Uncharted: The Franchise I Discovered Too Late

By | 5 months ago 

One editor talks about his recent exposure to the Uncharted franchise, and how the Naughty Dog-developed series left a profound mark on his outlook of gaming. Spoilers follow.

I had never really understood the hype surrounding the Uncharted series. PlayStation fans the world over spoke to its quality, while others opted to berate reviewers that dared to give each new entry anything lower than a 9 out of 10. Despite all the hubbub over what Nathan Drake was getting up to with the arrival of each installment, I largely ignored it. That’s not to say I didn’t give it a try – I even went so far as to rent Uncharted 2 upon its release – but the series as a whole came and went on the PlayStation 3 and I didn’t bat an eye.

Then the reviews started rolling in for Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End. Critics the world over heralded it as Naughty Dog’s latest triumph, with Game Rant’s own Anthony Taormina awarding the title a coveted 5 out 5. The intrigue was certainly there at this point, but after chatting briefly with members of our team, namely the aforementioned reviewer in question, I realized that I’d have to play through the first three games in order to appreciate the events of Nathan Drake’s final adventure. Thus it began.

I found the golden statue of El Dorado, discovered the lost city of Shambala, and resealed the ancient empire of Ubar. I had been on adventures all over the world with Drake, and then it came time for the final hurrah of the famed adventurer. As I booted up Uncharted 4, I was hit with a very different tone, dynamic, and outlook on a character that I had become so familiar with. As the story progressed, I realized just how flawed Sony’s gaming icon was, and how his reckless lifestyle dramatically impacted those around him. The invincible hero had been humanized, and the consequences of his actions were on full display.

Uncharted 4 Jungle Peek

By the time I’d wrapped up the tetralogy, I’d come to know what made Nathan Drake tick. The passion he had maintained for years in order fulfill the studies of the one parent that didn’t abandon him, the need to make something of the name he had taken on, the pressures brought on by maintaining the family he’d built for himself, and the desperation to protect the last bit of blood family he had left. They all tore him in different directions, and the consequences of this were clearly visible by the end of his fourth core adventure. Even then, he moved on to his happily ever after, but the reality soon hit me that his story had come to an end.

As excited as I was to play through A Thief’s End, I’m now saddened to see such a beloved character’s relevancy begin to fade. Sure, story DLC will add to the narrative in the wake of the core story’s closure, but the truth is that fans have seen to the completion of our hero’s story – at least, according to developer Naughty Dog. Whether that will forever be the case remains to be seen, but there likely won’t be any sign of the treasure hunter in the foreseeable future.

Those overly concerned by the pending status of the Uncharted franchise can likely rest easy, as adventures can still be had by others within the universe. The fact that Sony continues to simply refer to Uncharted 4 as the last adventure of Nathan Drake seems to indicate plans for more installments, and the fact that it managed to sell almost 3 million units within its first week at retail speaks volumes to the prominence of the franchise to Sony. Of course, the ending of A Thief’s End appears to have suggested as much, with Nate’s daughter seemingly ready to take up the mantle.

Uncharted 4 in game

Whatever is next, Naughty Dog will undoubtedly continue to crank out quality games with a blockbuster narrative and stellar dialogue, but those lines won’t be tackled by the vocal talents of Nolan North and they won’t come from the mouth of the fearless, reckless, loveable, flawed, resourceful, and emotionally clueless hero so many had the fortune of knowing for years. The time these fans had undoubtedly makes this goodbye feel full and deserved, as if it were a true retirement for gaming’s Indiana Jones. I’ve instead only known the hero for a month, and now I’m filled with an inexplicable and hollow feeling. I now know Nathan Drake, but I haven’t known him nearly long enough.

Uncharted – the franchise I discovered too late – has pulled me in, wrapped me within its universe, and now it’s leaving. In the wake of this reality, I wish its developer all the best. I should have jumped into the shoes of your protagonist much sooner. Although it was brief, it was impactful, and I remain optimistic that maybe I’ll see Nate return one day. For now, however, I’ll reflect on the fictitious life of one of gaming’s greatest.

Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End is currently available on PlayStation 4.