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Uncharted: The Lost Legacy Review

Game Spot Reviews - 12 hours 1 min ago

Team chemistry abounds in Uncharted: The Lost Legacy, which is not surprising for a side story to a series famous for its AI-partner-driven gameplay. A decade's worth of adventures and a conclusive epilogue might place franchise mainstay Nathan Drake on permanent retirement, so now is as fitting a moment as any to wander and fight through a new Uncharted from a fresh perspective. With a roster of characters as large as Uncharted's, developer Naughty Dog had a wealth of promising pairings to choose from. After playing through The Lost Legacy, it's hard to imagine a better Drake-less pairing than the treasure hunter Chloe Frazer and ex-mercenary Nadine Ross. Not only do they prove themselves as capable adventurers, but also entertaining ones with the kind of chemistry that doesn't rely on Nathan Drake-inspired wisecracks.

The duo's vastly different backgrounds and motivations create a dynamic ripe for a classic apprehensive alliance and the tensions that come with it. Seeking an artifact called the Tusk of Ganesh in the Western Ghats of India, the pair find themselves racing against Asav, a perpetually angry warlord who places highly in the Uncharted villain ruthlessness power rankings. It's also a quest rich in exposition and substance, with lot of credit given to the well-written banter between Chloe and Nadine. Not only is it engaging to hear them bring down their emotional barriers of mistrust, but the small talk helps fill in the blanks since the events of Uncharted 4. Moveover, the dialogue eventually reveals the meaning of the game's subtitle, which shines a light on Chloe's personal drive to find the tusk. Just the fact that her history differs from Nathan Drake's opens the door for new insights on recurring Uncharted themes, namely the dangers of ambition and the relationships that can suffer as a result. These are messages that adventure genre fans can appreciate even without a connection to the series' past.

The dense vegetation of India and its peppering of ruins reflect Naughty Dog's amusingly consistent attachment to jungles in Uncharted. In The Lost Legacy, the studio doubles down on tropical forests with striking results. The lush surroundings and detailed remains of ancient civilizations are fitting trivia-laden conversation starters for Chloe and Nadine. And despite that The Lost Legacy is shorter than even the first Uncharted--six hours compared to eight--these insightful archeological chats about Hindu mythology don't feel forced or rushed.

Such refined moments are indicative of The Lost Legacy's impressive conciseness, packing a ton of Uncharted history in its moment-to-moment experiences. For those new to Uncharted, that translates to a lot of death-defying stunts any given minute. Moreover, the stealth tutorial is fittingly brief, chase sequences are consistently riveting, and climbing sections never feel drawn out. All the while there's an ebb and flow to both the pacing of the narrative and how gameplay sections are spread out. In other words, for every instance of high intensity, there's a well-placed opportunity to take a breather.

The jungles also provide the ideal setting for Naughty Dog to expand and refine its open, free-roaming designs previously seen in the much praised Madagascar map of A Thief's End. This new open map--which is the setting of two of The Lost Legacy's chapters--demands a lot of driving, but going over your own beaten paths doesn't feels like a chore. This is thanks to the wealth of timeworn man-made remains worth exploring and--more often than not--climbing. While you're challenged with navigating up these structures, thoughtful level design ensures the way down is an easy and quick descent. For a game that originated as a more modest expansion to Uncharted 4 with the projected size and scale of The Last of Us: Left Behind, this section alone illustrates why Chloe and Nadine's adventure warranted a larger production.

Both expansive and confined areas prove memorable for the host of combat encounters that invite player ingenuity and improvisation. Many of The Lost Legacy's shootouts offer a wealth of emergent and new gunplay opportunities after every death and retry. It's not a mere race of exchanging gunfire; there are plenty of chances to outflank Asav's army by making use of columns and elevated platforms rather than fighting enemies head-on. It's a showcase of easily executable simple pleasures, like striking enemies from above and knocking out a soldier from around a corner.

That's not to say there are no other ways to outwit these squads. Clearing a fully-staffed patrol with a dozen discreetly-thrown grenades with zero detection isn't only possible but also a satisfying rush. Playing as a ninja and triggering no alert states is even harder, but many of the combat areas are large and well-designed enough that such gratifying outcomes are possible. Just don't expect many--if any--opportunities to play the pacifist; the more linear levels require full sweeps and takedowns of whole crews.

There’s never been a more even mix of puzzles, combat, and exploration in the Uncharted series than in The Lost Legacy. While the series has had its share of dry switch-activation chores disguised as puzzles, this game keeps such sections to a minimum. This new batch of quandaries will stump you long enough to make the feeling of solving them rewarding. And sinces these obstacles are visually themed on the Hindu gods that are the focus of the duo's quest, no prior Uncharted experience is necessary to solve these puzzles.

Unfortunately, adequate time was not available to evaluate the game's multiplayer and wave-based Survival modes. As these are the exact game types of Uncharted 4's online component--that use the same servers no less--you can expect a level of chaotic gunplay and melee combat not found in The Lost Legacy's story mode. A contrast to the less aggressive enemies in the campaign, fighting against real-life players is a veritable free-for-all where you're using everything from rope swinging to RPGs to survive. The common supernatural powers found in sought-after artifacts, the motivation of earning gold to summon AI support soldiers, and a time-sucking progression system adds depth to what would've been an otherwise forgettable adversarial online mode.

The Lost Legacy doesn't signify a new era for Uncharted so much as it presents an opportunity to show the series from new perspectives, for which Chloe and the AI-controlled Nadine are perfectly capable. With a new playable treasure hunter comes new settings and character motivations, wrapped in a comfortingly familiar Uncharted package. The thrill of playing through set pieces that call back scenes from the earlier games is all the more enhanced when seen through the gameplay mechanics introduced in A Thief's End. The initial hours of The Lost Legacy give an "Uncharted Greatest Hits" vibe, but it grows into a more nuanced, clever experience, ranking among the best in the series while also making its own mark as a standalone Uncharted that isn't anchored to Nathan Drake's harrowing exploits.

