Uncharted’s legacy changed the narrative of gaming development and its cyclical turnabout of action-adventures that were established before the series’ foundation was first laid. A precipice of plundering and looting experiences were a dime-a-dozen, but none ever achieved the acclaim like Naughty Dog’s standard bearer. A touch of Tomb Raider, a dash of Indiana Jones and a sprinkle of Nathan Fillion’s Firefly and the Santa Monica development studio found their recipe for success. It’s difficult to say whether Uncharted was anywhere near perfection upon its initial release in Drake’s Fortune, but made a significant impact with the 2009 release of Uncharted 2: Among Thieves. It set PlayStation apart from the rest after a tumultuous beginning to Sony’s seventh generation console – the PlayStation 3. Without the series and this studio to back it, PlayStation were in a world of hurt having the Nintendo Wii and Microsoft’s XBOX360 absolutely decimate it in sales and popularity.
Nathan Drake’s escapades were guarded by comparable sequences to beloved Hollywood blockbuster’s, and aided by his colourful cohorts, with an incredible cast lead by the incomparable Nolan North, reaching the mecca of cinematic genius which pushed gaming away from a trope to multi-billion dollar entertainment juggernaut. Amy Hennig’s leadership throughout the original trilogy attests to the developer’s reputation in delivering memorable gaming experiences, attaching accolades like Game of the Year to each entry. With success comes controversy, as Hennig left Naughty Dog by March 2014, after eight months of drafting Drake’s final chapter. The Last of Us was white hot, and both Druckmann and Straley were riding high on their successes of the survival-horror, but with Uncharted’s creator leaving the company mid-development, this began an exodus for others that were working on the game at the time.
From developers, to artists, even actors such as Alan Tudyk – who at the time was working closely with North on his online web-series Con Man – and Todd Stashwick, initially tapped to play Rafe Adler and Samuel Drake, respectively. Naughty Dog’s Public Relations were taking a hit, but President Chistophe Balestra was quick to merge the segregated teams of both Uncharted and The Last of Us together, with hopes of the title meeting its 2015 deadline. Of course we know how that ended, but Naughty Dog’s contingency paid off with a sequel later revealed in Uncharted: Lost Legacy. Nate’s adventures through the unknown have come to a close and with the Tom Holland’s feature length film not too far off, we want to deliver our (not so) definitive ranking to each of the cocky crusader’s exploits. This is Uncharted: DashGamer’s Definitive Ranking.
At the height of its popularity, Uncharted was due for an origins tale but had hit hurdles that seemingly affected Drake’s Deception and its creative side. Coinciding with the anticipated threequel, Bend Studio were given the green light in developing an Uncharted title for the launch of Sony’s follow-up to its inaugural entry within the handheld market, the PSVITA. Using existing assets from Among Thieves and Drake’s Fortune, while creating some minute gameplay and aesthetic changes, a prequel to the franchise was set in-motion with few familiar facets and integral features that were present to demonstrate the hardware’s capabilities. More-or-less, Golden Abyss was a glorified tech demo for the VITA with the Uncharted label attached.
While the team that had be renowned for the Syphon Filter series were simply handed the task of bringing an established property to not only a new platform but a new market, it could never quite capture the magic of its home console predecessors and its encompassing experience. Praised for its ingenuity, and inclusion of several additions to the hardware, Uncharted: Golden Abyss suffered from poorly adopted gameplay and a mixed reception to its lukewarm plot. It set the foundation for what was Days Gone, while outlasting a poorly executed generation of handheld gaming. Uncharted: Golden Abyss remains an exclusive to the PSVITA, without a sign that it may be remastered for home console, leaving it a forgotten chapter in the overall series.
Arguably the most polarising chapter of Drake’s story, Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception followed the incredible reception Among Thieves had received, with fans salivating over the thought of another entry that would redefine the franchise with an imperative tale that would carve out more of Nate’s backstory, his relationship with Victor Sullivan and his marriage to Elena Fisher. While the plot managed to touch base on all these things, its central focus on Sir Francis Drake’s heirloom took center-stage. A quest to discover the forgotten secret of Sir Drake’s findings are discernibly unravelled upon the request that Nate hands ownership of the ring to Katherine Marlow, and her assistant Talbot. With the help of English con-man and fellow treasure hunter Charlie Cutter, both Drake and Sully escape their untimely death, pulling a fast one on the goons by swapping out the original ring with a fake.
Traversing various continents, from the dusty backstreets of Cartagena, Colombia to the Burning Chateau’s of a Syrian Citadel, Drake’s Deception entailed a lofty premise that looked to go out with a bang but unfortunately concluded with a whimper. While closure to Nate’s fascination behind a long lost ancestor may have been put to bed in some form or fashion, there were many plot holes that were left wide-open. The allusion of Nate’s birth name – which had been originally clued in as “John” after both John McClane of Die Hard and Johnny Knoxville of Jackass fame – with a nod to Nate’s birth name being John T. Conover, in issue #1 of the Uncharted DC Comic. Whether this was the intention will now and forever remain a mystery, and only for Hennig to know. But this was the closest we were going to get to Nate’s origin story from the creator that spearheaded the franchise.
