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Video games: ‘Uncharted: Lost Legacy’ treads a mostly familiar path

By Gieson Cacho | East Bay Times (TNS)

Platform: PlayStation 4
Genre: Action-adventure, third-person shooter
Developer: Naught Dog 
Publisher: Sony Interactive Entertainment
Rating: T, for teen

Although Nathan Drake has sailed into the sunset, that doesn’t mean the “Uncharted” series is over. Naughty Dog found one more treasure-hunting story to tell.

That new tale takes place in India and stars Chloe Frazer and Nadine Ross in “Uncharted: The Lost Legacy.” These two, who were supporting characters in past games, now have a chance to shine in lead roles. Chloe and Nadine are after the tusk of Ganesh, which lay hidden in the ruins of the Hoysala Empire. But as in other entries, finding the prize isn’t going to be easy.

They have to deal with Asav, a fanatical insurgent, hell-bent on finding the Indian relic and using it for his own ends. The campaign becomes a race to the artifact — one with gun fights and puzzles, as players encounter Asav’s army and the traps left by Hoysalan kings. “The Lost Legacy” follows the familiar beats of the series, and incorporates elements from previous games, most notably “Uncharted 4.”

The area where Naughty Dog breaks new ground is in its two heroes — Chloe and Nadine, played by Claudia Black and Laura Bailey, respectively. Such a duo — two female leads in a buddy adventure — is a rarity in video games.

Art director Tate Mosesian said the pairing wasn’t a conscious decision. They didn’t decide beforehand that they needed two female characters. It came through a process in which the team settled on Chloe as the star and built a campaign around her rich backstory. The straight-laced Nadine was the right foil for Chloe’s devil-may-care attitude.

What Naughty Dog does right is develop the friendship between the two, highlighting the characters’ chemistry. No matter how insane or far-fetched the circumstances, the relationship between them is the bedrock on which the campaign is built and what will keep players charging through the story.

As for the gameplay, “The Lost Legacy” plays a lot like “Uncharted 4.” Chloe has a grappling hook that she uses to swing to faraway areas. The piton helps her access ledges that are just out of reach. Meanwhile, stealth is key to surviving combat. It’s more efficient to hide in tall grass and eliminate Asav’s thugs one by one, rather than attack head-on.

Naughty Dog adds a few tweaks and refinements. To make Chloe different from Nathan, the developers gave her a lockpicking skill, which she uses on crates scattered throughout this world. Later in the game, players have a side quest, in which they must collect 11 tokens. This unlocks a new piece of gear called the Queen’s Ruby, which alerts players when treasure is nearby. This feature is a godsend for completists. It makes the search for treasure in each chapter less onerous while still providing a challenge.

Other gameplay refinements include the ability to shoot while scaling a cliff — a move players will rely on because enemies now look down and can locate Chloe during a climb. With smarter enemies, the silenced pistol is invaluable because it lets players take down an adversary without alerting his allies.

The melee combat has a new wrinkle — an emphasis on eluding and breaking free when enemies grab Chloe. Nadine also plays a critical role in brawls, sometimes helping players out of tight spots.

Despite the improvements, “The Lost Legacy” still has flaws that have persisted since “Uncharted 4.” As helpful as Nadine is, she can still get in the way, especially in narrow passageways. When it comes to puzzles, they are still clever, but don’t offer anything novel. The same goes for combat, which would benefit from a way for players to manipulate enemies during stealth. Having a move to lure foes away from a squad is now a must.

On the narrative side, the story’s focus is its strength, but it feels less developed and shorter than other entries in this series. That said, “The Lost Legacy” still has its moments, especially when the developers play with scale, vistas and the beautiful open world of Western Ghats in “Chapter 4.”

Although there isn’t a lot new in “The Lost Legacy,” it’s still a worthy adventure, one that highlights the type of storytelling Naughty Dog does best.