Uncharted and The Last of Us studio Naughty Dog has been clear on one thing - Uncharted 4 was the end of Nathan Drake's story. The famed treasure hunter does not even get a cameo in the upcoming Uncharted spin-off Lost Legacy to avoid undoing anything from the last game's ending.
Instead, Lost Legacy gives the limelight over to two of Uncharted's fan-favourite side-characters - Nadine Ross and Chloe Frazer - as they team up to take on their own adventure.
But Lost Legacy was always planned as something a little extra - first as a downloadable chapter, now expanded into a full game. But how big a game? And what's next? Is this only the first such side-adventure planned? We chatted to Lost Legacy's creative director and writer Shaun Escayg at E3 last week for more on the game, and to find out whether Naughty Dog will continue the blockbuster series further without its lead star.
Lost Legacy looks up to the quality fans now expect from Naughty Dog - but you guys are also working on The Last of Us 2. How many people are working on Lost Legacy now? How much of the studio?
Escayg: Right now, the studio's focus is Lost Legacy. We have a truly ambitious schedule. The Last of Us [project] is working but at a lot slower pace right now. The entire team is on Lost Legacy - that's a couple hundred of us strong.
Do you guys consider this a fully-fledged Uncharted game? It's a brand which brings with it a huge amount of expectation and weight - and obviously this does not have a number in the title.
Escayg: It doesn't have a number because we're over with the Nathan Drake story. It started as a smaller project with a much slimmer storyline but the thing Naughty Dog does great is our stories about the human condition - tests of the human condition. We needed space to develop Chloe Frazer - we hadn't seen her in depth, seen where she came from, what made her tick. All the things which make Chloe the self-preservationist we know and love. And then as soon as we started filling in those holes it started expanding into a full game.
Does this mean Uncharted can carry on further without Nathan Drake? Do you consider this the end of its characters' stories?
Escayg: I wouldn't say it's the end. This thieving world is huge. There's so many characters. Even before we settled on this particular story we were exploring Sullivan, we were exploring Cutter, and pairing each other up, thinking what would be right, what would have conflict, growth, something new, something fresh. And Chloe was the one that kept jumping out.
But to say the Uncharted world is done... I doubt that highly.
You mentioned some fan favourite characters there - Sully, especially. Do you have story ideas for them bubbling away?
Escayg: Yeah... We did explore, I would say, almost every character in that world and we do have spines and storylines to explore with them. But this was the one we chose to settle on.
Escayg: [Laughs] For now.
It feels like you've made a conscious decision for Lost Legacy to come out at a certain price - it's not the same cost as Uncharted 4, it's more than most DLC - somewhere in the middle. What would you say to fans who still aren't sure it's worth the money?
Escayg: It's a full game. It's kind of the sum of all Uncharteds. It has fantastic set pieces, we've brought back some of the scale, the grandeur you saw in the trailer, giant archeological sites, the sense of wonder and adventure where you're not sure what's around the next corner. For me, Uncharted has the sense of 'oh shit, we're exploring someplace no one's ever been'. We've brought that back there. Then we've got Chloe - she's funny, witty, but she's also a double-dealing hustler - you're never sure where she stands. And pairing her up with the pragmatic Nadine Ross, who's trying to regain her losses after Shoreline's decline... There's a whole narrative arc there, and we're building on top of all this tech [from the series so far]. So yeah, it's 100 per cent a Naughty Dog game.
Naughty Dog has so far resisted the urge to make a fully open world game, despite industry trends. Would you ever venture into that territory, or is it a case of you guys sticking to what you're good at?
Escayg: The future is uncertain there - we're always testing it. There's a segment in Lost Legacy similar to [Uncharted 4's] Madagascar where you can choose to explore and see different areas at different times, experience it differently. When we find a way to do things in an open world I think we'll definitely venture there at some point.
I have to ask you about the Uncharted movie project which is going on in the background. Naughty Dog has said it's nothing to do with that, which has surprised some fans who see you guys as creators and masters of the brand.
Escayg: Yeah - I really don't know the specifics, I've been focused on Lost Legacy. You probably know more than me, to be honest. [laughs] We have nothing to do with the movie or the rights or how it's being handled. No point of reference really, no control there.
To wrap things up - and to return to the future of the franchise - where does this leave Chloe and Nadine, two of Uncharted's biggest characters who so far do not have real closure? Without spoiling anything, do we get resolution for their arcs?
Escayg: It's about whether they survive and navigate each other. Can greatness come through conflict? Or maybe it's more of a statement - greatness can only come through conflict. Does that answer your question?
I think that's enough to go on! [laughs]