2007 seems like an eternity ago, but it was a pivotal turning point for PlayStation and its recourse for finding new properties that would potentially lead them towards a promised land. Buried beneath the swathe of choice PlayStation had from first and third parties, came Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune from the renowned Jak & Daxter developers. This was an enormous deviation from what Naughty Dog were delivering prior to their now critically acclaimed cinematic universe. Drake’s Fortune was the development team’s first foray into – aptly labelled -Uncharted territory. Far from refined, a little rough around the edges and missing some much needed espionage’/tactical manipulation, Drake’s Fortune was Naughty Dog’s proving ground, boasting a blueprint entailing a wide scope of possibility if deemed a commercial success.
The story of a brash, confident and cocky treasure hunter, looking to exhume the coffin of his ancestor Sir Francis Drake, is believed to hold the secret of the sea captain’s demise. As suspected, Nate uncovers the lost diary of Drake which holds the clue to finding the secret location of El Dorado – hence Drake’s Fortune, a double entendre to its key narrative. Backed by his mentor Victor Sullivan, and with investigative reporter Elena Fisher hot on the traveller’s tail, the band of thieves are hunted down by forgettable villain Gabriel Roman and his lieutenant Atoq Navarro, kidnapping Sully after attempting to kill the veteran con-man. Now the race is on between Drake and Roman to find the hidden treasures off the coast of Panama. The initial entry was considered a success selling over 2.6m copies worldwide from launch to June 2009, with an additional 2m shipped after the launch of Among Thieves.
Streamlining a sequel from Uncharted 3 would have been absolutely devastating, regardless of Hennig’s intention. After some disappointment in Nate’s third chapter, the creative direction of the series needed to take a sharp detour from the familiar to an amicable departure. A Thief’s End see’s an older, domesticated Nathan Drake, finally settled with Elena and working a full-time job. An ordinary dude, doing ordinary day-to-day things. A retired treasure hunter, “Dude Raider” swaps out his compass and glock, for a calculator and stamp, dropping all characteristics that made Nathan Drake a one-man army. A thrill-seeker by nature, Nate misses the rush and excitement of exploring the unknown. The former fortune hunter is visited by his brother Sam Drake, presumed dead after being shot by Panamanian guards after he, his brother and their associate Rade Adler, murder the prison’s warden and make their escape.
Sam re-appears in Nate’s life with a proposition, but it would mean lying to Elena about the expedition and the existence of his brother. Reluctant, Nate accepts and sets off with Sam and Sully to continue their quest in finding St. Dismas’ Cathedral which uncovers Libertalia, the mythical lost pirate paradise founded by sea captains centuries ago. Much like the many escapades behind him, Drake’s adventure turns into a race towards New Devon, where a treasure is buried below the corroding sea craft, under the dank trenches of a soggy underground cave. Rafe and his army of henchmen are just as ambitious as the Drake’s in getting their hands on Henry Avery’s keep, but at what cost? Risking life from limb, the semi-retired crusader goes all in for his last chance at glory, but it may turn to disaster if the wife eventually finds out.
A tour de’ force. The magnum opus of Naughty Dog’s legacy. A ground breaking achievement that changed the gaming industry, and its perception of third-person action-adventures. Responsible for turning the tide and inspiring a slew of games of the same ilk, and responsible for the re-emergence of the Tomb Raider franchise in 2011, Uncharted 2: Among Thieves is unequivocally, the greatest entry within the entire series. It’s weird looking back at this game, separating its lore from mainline narrative, only for it to stand out as the series’ best. But if weren’t for improvements made that personified the descript ‘cinematic gaming experience’, Uncharted 2: Among Thieves would have assumingly been the last of the franchise. The title became a staple, a must play for anyone with the hardware capable, so much so, that PlayStation began bundling the title with the PS3 to both, boost sales, move units and welcome newcomers to what was a redefining era for the seventh generation of home console gaming.
A 2009 blockbuster that had instant classic and Game of the Year awarded to it almost immediately, it received unanimous acclaim from critics and fans, both experienced and casual. Hollywood was quick to put their ear to the floor, hearing the tremors of excitement from gamers, with Sony beginning production of Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune the movie in 2010, casting Mark Wahlberg as Nathan Drake – Well, we know how that went. Regardless, the hype behind Uncharted 2 made the entry untouchable. Among Thieves put the franchise on the map as one of gaming’s greatest, and had the entertainment industry a buzz. It was clear that Naughty Dog had risen above all expectations with this title alone, prior to further developments of its following global darling, The Last of Us.
A gullible thief, the fortune hunter couldn’t reject an alluring offer of riches beyond his imagination. Nate aids a former accomplice in Harry Flynn, after the Englishman entices his old friend in joining him and his partner Chloe Frazer, in raiding a museum in Istanbul, for Serbian war criminal Zoran Lazarevic. Finding the lamp and a phurba, the team are one step closer to unearthing a clue that eventually takes them to the Himalaya’s, where the secret of the Cintamani Stone is kept within the forgotten city of Shambala – aka Shangri-La. Harry leaves Nate stranded within the museum, taking off with the Map and leaving Nate to be apprehended by its guards. Months later, Nate is bailed from prison by Chloe with the help of Victor. She reveals her alignment with Flynn is a farce and is in with Sully and Nate to capture the stone before they do.
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