The Uncharted series has seen me through some weird times. I first played the original in University when I had mumps and it helped me stay sane while my face ballooned like a toad in constant mid-croak. That was almost 10 years ago and now that I feel old and have the desire to look back on those days, I’m going to revisit the Uncharted series one more time to see why I loved them and whether time has worn away any of the shine.
It all kicked off with Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune. I have fond memories of this game, see above paragraph, but before starting remembered that there was a lot of shooting and cover-based combat. As much as I love Uncharted, it has never been for the shooty bangs and my memory of the sheer volume in Drake’s Fortune made me a little hesitant to play on anything higher than easy. And oh-boy, was that instinct ever correct because this game has an unbelievable number of gunfights. Not only that, but even on easy, I found I died a lot. So before stepping any further, if you are thinking of replaying Drake’s Fortune, put it on the lowest difficulty unless you really, really like the gunplay.
Rewinding ever so slightly, let’s refocus on what even is Uncharted. It has become something of a household name but after that cold opening, I feel you deserve a little bit of background. Developed by Naughty Dog, best known for Crash Bandicoot, Jak and Daxter and later on The Last of Us (which I’ve still not played), the Uncharted games are swashbuckling adventures in the vein of Indiana Jones or Tomb Raider. There’s running, there’s jumping and, especially in the first instalment, there is a high body count. You take control of Nathan Drake, a treasure hunter on the hunt for his latest score and throughout the series you see his character grow from a likeable rogue to an even more likeable rogue. I’m being somewhat facetious as Nate’s character does evolve with the series but we’ll explore that more once we get there. This is a series of amazing set pieces, high octane action, surprisingly endearing characters, light puzzles and beautiful environments. They are the closest video game equivalent to an action blockbuster and a fantastic thrill ride.
Alright, so now I’ve hyped the series I’m going to say, you shouldn’t start with Drake’s Fortune. It’s hard, the story isn’t as compelling as later games, there is far too much shooting, the controls can feel a little clunky and overall it isn’t a true representation of what the series became. It’s the sort of game that you go back to after playing on of the later instalments (preferable Uncharted 2: Among Thieves), in the same way, that you absolutely shouldn’t start The Witcher games with the first one but skip to Assassin of Kings or The Wild Hunt and go back if you are intrigued. It isn’t a bad game but I can see how it would put people off the series which would be a shame.
Anyway, getting back to the game itself. After the initial setup, you find yourself on an uncharted (hah) and uninhabited island in the search for the mythical El Dorado. I won’t spoil the story for anyone who hasn’t experienced it but there are twists and turns and many amazing set pieces. Along the way, you’ll meet the main characters of the series and watch them bounce off each other in realistic, believable ways. Drake’s Fortune flows nicely for chapter to chapter and the action never breaks for long enough for you to get bored. You’re always climbing something, running somewhere or shooting someone. The only times I got bored was when the gunfights went on too long as another wave of baddies appeared or I entered another corridor to shoot my way through.
All of this is accompanied by a fantastic sweeping soundtrack. They all fit the bombast and themes within Drake’s Fortune, and as we explore the later games you can see how composer Greg Edmonson and later Henry Jackman evolved the score to fit each game’s setting and tone. It all started with Drake’s Fortune and it remains one of my favourites from the series with the main theme becoming an iconic video game track.
At the end of the treasure hunting day, Drake’s Fortune is probably the weakest entry in the series (I’m willfully ignoring spinoff games like Fortune Hunter on iOS and Android). However, it is the game that started it all. If it wasn’t for Drake’s Fortune then Among Thieves would never have existed and the video game industry may look very different today. While everything it does is done better in later games, the character work is great and many of the set pieces are still adrenaline-fueled experiences. So while you shouldn’t necessarily start here, don’t skip it entirely. You should play Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune if only to see a Nazi submarine in a jungle.
Thank you for reading. If you would like action packed video games, why not check out my thoughts on the Halo novels with Ghosts of Onyx. If you want to read about an excellent board game, you should read my review of Tulip Bubble.
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