When our skin begins to shrink away and our bodies go cold and rigid, what do we leave behind?
Uncharted: The Lost Legacy is the fifth entry in the Uncharted franchise and potentially the last Uncharted title that Naughty Dog will ever produce. There's a huge weight tied to that statement. A weight that'd drag you to the bottom of the ocean, if you let it.
This is the last one.
Uncharted has always had a chaotic energy, largely in part to its superb scripting and the dialogue of its quick-witted, cocksure lead Nathan Drake. In fact, Drake and Uncharted are so intertwined that it almost seems heretical to make a game called Uncharted without including him in it. But, here we are.
So what happens when Nathan Drake is gone?
In The Lost Legacy, answering that question falls on the shoulders of two Uncharted alumni, Chloe Frazer and Nadine Ross. Previously part of the supporting cast, here they are elevated to leading roles where they must carry the torch that Nathan Drake lit ten years ago. The Lost Legacy is definitely an Uncharted game, one that attempts to capture and distill that chaotic Uncharted energy, from the ledge-swinging to the gun play to the streams of enemy no-names that you put in the ground.
But how do you preserve the legacy of Uncharted without Nathan Drake?
Central to The Lost Legacy’s treasure hunt is the story of the Hindu gods Shiva, Ganesh and Parashurama.
As legend has it, Parashurama – a warrior deity – was gifted his axe by Shiva, one of the supreme deities of Hinduism. It is with this axe that Parashurama travelled the world to rid it of all its kings and warriors, who were unjust and evil. After circling the world 21 times, he travelled to Shiva’s home to thank him. However, upon arrival, he was denied entry by Ganesh, the son of Shiva.
Ganesh, with the head of an elephant, two mighty tusks jutting from his mouth like swords, would not allow Parashurama to enter. Parashurama demanded to see Shiva but Ganesh was determined to maintain his father’s privacy and so the two gods fought.
As the story is told in The Lost Legacy, Ganesh quickly realises that the axe Parashurama wields is, the axe that belongs to his father. Ganesh could have defeated Parashurama easily, but he realises that doing so would make Shiva’s axe look weak and powerless. Thus, Ganesh yields, resulting in Parashurama slicing off his left tusk. That is why, today, you see Ganesh statues and idols with a tusk missing.
Ganesh sacrifices his tusk to preserve his father’s legacy.
Chloe’s efforts to retrieve the Tusk of Ganesh, The Lost Legacy’s ‘core’ treasure, is arguably the most emotional and personal quest in Uncharted’s ten-year history. The Tusk of Ganesh is an important artefact not just in Hinduism and Indian history, but Chloe’s own. Her father gave up a lucrative career to become something of an archaeologist himself and Chloe is following in her father’s footsteps.
As The Lost Legacy progresses, the brash, closed-off Chloe, who uses humour and sarcasm as a shield, and Nadine, who owns a heart encased in concrete, become closer. Midway through the story, Chloe feels confident enough to tell Nadine that her father was murdered by bandits while on an expedition financed by the Ministry of Culture. All that he left her is an intricate carving of Ganesh, a trinket that Chloe calls a ‘stupid thing’.
It’s the same ‘stupid thing’ that later reveals the way to the Tusk of Ganesh and Chloe, realising this, is overwhelmed. She’d been retracing her father’s steps the entire time and the ‘stupid thing’ is his legacy, something he left behind for her, to finish an expedition that he started. He never told her that the Ganesh trinket would ultimately lead her to the Tusk of Ganesh, decades later.
Chloe Frazer wanted to honour her father’s legacy.
In the acknowledgements section of my thesis, I wrote:
Though my parents have been separated for a long time, I think that they still share many traits. The most obvious, and it is my hope that this comes through as you read my thesis, is that they both have worked incredibly hard for an incredibly long time. If I have captured even a small percentage of that drive and a dogged ‘grin and bear it’ mentality within these pages, then I am proud of myself. I dedicate this to you.
A thesis is a mental battle that takes four years (or more) to overcome. It’s a war that you wage. You have to commit to standing on that battlefield at the end, cuts across your cheeks, surveying the damage. And there is damage. If you’re lucky, there’ll only be a few casualties. You learn early that you need an army to take on a thesis.
My parents gave me that, as best they could, over years. They prepared me, with sword and shield, for a battle. They were not scientists, they didn’t scroll through tomes of literature and they didn’t mix chemicals together. They didn’t wear blue scrubs, stained with dyes and fixative, nor did they wear the white nets and surgical masks that maintained sterility. They didn’t hear a clock ticking like a war-drum as they sat in silence, in a cold, white room thick with the smell of anaesthetic, plucking the bones from mice no bigger than their pinky fingers.
Yet without them, there would be no thesis. I carry their legacy.
The one word that means the most to the very last Uncharted is legacy.
Legacy [leg-uh-see] (noun); anything handed down from the past, as from an ancestor or predecessor.
As the game concludes, Chloe talks about handing over the Tusk of Ganesh to the Ministry of Culture. Surely, she’s told, it will fetch a higher price if sold to a private buyer. But finding the Tusk of Ganesh wasn’t about how much money Chloe could make. It was about preserving her father’s legacy.
When our skin shrinks away from our muscles, is pulled thin and taut over our skeletons, all that we get to leave behind are legacies.
When the credits rolled, that was the thing that resonated with me most. I've loved the Uncharted series, probably as much as any other series of games I've played in the past ten years and even with Nathan Drake gone, the spirit of Uncharted remains. The legacy of Uncharted casts a long shadow.
And surprisingly, the legacy of Uncharted became bigger than Nathan Drake ever could be.
It was a bittersweet feeling watching the sun set as the game came to its conclusion, not because this was The End, but because of how Uncharted became bigger than an action-adventure game lead by an Indiana Jones-type hero where you make impossible jumps across gaping chasms while shooting at enemies, blowing everything up and making jokes about it.
It became a series with a legacy that few video game series – especially few video game series created in the last decade – can come close to.
Uncharted. The Lost Legacy is an easy video game to like in spite of its flaws. It's buoyed by a winning cast of characters and has some of the prettiest vistas this side of an actual trip to India. It also includes one of the most entertaining hidden features I've ever encountered in a video game.