The Uncharted Compendium: Chapter 4 — Golden Abyss & Misc

By Kes Eylers-Stephenson,
TrueTrophies is proud to present The Uncharted Compendium — a history of the series from A to Z, complete with awards, rankings, and your memories. The fourth chapter takes on both Golden Abyss and all the miscellaneous Uncharted content we have had over the years.

uncharted golden abyss fight for fortune

Uncharted: Golden Abyss

We have finally arrived at the point where Uncharted began to diversify as a series. Developed by Bend Studio rather than Naughty Dog, Golden Abyss was released on Vita in February 2012. The aim was to bring Uncharted to a portable device without detracting from the experience, but rather "augment and add to, not replace," according to Bend's pitch notes for the game. Golden Abyss would release in a strange way across 2011 and 2012, given that the Vita would arrive in Japan well before other territories. However, that didn't stop the game from becoming the first in a slew of critically acclaimed AAA games for the system. It came sixth out of seven in our favourite Uncharted games poll with 3.97% and garnered an 80 on Metacritic. Despite a solid reception, then, you can see it has become the lost treasure of the whole series.

Xexyz: I really enjoyed Golden Abyss - some of the platforming parts were excellent and gave me some unusual vertigo, I think due to the more restricted viewpoint. But unfortunately, you can only choose one game in the poll!
Golden Abyss is a prequel to the other games, perhaps lending to its forgotten place in the canon. We open with Drake accompanying Jason Dante and Marissa Chase to a Panama dig site on the hunt for the lost city of Quivira, which is said to be made of gold. At the site, after finding a poisoned soldier, Marissa makes it clear how little she trusts Dante. As it turns out, she was right. Warlord Roberto Guerro is working with Dante. Drake and Marissa have to escape to the house of her grandfather, Vincent Perez. From there, the adventure is set up to take Drake through the jungles and rivers of Panama and find the golden city.

uncharted golden abyss

In Sony Bend's Story by Colin Moriarty, where it was revealed the team had to work very closely with Naughty Dog, Bend's nine-person team had concept after concept shot down by the bigger studio. So, lead Uncharted writer Amy Hennig helped Garvin with scripts and ensured that Bend got Nolan North to take on the role of Drake again, even though it was a Vita game. "Naughty Dog let us use their studio in Culver City," said lead writer John Garvin, for the needs of motion capture and face tracking that the kennel had perfected. "That library of Drake animation represents six, seven years' worth of work, thousands and thousands of animations, and there's no way a studio of our size could have done it at that level of quality by ourselves," Garvin said. Naughty Dog was protective of their characters and IP, but that is what made Golden Abyss so compelling in the end — it felt like another Uncharted.

Detox2033: No love for Golden Abyss?
naking: Golden Abyss for me. Was an amazing handheld game.
Making Golden Abyss as a launch game proved to be a really difficult task for the development team, too. As illustrated in The Making of Uncharted: Golden Abyss, Sony was discussing ever-changing prototypes of Vita hardware while Bend was supposed to be making a game. On top of that, it was "the most expensive game" ever made at Bend, Garvin had said. That pressure, combined with the fact that the studio was trying to ensure every Vita feature was used during the midst of a test kit that was having "catastrophic failure issues," perhaps makes Golden Abyss the biggest technical feat of the Vita and the most major technical achievement since Drake's Fortune on PS3 game. Especially considering that the team still managed to make a game got PS3 graphics onto a five-inch OLED screen, while taking the "touch melee, [Bend's] grenade mechanic, examining objects, the touch-based journal, use of the camera, and so on" into the finished product after three-and-a-half years of development.


The Overlooked One — Golden Abyss
We suppose that in many ways, Golden Abyss' strength is also its weakness: it was launched on Vita. Golden Abyss is a vital entry on the Vita because it buoyed the early years of a system that became doomed to fail when Sony abandoned it. Yet, it is just so good! The story is surprisingly solid, along with the supporting cast — particularly Chase. We loved that the game was on the go, had some cool set pieces and ideas, and really helped shine a light on what was a fantastic bit of hardware. You could still, I think, hand a new Vita player this one on a Vita and they would walk away happy as a parrot. More controversially, we believe that the game might even be a touch better than Drake's Fortune for that reason!
Golden Abyss sold really well — though not as well as Sony has hoped given that the hardware underperformed at launch. Bend's game, though, has entered the annals as a must-have Vita game. The story is compelling, the exploring is as fun as ever, and the game still looks great on its five inches of real estate. Some of the new mechanics that were thrown in (the touch screen melee combat) didn't appeal to all, but we think they hold up just fine as an experiment. It is a shame Golden Abyss never got the PS3 release that Bend and Sony had wanted to give it because the title deserves to be considered in the lineup of Uncharted games as a worthy entry. Ultimately, that gives it its own worth as the hidden conquistador treasure of the Uncharted Series.