The Long Dark Review

Game Spot Reviews - Wed, 08/16/2017 - 19:00

As The Long Dark emerges after years in early access, it introduces the first two chapters in a five-part story, called Wintermute. The game's demanding survival mechanics have the potential to mesh well with the story of a plane crash survivor stuck in the Canadian wilderness of Great Bear, but it's too early to say whether or not Wintermute's narrative ultimately pays off. It is, however, clearly off to a rocky start, leaving the more open-ended sandbox mode as the best reason to jump into The Long Dark today.

During Wintermute, you play as Will Mackenzie, a loner pilot working in the northern reaches of Canada, who agrees to help transport his distressed ex-wife and her mysterious cargo somewhere into the far reaches of the woods. Though there are a few revealing moments shared between Will and Dr. Astrid Greenwood before their plane comes crashing down, the quick and cliched implication of an emotional backstory through suggestive and vague dialogue makes a weak first impression. It certainly doesn't help that many of the scenes throughout Wintermute's first two episodes are hampered by odd animation jitters and floating objects that pop in and out frame.

While you both survive the sudden crash that cuts your conversation short, you are separated from one another, and Will succumbs to injuries that make surviving the harsh winterscape a true challenge. Recovering from the crash acts as the game's tutorial, throwing you into the basics of survival. Whether it's seeking shelter, starting a fire, or generally looking after your vital signs, almost everything you need is covered, giving you some confidence before you set out on a journey to find your lost passenger. Learning how to make the most of The Long Dark's survival mechanics is no simple task, but these foundational steps are relatively easy compared to the hurdles that lie ahead.

Despite Mackenzie's apparent desperation to find Astrid, he's more than happy to scout the countryside to gather things for other people, ultimately earning nothing for himself except scraps of information about Astrid's possible whereabouts and increased knowledge of the wild. It's frustrating to watch--and even more frustrating to play.

As you carry on, most of your time will be spent scouring abandoned structures for granola bars, harvesting meat from animal carcasses found frozen in ice, and dodging the elements as best you can. Tools like knives and hatchets can be built provided you have the right blueprints, parts, and access to a forge or a workbench. They also need to be maintained using spare parts, which can be gathered by breaking down extra items. Annoyingly, inventory management doesn't let you optimise your carry weight by combining like items, so instead of being able to do something like emptying lantern fuel containers into a jerry can, you're forced to carry them all around separately. Be careful where you tread, as well, as it's not uncommon to get stuck in geometry without the means to free yourself--you aren't able to jump, only crouch and walk.

Mackenzie's survival knowledge is minimal to begin with, so his crafting abilities are minimal at best, but what he can make is essential. Blueprints can be found to learn how to craft new items, though these are extremely few and far between. In my experience, most crafting time is spent breaking down things found in the world; spare chairs, tables, curtains, old bedrolls, there's a lot that can be fixed into something else, and it could be life-saving. By combining some sticks, a bit of spare cloth, and some lantern fuel, you can make a simple torch, providing not just light and heat but also warding off any potential predators that may be circling nearby.

The first episode never really lets go of your hand, keeping you close to a small township for most of its entirety--and rarely asking you to venture to edges of the playable area just beyond the town limits. It's not until the second episode that you're set free--albeit under the conflicting pretense of playing fetch for someone else--across three large expanses of untamed wilderness.

Refreshingly, these spaces are deathly beautiful and a showcase for The Long Dark's striking visual style. When the aurora borealis shines at night, it's nothing short of stunning--the green hues bounce softly off of snow-covered surroundings. Likewise, the stark pink and orange sunsets that wash over Great Bear are consistently captivating. They are easy come, easy go, due to the game's dynamic weather system, but it's impressive how the world--and your place within it--can turn on a dime, choking clear skies with a gusty snowstorm, turning a moment of peace into a chaotic dash for shelter.

When you set aside the available Wintermute episodes--which, crucially, you can--The Long Dark's tough yet rewarding gameplay owns the spotlight.

When you set aside the available Wintermute episodes--which, crucially, you can--The Long Dark's tough yet rewarding gameplay owns the spotlight. Survival mode is unforgiving, but it plays to the game's best strength, and you can always dial down the difficulty to keep going--likewise, if you're finding it too easy, you can ramp it up as well. The sandbox also has five challenges you can attempt if you require a hint of direction, offering a more catered survival experience, but without the stringent procession of tasks seen in Wintermute.

Stricken from frostbite, and desperately wanting shelter from a violent blizzard, the feeling of helplessness in the sandbox mode gets overwhelming, and it's in these moments of desperation that The Long Dark is most effective. And thus every minute you survive, and every meter of progress you make, feels remarkably rewarding--the result of a series of calculated decisions you made in the face of depressingly unfavorable odds.

When the weather isn't out to kill you, chances are you'll find some wildlife that would be more than happy to try. A lone wolf can be handled by waving around a lit torch or flare in its face, but if a pack gets a whiff of you nearby, the only option is to run. And did I mention bears? There are bears, and they aren't interested in being friendly. Death comes swiftly and brutally at the hands of the animals in The Long Dark, a stark contrast to the slow fade into darkness that comes with growing colder and hungrier.

It's important to remember that The Long Dark is just waking up from early access. It's cold, hungry, and huddled somewhere under a rock face, but it's just gotten the fire started. Another three story episodes are still due, so there is time to turn things around for Will and Astrid. However, because the best parts of The Long Dark are already alive and well in survival mode, perhaps Wintermute's weak beginning is reason enough to stick to what's worked for the game all along, blemishes and all.

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