance around are impressive.
In some levels, your biggest enemy will be visual clarity, especially if you’re playing on a big screen TV and from a distance. Or I’m just going blind, I guess we’ll never know which one it is. You can always turn off HDR, or turn on color blind settings.
Driving up the mountain sides
Naughty Dog has managed to create one of the best driving systems I’ve seen in a game, only to use it on a few specific levels. Even games that rely on driving for most of their gameplay loop fail to create such an elaborate system. The physics are exquisite and the terrain’s response to the SUV movements is almost life-like. Especially if you consider that this is a remastered title from 2016. They did all this, 6 whole years ago. The use of the winch in both action scenes and puzzles is also great.
The sound is also incredible. The sound effects are world-class, whether we’re talking about ambient sounds or how the voices, the gunshots, or your car’s engine sound in response to the environment you’re in. The audio design is on par with the visual presentation, and trust me, the bar is very high on that visual aspect.
The best part is easily the dialogue. You can tell the voice actors have fully assimilated their roles after so many years of embodying them. There’s a certain ease in the flow of the dialogue that is difficult to come by. The writing is awesome and the acting even better. There are no unnecessary lines and the humor is plentiful. It’s not limited to witty jokes between the characters, like inside jokes, but also in their interactions with the environment.
There are times when the emotion starts overflowing. The whole story is emotionally charged and if the live delivery was flat, it would collapse under its own weight. If there’s one rendition that stands out, it’s that of Emily Rose in the role of Elena Fisher. She may not have as much screen time as the other characters, but the emotional changes her character is going through are perfectly reflected in the range of her sound color.
Uncharted: The Lost Legacy
I have to admit that I did not enjoy the second game in The Lost Legacy Collection as much as Uncharted 4. Does this mean that it is not a good game? On the contrary. It’s just that games as the ones we are looking at here, it is good to let them “rest” for a bit inside you, after picking up something else. While playing Lost Legacy, I could not help but compare it to A Thief’s End. It’s like saying that The Hobbit isn’t good when compared to Lord of the Rings. It’s just not as good as the previous one in the series while remaining a very good game. Uncharted 4 is a tough act to follow, even for Naughty Dog themselves.
Lost Legacy follows the same philosophy in its visual presentation as Uncharted 4. High-quality animations, close-ups, and dazzling scenery. The places we visit here differ vastly from what we saw in the previous game in the series. You spend most of the game in one of India’s open-world jungles, which is expertly designed. The action set-pieces are very good in this game as well, but after a while, they become inevitably predictable. They’re fun though.
We have two female protagonists this time around, instead of two male ones. As made obvious in my review of Kena: Bridge of Spirits, we love to see diversity in the male-dominated gaming industry. Both Chloe and Nadine are perfectly designed. Their animations are very detailed, in some cases maybe even better than what we saw in A Thief’s End. Animations are not reused. They’re all designed from scratch, so both Chloe and Nadine have a different flow in their movements than the Drakes. The combat looks more impressive in Lost Legacy, especially when done with bare fists. The lighting is world-class, with the level in the city of Belur being easily my favorite between the two games.
In Uncharted: The Lost Legacy, we chase after the legendary tusk of the Indian god Ganesh. Our protagonists are Chloe Frazer, who I had no idea about who she is until I picked this game up, and Nadine Ross from Uncharted 4. This is a peculiar partnership, and even they understand that it will probably not work out. And this is the main axis of the story. Once again, the treasure hunt takes the passenger seat. How the characters manage to connect through their differences shows the clever writing of Naughty Dog’s storytelling. Once again, the characters steal the show.
Each girl has her own demons to face, and both are looking for the tusk for separate reasons. Of course, there is the villain of the story, Asav, the leader of the local rebel army and, you guessed it, he is also looking for the tusk. As in A Thief’s End, we get plenty of opportunities to delve into the myth on which the treasure we are looking for is based. Indian mythology is very interesting and you can catch the protagonists talking about it often, since Nadine, just like us, knows little about the subject.
One step at a time
The biggest difference with Uncharted 4 in how the script is set up is that Lost Legacy holds your hand to a much lesser degree. As you search for the next exit, the next puzzle, the next temple, you never quite know where it will lead you. You face every obstacle with the mantra of “one step at a time”. The Drake brothers had a better idea of what they were looking for, the girls over here seemed more lost than I was for most of the game. And that’s perfectly fine, the more mysterious the better, in some cases. Especially when the plot isn’t particularly long, you want specific story beats that offer as much as possible to the experience. And that’s exactly what you get here.
In terms of gameplay, Naughty Dog is trying some fresh things for the series, but I can’t say that everything works. Initially, the core of the gameplay is still the same. You climb and shoot. The range of weapons at your disposal is slightly larger and the enemies adapt better to the situations. Obviously, AI has improved.
Traversing through the jungle
The main difference is that you do all that in an open-world environment. Naughty Dog took the basic formula of Uncharted 4, understood what made it work, and turned it up a few notches. And I say this because our favorite SUV is back, and this time it is your main means of transportation. You will use it to move from one area of the jungle to another. The jungle, however, isn’t as big as it looks (that’s what she said) on the map. And yeah, you’re literally using a map to navigate, since there’s no mini-map. I get that it’s edgier to take out the map now and then, but it sure isn’t convenient.
The jungle is extremely well designed. After a while, you can find your way looking at the environment, and I guess that’s what they were going for. There are temples with puzzles that you can solve, separately from the main questline, because an open world must have some side activities. In the case of The Lost Legacy, it’s collectibles with extra steps.
Remember when we talked about how in Uncharted 4 the game stopped for you to take screenshots? Well, here Chloe takes out her phone and takes the pictures herself. You can scroll through these photos later, and they act as souvenirs from the places you have seen. Neat. The puzzles here are a bit more difficult than in A Thief’s End, but they are smaller in number. This does not stop them from testing your patience, because some will need a lot of tries to get right. Yes, I’m talking about the infamous five-statue level.
Uncharted: Legacy of Thieves Collection contains two great games. Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End is truly a masterpiece, on the same level as God of War. Endless cinematic-level action, enchanting atmosphere, charismatic characters, and locations that will have you picking up your jaw from the floor. You realize that a game is at this level when the only negative you can say about it is some visual clarity problems on some ledges. It’s ridiculous how polished it is. It deserves its must-play status and certainly made me look for time to play the previous ones in the series.
The Lost Legacy, on the other hand, is only a very good game. The story that draws you directly in and the characters are very interesting. It does admittedly do some things better than A Thief’s End, but there are some in which it loses the steady footing that the previous one so proudly displayed. It’s much shorter in duration, more reminiscent of expansion than a stand-alone game, mainly due to a large number of similarities. Undoubtedly, it makes for a great time.
A huge thanks to Sony and Playstation Greece for providing us with a key!