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Intrepid explorer Nathan Drake’s story may have concluded, but there’s still a wealth of mysteries to explore in Uncharted‘s world-and as The Lost Legacy reveals, plenty more characters to adventure with. Picking up a year after Uncharted 4, the game pulls some familiar faces to the forefront for a pistol-packing, mud-sliding, ledge-climbing escapade through ancient Indian ruins.
During a recent hands-on, I found all the top standards of cinematic storytelling, daring acrobatics, and brain-twisting puzzles we’ve come to expect from Uncharted. Befitting the new lead character, however, are new gameplay mechanics emphasizing stealth–with a particularly diverting lock-picking skill that rewards you more if you act sneakier. Also, further reflecting how Naughty Dog is offering players different angles into these dangerous terrains, there’s a “free-roaming” design to each level, leaving the order of challenge completion always open to choice.
I was most impressed, however, by the vivid personalities of the game’s heroines. Whether they’re repelling down the side of a crumbling fort, mowing down mercenaries with an assault rifle, or even just working the gear shift of dirty all-terrain 4×4, the pair dynamically react to what they’re doing at any given moment like fully-breathing characters–not just mere audience ciphers. Thus, I was quite eager to sit down with The Lost Legacy‘s co-writer, Josh Scherr, and get some insights on the game’s production. We chatted about the choice of leading ladies, their clash of personalities, and the daunting amount of work that went into making their banter both consistent and interactive.
If The Lost Legacy were somebody’s first encounter with Uncharted, what’s the general gist they ought to know about the series going in?
Josh Scherr: Uncharted is a throwback to the pulpy action-adventures of yesteryear. It’s about this pack of thieves, and rogues, and treasure hunters – going out into the world, exploring the remnants of ancient civilizations, trying to find artifacts to line their pockets, getting into pitched gun battles and fist fights, solving ancient puzzle mechanisms, and just generally going out and getting in each other’s way.
And they’re all a bit more off the beaten moral path than, say… Indiana Jones.
Players controlled Nathan Drake in the previous games, of course, but now a couple supporting characters – a past love interest and enemy, respectively – are stepping to the forefront for this installment.
Scherr: Yes. Chloe Fraser, who’s the main character in this one, was first introduced in Uncharted 2 as Nathan’s partner. We did establish that the two of them had a romantic past. Actually, in Uncharted 2 they had a bit of a romantic present. Like Nathan, she’s a thief, and also considered to be the best getaway driver in the business.
So, Chloe was a foil for the lead previously, but is now the lead herself. How does her outlook differ from Nathan’s?
Scherr: We introduce side characters as a way to bring out personality facets of the main characters. So, where Nathan Drake is a treasure hunter, but still has a certain moral compass and a bit of a hero complex, Chloe is somebody who’s more than willing to bail on her allies if she thinks they’re being foolish. Or if she thinks her life is in danger and nobody else is paying attention.
So, taking her as the main character – somebody who’s not necessarily a traditional hero – and trying to put her into a situation where she might have to be [a hero] seemed like an interesting challenge. She was also a fan favorite from Uncharted 2. She’s just got a fun personality, and is somebody we just wanted to spend more time with.
Nadine Ross tags along with Chloe throughout Lost Legacy, and she was actually an enemy of Nathan’s in the last game. How was her role changed?
Scherr: Nadine, who’s your partner in this one, was the one of the primary antagonists in Uncharted 4. She used to run a paramilitary group called Shoreline, who was hired by the main bad guy in Uncharted 4, Rafe Adler. And… spoilers! Nadine holds the distinction of being the only Uncharted antagonist to actually be alive at the end of a game. She was a bit different than the other antagonists we’d done, and we felt like she could stand to be explored even further.
Why pair Nadine with Chloe, instead of another supporting character from the series?
Scherr: We looked at almost every possible character combination you can imagine. “What if we did Sam and Sully? What if we did Sam and Chloe?” We kept coming back to the idea of a Chloe as the main character. We never really go super deep into her back story in Uncharted 2 or 3, but it just seemed like there was a lot of rich material to potentially build a story around – particularly with her Indian heritage. Having the opportunity then to actually go to India and explore it in one of our games seemed too good to pass up. And then throughout the development, Nadine emerged as an interesting counterpart to Chloe.
Chloe is somebody who’s very improvisational, flying-by-the-seat-of-her-pants, versus Nadine, who’s very much a by-the-book tactical military expert. Putting the two of them together, and forcing them to work with each other, seemed like a good way to get some interesting conflict and growth.
Speaking of that conflict and growth, how does the arc of Nadine and Chloe’s relationship integrate into the free-roaming nature of this game’s level design?
Scherr: Depending on how far into [a level] the player is, we will actually have them react to certain things differently. If you’ve only solved X number of parts of the area, then they’ll still be cool and professional with each other. But if you’ve done more, then their responses and other dialog will change.
This was actually an incredibly challenging area to create. Because you can approach a lot of these areas in any order, we had to still make sure that we were telling a consistent story from start to finish. So, you couldn’t hear a key revelation or vital piece of information too early. We had to make sure that – depending on which order you approach the forts and other sites – the story will still be told the same way. We just had to account for all these different possibilities. It was hard! Haha…
Will you be hopping along with Chloe and Nadine for this caper? Share all thoughts in the comments. Don’t forget to tune into Game Engine Tuesdays on G&S Live and dig into the cool stories behind the video games we love.
Image Credits: Naughty Dog