When I finished Uncharted 3 I thought for sure that this was the end. At the time it felt like a great final chapter in the series, with Nathan and Elena going off into the sunset, while Sully chased after the hot girl. It made me wonder why they would make a fourth Drake adventure and where they could take the story for what (judging by the title) would be the real final chapter.
As a story then it exceeded my expectations. The adventure hunting Drake now finding himself living the family life with Elena and earning a wage salvaging crates and cargo from the bottom of the ocean. Obviously this doesn’t last, but it’s this moment of peaceful, happy, family life that is one of Uncharted 4’s best moments.
The scenes in Nathan and Elena’s house showcase Naughty Dog’s great storytelling ability, not just from dialogue but simple environmental design. Walking through the attic you’re able to examine items you’ve found across your adventures, before coming across a toy gun that soon gets some use as you fire and dive behind boxes. Maybe the standard day job and home life isn’t for Drake. And it’s this conflict that plays heavily in the beginning.
When Nathan’s brother (who was presumed dead) turns up in need of help, it’s this moment that begins the adventure and with it one of the best story beats in the game. Something that shows that our hero isn’t all that heroic, in fact, he can be quite a horrible person. Lying to Elena about going on a legitimate job, once the cats out of the bag, leads to the best acted scene in a video game. A genuine heartfelt moment of betrayal, it’s one of the many Uncharted 4 scenes that has stuck with me well after completing it.
While the gameplay has largely remained the scene, complete with bombastic set pieces and various ways of killing foreign people, it’s the gripping story that holds everything together. Even what seems like a bit of a retcon with the brother, Sam Drake doesn’t feel out of place or leave you confused as to why he has never been mentioned before.
But as the name of this little post suggests, it’s the ending that feels just perfect. An adventure complete with, surprisingly, everyone surviving intact, we get to see a view into the future of the Drake family. Waking up as a young girl, it doesn’t take a massive leap of logic to figure out this is the daughter of Nathan and Elena – Cassie Drake. Walking through the beachside house, trying to find your parents and coming across various clues as to the mysterious past of Nate and Elena, something that so far is unknown to Cassie.
It’s upon the discovery of a wardrobes contents (featuring trinkets and photos from past adventures) that Nathan and Elena make their presence felt and decide that now is the perfect time to tell their life story as they walk off into the sunset. As a family. Perfect.
The best thing though about this ending is something I never realised till a comment I read on a forum. That the ending could be construed as being essentially a circle. From the ending of Uncharted 4 you could theoretically go back to the first game and play it as if this is the story being told to young Cassie Drake. Then with every death it could almost be a Prince of Persia: Sands of Time like moment where Nathan says, “wait, that’s not what happened” as the gameplay rolls back to the previous checkpoint.
I’m probably thinking deeper into this than Naughty Dog did, but still, different interpretations like that are what makes good endings great. And it begs the question, what next for Uncharted? Nathan’s quest may be over, but for Cassie, maybe it’s just the beginning.