So we once again stare down the barrel of a no-doubt epic adventure; Drake and Sully beckon us to join them one last time, but as much as we miss them there are a few things we need to ask of them for this final go around. Here are the five things that we have to have if Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End is indeed that.
A Solid and Expansive Premise
This may sound a little obvious but the series has only really done this half of the time. Uncharted 2: Among Thieves and Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception understood that scenery changes are important, and the feeling of movement from one set-piece to the next gave the games a much-needed momentum. The original game and its younger Vita brother Uncharted: Golden Abyss didn’t really give us much to look at other than the undeniably gorgeous jungle, and they suffered a little for this toward the back end of their adventures. In the new game we need snow, jungle, desert, sea sky, and all sorts of interiors to break up the game and give it a sense of variety and fluid movement.
On top of this we need the quest itself to be compelling. The third game in the series no doubt had the most interesting premise; the Laurence of Arabia vibe coupled with the myriad locations the game leapfrogged between gave the adventure a non-stop globe-trotting feel, and also had an undeniable cool factor. Granted, much of this comes down to personal preference, but the lost city in the sand was classic Indiana Jones territory, and a lot more interesting than the first game, which I struggle to remember. It had something to do with a golden statue in the jungle.
It’s All in the Mix
With the premise and the locales, come the things that we do within them; this is something that the series gets better at with each game. One of the things that becomes clear when playing Uncharted is that first and foremost it is a shooter. Each game has done more and more to disguise this and some of them do it very well – I’m looking at you Golden Abyss. For A Thief’s End we need to have more climbing, more exploring, and more looking for treasure – something that is surprisingly absent for most of the games given what they’re supposed to be about.
One of the more interesting aspects to the new game that has been revealed is its open-plan approach to the action. The ‘wide-linear’ handle refers to the different approaches that players are able to take; at one point in the more recent demo Drake strayed off the beaten path to investigate a cave, and found a hidden treasure. This kind of thing is the palette-cleanser we’re going to need after clearing out bases of mercenaries. Whilst we’re on that subject the new base-capturing mechanic they have showcased is good news; it looks as though Naughty Dog has cast a sideways glance at MGSV and vamped up its stealth mechanics – if you’re borrowing then borrow from the best.
Flex The Grey Matter
Uncharted has upped its commitment to puzzles with each entry, culminating in some decent efforts in Drake’s Deception – though few and far between. Early attempts in the series felt more like stalls for time than actual engaging puzzles; often the solutions would be apparent before all of the ingredients were introduced into the mix. One moment in the first game springs to mind where two bells had to be rung simultaneously; the idea of just shooting the second bell was apparent before actually clapping eyes on it.
For A Thief’s End it would be incredible to see homage paid to the series’ key influence and have some challenging environmental puzzles à la Miss Croft. There was one moment in Among Thieves where Naughty Dog teased this approach; Drake had to move the arms of gigantic statue into the proper position, and it was nice to see – if a little easy. It’s better to have real variety as opposed to novel distraction, and Uncharted could easily achieve this if it married its platforming with its puzzling a little more.
Don’t Do the Right Thing; Do the Thing the Right Way
It is no coincidence that Drake’s Deception had the best plot and story of any of the games in the series; it was the sole involvement of Amy Hennig. With A Thief’s End the band didn’t quite come back together. Neil Druckmann is directing the game with long-running series director Bruce Straley, and this is reassuring. Druckmann is also taking on writing responsibilities along with Josh Scherr and series newcomer Tom Bissell. Bissell has written several video games including the excellent The Vanishing of Ethan Carter, and Tales from the Borderlands to name but two. We need him to help Druckmann and Scherr give this game the emotional punch that it needs, along with the humour and warmth that we know and love, in the absence of Hennig.
This is a particularly weighty assignment for the writers because now more than ever the game’s destination matters (very almost) as much as its journey. This is set to be the last game in the series and so hopefully Druckmann won’t leave us hanging in the same breathless and beautiful way that he did with The Last of Us. Not that we resent him for that or anything…
This is by far the most intimate need on our list. In an industry that relies so heavily on annual releases, sequels, and brand names to part people from their pennies, Naughty Dog made a brave move when it announced that A Thief’s End would be the final entry in the series. This doesn’t happen often.
What we don’t is for the series to live long enough to be the villain, if we’re going to end it then let’s make sure it’s ended. We shouldn’t have the door kept open for another developer to come in and set up shop; we should have some plot contrivance hint at Drake’s possible re-emergence when somebody needs a quick payday. We’ve been these characters for nine years now, and each one of them deserves a good send-off. They should go out on a high, get their big pay day, cash in their chips and ride off into the sunset with the rest of the cast we know and love. Or maybe they should all go out in a fiery explosion; it’s not tragic to die doing what you love. Sully…Drake…we love you…don’t come back.