Uncharted: Fight for Fortune & Miscellaneous

Welcome to the part where we mention all the other Uncharted stuff that no one ever talks about. Taking the lead here is obviously Uncharted: Fight for Fortune, which secured a singular vote in our poll (nice work!). This Vita card game was a Golden Abyss spin-off released in 2012, developed by Bend and mobile studio One Loop Games. Using the collectables gathered in Golden Abyss, you could unlock cards depicting all the Uncharted characters to use to play Fight for Fortune. Basically, this was an attack-versus-defence turn-based card game with basic modifiers looking like famous traps and treasures from the mainline games to help you deal damage or build a defence. It was quite compelling in online and single-player, though presented with such a basic style it did become pretty mundane to look at after a while. In addition, the game had two expansions — one based on Among Thieves and another based on Drake's Deception. All in all — a fun little distraction!

uncharted fight for fortune

There were three other playable Uncharted experiences. The first is Drake's Trail, which was a basic browser game that launched as a prelude to Drake's Fortune in 2007. You play as Elena's private detective, who is trying to hunt down Drake while he searches for the El Dorado treasure. While the site is now defunct, the concept was pretty ambitious for a mini-introduction to the series.

Uncharted: The Board Game was released in 2012 alongside Drake's Deception. It was a card collecting game where each of the 2-4 players try to collect as many victory points as possible in roughly 45 minutes. There are ruins to explore, items to use, and the characters from the main games pop up here and there. Finally, in 2016, we have Uncharted: Fortune Hunter. A sliding piece puzzle game in the vein of Hitman Go was all about avoiding traps and using your moves carefully to grab the treasure at the end.

uncharted board game

Then there is the 2011 book Uncharted: The Fourth Labyrinth that was written by Christopher Golden (legitimately his name). It covered a standalone adventure where Sully and Drake get into some mischief with the daughter of a dead archaeologist... wait, that sounds oddly familiar, doesn't it? With those older mythical and fantasy elements woven into the story, this is a good throwback to the more traditional Drake adventure. The comic series, Uncharted: Eye of Indra was a four-part prequel to Drake's Fortune released on the PlayStation Store and was included in the GOTY version of Among Thieves. Drawn up by Marco Castiello, the comic sees drake scrounging for the funds for his Drake's Coffin hunt. While I have no idea if this messes with the vital canon presented in Drake's Trail, you see Drake team up with Eddie Raja and his sister Rika after a scuffle over an amulet breaks out.

As part of other games, Drake was a character in the cult favourite PS3 and Vita brawler PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale. He was not exactly anyone's main, but it was fun to see him fighting bulky Kratos. In PlayStation All-Stars: Battle Island — a mini-game selection on mobile themed around PlayStation franchises — we got a Temple Run-style cameo from the Uncharted series. Over in PlayStation Home there were mini-games dedicated to Drake's adventures for a time.

Uncharted has also seen plenty of other wild stuff. Uncharted 3: Race to the Ring was, of course, a Geoff Keighley-hosted Uncharted themed game show where contestants had to compete in various obstacle courses in order to win — get this — a chance to play Uncharted 3. Wow, very generous. Honestly, this is my favourite thing in the world. In 2022, we see the release of the Uncharted movie featuring Tom Holland as Drake and Mark Wahlberg as Sully. It is a mish-mash of all the games in the series, but now on film. It marks the first major product out of Sony's new initiative to get all parts of its company working closer together and is a testament to just how much impact the series has had over the years.

Thank you for reading. Now, head on over to Chapter 1 — Drake's Fortune if you haven't been keeping up with the series! All kept up? Well, let us know what you think of these titles in the comments!
Kes Eylers-Stephenson
Written by Kes Eylers-Stephenson
Editor Kes is our resident expert in PlayStation and Sony news. He writes about PS5 exclusives like Horizon, The Last of Us, God of War, and Death Stranding 2 using experience from years of playing PlayStation games. He also covers PS Plus and trophy news, as well as his favorite games — The Witcher 3, Assassin’s Creed, and some indie gems — before an evening swim.
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