There may not have been an ounce of gameplay contained within in, but the first teaser trailer confirming that the Uncharted series would be coming to PlayStation 4 was undoubtedly one of the high points of Sony’s console launch event. Featuring the standard cryptic narration and a hand-painted treasure map, fans weren’t left with much information to decipher. Or…were they?
A closer look at the first trailer for what we assume will be Uncharted 4 reveals some key names and locations that, when taken together, imply the next game in the series will feature a search for pirate treasure off the coast of Africa. If that’s the case, then is Nathan Drake guaranteed to return? Or will Naughty Dog dive even farther into history with a new lead?
We’ll leave that question for now, since many would claim that at this point, Nathan Drake simply is the Uncharted brand. That being said, it’s no secret that the minds behind the series originally intended something far more fantastical than a modern-day treasure hunter, so stranger things could happen.
Those die-hard fans of Naughty Dog may find talk of pirates and period sailors a bit familiar, since it was just last May that a developer diary for The Last of Us offered a quick glance at some concept artwork being shown in the background of Naughty Dog’s offices. The apparent slip featured concept art of 17th or 18th century clothing, and the rumors of a PS4 historical adventure soon to be announced ran rampant.
With nothing else to go on, the momentum soon slowed (as many assumed the art was related to the then-unannounced The Order: 1886). And as Naughty Dog’s leadership maintained that their production team was enjoying a long-deserved break – given the fast and furious shift from Uncharted 2 to Uncharted 3 – the speculation ran its course, and fans remained confident that Naughty Dog’s flagship series would make a return on the next-gen console at some point.
That wait has come to an end, but fans weren’t treated to a signature Nolan North-narrated teaser trailer at Sony’s event, but an unnamed character (voiced by Todd Stashwick) apparently bent on revenge, having been “buried alive” and “forgotten” by a similarly unnamed character. Only time will offer more details on who these characters may be, and what relationship they may have to the series’ star, but the trailer itself is telling.
The first locations noted on the map reveal the African coastline as that being ‘charted’ (Cape of Good Hope among them, with the first legible handwritten phrases scrawled across the map clear to see: “I have lost everything” and “Every betrayed us all.” And in this case, capitalization is everything.
The man being alluded to by that line is Henry Every (1659-??), an English privateer who became known as one of the most infamous pirates of his day. It isn’t easy to attain the nicknames ‘The Arch Pirate’ or ‘The King of Pirates,’ but in his time captaining The Fancy throughout the Indian Ocean, Every distinguished himself as one of history’s most notable pirates.
Much of that reputation comes from his attack on a convoy of ships traveling from India – an attack that made Every the richest pirate in the world, and one of the first men ever made the target of a global manhunt. That kind of money attracted attention, and Every and his crew spent the rest of their lives evading capture.
Although it is unknown whatever became of Every – if he was captured under a false name, for instance – but it is widely assumed that he managed to retire with his fortune, and live in secrecy. That makes Every one of the few famous pirate captains who ever accomplished that task, and one who would no doubt have made enemies along the way.
But the greatest clue comes in the final frames of the trailer: the ‘X’ marking Ile Sainte-Marie (also known as St. Mary’s Island, and Nosy Boraha). The island may be unheard of for even casual pirate fans, but it was home to hundreds of pirates throughout the 17th and 18th centuries. In fact, the population was so heavily composed of pirates, their wives, and children, that it features one of the only legitimate pirate cemeteries to this day.
That alone makes the piracy connections clear (if the skull and crossbones were too subtle), but the legends of Nosy Boraha and the surrounding area go beyond simple history, and much deeper into the realms with which Uncharted is familiar. According to legend, the island was part of an anarchist colony known as ‘Libertatia,’ founded by pirates under the leadership of Captain James Mission. Pirates with the motto: “for God and Liberty.”
Considering that one of the competing rumors surrounding Henry Every’s fate has him acting as king of a pirate utopia, the links between Every, Libertatia, and Ile Saint-Marie in particular are clear. It’s still unknown if Libertatia ever actually existed, but if it did, and if Every found retirement in its safety, then that would make a good resting place for his colossal treasure.
That’s an awful lot of speculation based on the first teaser, but the evidence is indisputable. For now, it’s impossible to tell if the voice demanding vengeance is after Every or Drake, or what significance should be placed in the Latin phrase “Hodie Mecum Eris In Paradiso” (“Today you will be with me in Paradise,” among the last words of Jesus Christ) but one thing’s for certain: with Sir. Francis Drake dead for over sixty years before Every’s birth, there seems little chance that players will be walking in the shoes of Nathan’s ancestor.
What do you think of Naughty Dog’s decision to turn towards piracy? Does this reveal come too close to Ubisoft’s Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag for your tastes, or are you confident the team will take the setting and style in a completely new direction? And exactly how do you think the game will blend modern with history? Share your own thoughts and theories in the comments.
Uncharted‘s next installment comes exclusively to the PlayStation 4.
Follow Andrew on Twitter @andrew_dyce.