If you had to explain the Uncharted series to non-gamers, the best way to describe it is that it’s the videogame equivalent to Indiana Jones, National Treasure and Fool’s Gold combined. You’ve got a dashing hero that can’t be defeated, exotic locations to travel to and legendary treasures to uncover. Yet in terms of telling a story, much like those films, it’s all very PG-13. Sure, Uncharted is a series that suffers from the fancy-sounding term “ludonarrative dissonance” but it’s always telling a story that’s just a little bit weak in terms of delivering drama. It’s a core feature of the series to have a “light” story, so would it make sense to have the next game become “the darker one”? Let’s discuss.
Uncharted 2,Uncharted 3, The Last Of Us spoilers ahead
Yes – Naughty Dog knows how to tell dark dramas and should do so for Uncharted 4.
Ahh, Uncharted. The flagship franchise for Sony’s PlayStation 3 and arguably the best Tomb Raider clone you’ve ever played, the Uncharted series was always one that had stellar adventures wrapped up in gorgeous visuals and engaging characters. With the hard working team at Naughty Dog always aiming to create a top notch product, it’s no surprise that the hype is high for the next Uncharted on the PS4. As news trickled about Uncharted 4, we’ve learned that the aim for this entry is to be both a “standalone” chapter and also have a darker tone than any of the previous games. So what could this entail?
Uncharted is a series that likes to tread lightly on the subject of “important character” deaths. Both Victor “Sully” Sullivan and Elena Fisher, the main protagonist’s partners, have brushed with death on multiple occasions but I’ll be honest, Uncharted 2’s “death scene” had me fooled pretty good. When I saw Drake sobbing over Elena’s lifeless body at the end of Uncharted 2, I thought “Wow, are they really going to kill off Elena?” before contemplating how that actually would have been a logical move after hearing Lazaervic’s speech about how Drake murders hundreds of enemies. I thought that maybe it’s time for Drake to suffer from the sting of death, instead of dealing it out. It would have been a powerful and extremely controversial conclusion that would certainly spring up lively debates all over.
However, most importantly, killing off Elena would allow Drake to grow as a character. Drake would realise that he’s responsible for putting his friends in danger in his quest for treasure countless times. In the end, Naughty Dog played it safe and let Elena live which didn’t make a huge difference since she only appears in Uncharted 3 to help Drake out when he needs a hand. As much as I love Elena, I probably would have preferred to see the reactions Drake, Sully and others would have to her death. Letting her live and then barely using her in the sequel is a bit of a cop out.
I wondered if Naughty Dog was ever going to tell a highly dramatic story for Uncharted but was completely blown away when The Last Of Us was released. After I questioned Naughty Dog’s ability to tell dramatic stories that deal with death, the first 10 minutes of this game shut me up completely. The Last of Us’ storytelling reached new heights and showed how a developer can mature without being deemed “edgy” or “angsty”.
With this game, Naughty Dog flexed its storytelling muscles and I believe that they can certainly repeat that emotional impact with Uncharted 4. While I doubt the next Uncharted will be as bleak as The Last Of Us, it does give me hope that they won’t be afraid to kill off characters or put them through severely emotional tests.
No – Uncharted 4 having a darker tone would feel too offbeat for the series.
Like I mentioned before, Uncharted is a series that prides itself in being the “summer blockbuster” of videogames. The story is engaging with its loveable characters and globe-trotting plots but it’s never been to make a commentary or an engaging discussion. A game’s story doesn’t always have to spur-on discussions or be a commentary on the world we live in. Uncharted’s always been a roller coaster ride of adventure that you don’t really think about and that’s okay.
To add in a more darker tone for the story would be a move that’s far too contrasting to what the Uncharted series is all about. Fans of the series may not want to see “darker” elements of storytelling which The Last Of Us deals with appear in the new Uncharted. Just because Naughty Dog have succeeded at telling a better and more compelling story with The Last Of Us thanks to utilising these elements, it doesn’t mean that they should abandon the more cheery and adventurous styling of storytelling that Uncharted has been doing since the very beginning.
Introducing a darker element would certainly corrupt the consistent bright and airy tone that’s featured throughout the series. It’s understandable that Naughty Dog are really making Uncharted 4 act like a spin-off to the series and be a completely different chapter in the game series but is introducing this darker tone something that could corrupt the value of the series? Could Uncharted 4 act as the odd-one-out for all the wrong reasons?
So what do you think? Should Uncharted 4 have a darker tone for the chance to create more dramatic storytelling? Or should it stick to the light and colourful storytelling we’re used to? Let me know what you think in the comments below.