The Uncharted Compendium: Chapter 5 — A Thief's End

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 fifth chapter takes us to the last of Drake's tales — A Thief's End.

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With Uncharted 4: A Thief's End, we are reaching the end of our time with Nathan Drake. Suitably, Uncharted: The Nathan Drake Collection would be a triplet of remasters for Drake's Fortune, Among Thieves, and Drake's Deception for PS4 in 2015 by Bluepoint, just before Naughty Dog would fully send off our favourite treasure hunter in 2016. Life after Drake's Deception was tough for the PlayStation Studios, though. For the development of 2013's The Last of Us, the team had been split into two with Druckman and Bruce Straley eventually moving to the Uncharted 4 project after work wrapped on the 2013 critical hit. Moving to that new team, though, appears to have caused tensions. Amy Hennig, long time Uncharted lead writer, had left the project under mysterious conditions alongside director Justin Richmond. When Druckmann and Straley entered, the pair made the decision to scrap eight months of work in order to start things properly, but at the cost of reducing the development time of the game significantly and having to make significant changes to Hennig's story. So begun the messy start to PS4's major exclusive title.

Lambent_Lucky: It's a tough one between Uncharted 2 and Uncharted 4, but my love for pirates is why I chose Uncharted 4 [as the best].
What was the ultimate aim of this chop and change, though? Well, I suspect that it was to deconstruct the pulpy story-telling of the original trilogy and replace it with something more adult. Not that pulpy is bad, it's just that, as Druckmann and Straley said in an interview with VentureBeat, they wanted to give the final game in the series more emotional weight than perhaps Hennig and Richmond were planning for.

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"It was about how to tell a more personal story," Straley said. "How do you still keep the tropes and the lightheartedness and the sense of adventure and the faster pace, but still take time to invest in character relationships[.] One of the most interesting things when we were first laying out the outline of the story that I got excited by was the conflict in the player’s heart. You know Nate’s lying to Elena. We have scenes where he deliberately lies to her. But at the same time, I want to go on an adventure."

roxy93e: I voted UC4, but UC2 is equally great. In fact, all of them are fantastic games. UC4 has the best graphics and smoother gameplay. I played the whole series years ago, but I never bothered getting the platinum trophies. Until a few months back, that is. My goal is to at least platinum, if not 100%, the whole series.
That adventure saw Drake being lured away from a safe homelife with Elena several years after the events of Drake's Deception. He had a job as a wreckage diver, until his long-dead brother, Sam Drake, turned out to not be so dead. The pair must return to the trail that had got them in so much trouble in the first place — the pirate colony of Libertalia. Captain Henry Avery and a group of well-known buccaneers allegedly holed themselves up on an island with a bucketload of treasure, and the brothers must find it. The trek will take them through Scotland, Madagascar, and to islands via boat and through huge savannahs via jeep. The pair are being hunted by their old partner Rafe and a vicious head of a PMC, Nadine Ross. So begins an adventure that will test Nate's closest relationships.

Most Piratey Uncharted (sponsored by Captain Johnson's A General History of the Pyrates) — A Thief's End
This is serious pirating, right here. We are talking Captain Avery, matey. We are talking serious grade mutiny from a Spanish-commissioned raiding party in 1694, renaming the ship the Fancy with an all-new crew, and then beginning a spree of robberies along the African coast and Indian Ocean. Avery even managed to cobble together a fleet including Tew's sloop Amity; Faro's ship the Portsmouth Adventure; Want's crew and ship the Dolphin; Mayes's smaller crew and ship the Pearl; as well as Wake on the Susanna with the biggest crew of them all. They robbed The Grand Mughal in 1695, taking what might be one of the wealthiest hauls ever recorded — in the process, by the way, incurring the wrath of the East India Company. The crews ended up scattered in the wind when pursued, with many being hanged in London. Yet, somehow Avery was never captured and his disappearance remains a mystery today. Libertalia is beckoning!
The result of this much more mature brand of storytelling on a new piece of hardware was undoubtedly a positive jump upwards for Uncharted and Naughty Dog. The finale wound up with a 92 on Opencritic with 96% of reviewers recommending it to players. In our poll, the game came second in the series, behind Uncharted 2, with 36.09% of the vote. Indeed, for our money at TT it is the best the series has been, pushing forward a more comprehensive narrative with intelligent writing and genuine emotional stake while amping up the set-pieces and environments to a staggering level of excitement and beauty.

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Uncharted 4 might have been built around the theme of getting older, but that experience that Naughty Dog had been building helped breathe a little freshness into the gameplay and bring it in line with expectations for the PS4 generation. In a PlayStation Blog interview, Druckmann said that Naughty Dog was at "a point where technology isn’t driving our decisions, it’s our creativity and what we can come up with for what Nate has to go through." In response, Straley exemplified Druckmann's words by saying that "in the car chase, you’re ploughing through fences, smashing other cars, pineapples are flying everywhere, and every time the jeep slams into a building and it reacts, the more invested in the moment the player feels and believes the building is there."

DJbruce92: For me, I have a hard time deciding between 2 and 4, but I think I'm gonna go with 4.
In part, the level of interaction and richness afforded by the PS4's capability of dealing with the small objects of scenes was instilled by a much better workload pipeline the company had developed over the years. The open environments were fuelled by Bruce Straley's philosophy that asked: "how much of [Uncharted 4] can we get playable?" This pushed the technical developers, the artists, and narrative designers to work incredibly closely in order to make new animations —like crawling and crouching — introduce big swings with grapples, and driving and boat driving mechanics to feed into the sense of a more sprawling adventure naturally expanding from linearity. It would result in some of the best levels in any video game, like the discovery of Avery's island outpost with your brother as you search them by boat, clambering up different ruins and puzzling through open expanses.

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Art and level design really blossomed, with the variety of locations and construction of set-pieces always feeling immersive and interactive. Brighter palettes and busier spaces helped bring life to Madagascan markets and earthy greens gavee lost pirate villages a real ambience. With slicker gunplay and higher frame rates, the game also featured the best version of Uncharted's competitive and co-op multiplayer modes, gifting the fourth entry a long tail as players would keep populating servers for years to come. A Thief's End is spectacular and was absolute proof that the franchise was a mainstay and wouldn't become a relic of the past for another adventurer to pick up years down the line.

What an entry, and what a game! Chapter 1 — Drake's Fortune is available if you haven't been keeping up and want to see what this Compendium is all about. Let us know what you think of Uncharted 4 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 games like LEGO Horizon Adventures, Assassin’s Creed Shadows, Kingdom Come Deliverance II, Concord, and Death Stranding 2 using experience from years of PlayStation gaming. He also covers PS Plus news, as well as his favorite games — The Witcher 3, God of War, and The Last of Us — before an evening swim.
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