On May 10, 2016, a thief met his end. But not just any thief; this is Nathan Drake we’re talking about here, Naughty Dog’s swashbuckling scoundrel and one of the (if not the) greatest PlayStation mascots in gaming history.
It was a suitably bittersweet finale for Nolan North’s treasure hunter, and many felt that, after five games in just under a decade (Fight For Fortune notwithstanding), Naughty Dog stuck the landing, and served up the closest thing to a pitch-perfect finale while also leaving the door open ever so slightly for the next chapter in the Drake Saga.
And that’s just it. Before the credits rolled on Uncharted 4, players were introduced to young Cassie Drake, a wide-eyed teen whose curiosity tends to lead her into places she shouldn’t be, uncovering secrets she shouldn’t really know. At least we can say the apple doesn’t fall too far from the tree, eh?
But supposing Naughty Dog circles back to the Uncharted franchise once The Last of Us Part II has come and gone, could Cassie be the one to pick up the torch and carry on the family business?
New Era, New Console?
Amy Hennig certainly thinks so (more on that later), while The Lost Legacy, a standalone adventure involving Chloe and Nadine’s Indian trek, is living proof that Uncharted can still be every bit as cinematic —every bit as engrossing—without Nathan Drake calling the shots.
As long as that core gameplay experience remains intact, Naughty Dog can take the fundamental building blocks of Uncharted—the blockbuster set pieces, the witty dialogue, the globetrotting treasure hunts—and carry them forward into a new era and maybe, just maybe, a new console generation.
Because let’s face it: few people are convinced that we’ve seen the last of Nathan Drake and fewer still believe Naughty Dog’s flagship is done and dusted—not when the most recent mainline title teases the next generation of Drake.
This is, after all, one of Sony’s bankable AAA exclusives (42M+ lifetime sales as of this writing), so it’s really a question of when, rather than if, Uncharted will return.
With Nathan Drake ostensibly out of the equation, common logic points to a soft reboot set some 10 or 20 years in the future, at a time when Cassie Drake is just coming into her own. A near-future setting (with sprinklings of sci-fi, perhaps?) opens up a wealth of possibilities, too, while also honoring Uncharted 4‘s epilogue.
That’s a possible outcome Amy Hennig addressed during Gamelab 2018, where the former Naughty Dog employee stated:
I think there’s a lot of material there that you could continue with Cassie, with the daughter, you could do flashback stories with Nathan Drake… you just look at Indiana Jones; there’s really not a limit. You can always jump back in and tell a story with an older character and that gives a whole different color to it, which is kind of cool, and you could do sort of the Young Indiana Jones version of Nathan Drake if you wanted to.
A lot of material, indeed. Hell, if there’s one person who knows Uncharted inside out, it’s Hennig, who served as Game Director on the first three titles before leaving Naughty Dog mid-way through the development of A Thief’s End.
She’s also right in saying that a young Nathan Drake game is still one possible avenue for Naughty Dog to explore, but between Sony’s live-action movie taking the form of a prequel with Avengers star Tom Holland and Young Drake featuring in previous installments, it seems unlikely that ND will waste time on derivative material when it could be pushing Uncharted towards the cutting-edge of interactive storytelling. We’ve seen enough of Nolan North’s quip-happy hero for some time yet, I believe.
So perhaps the real answer to Uncharted 5 and the future of this most beloved franchise lies in the anthology format, after all. This can be the fresh start—the moment when Uncharted shifts gears from a multi-part franchise revolving around a single character (i.e. Nathan Drake) to a rich and diverse compendium of stories.
Not only will it allow Naughty Dog to remain relatively nimble in the cutthroat world of AAA development, but producing a series of standalone adventures also ensures that some of the franchise’s B-list characters are given their time in the sun. Characters like Sam, Sully, Evelyn, and even the Drake matriarch, Cassandra Morgan.
We can picture it now: a Godfather II-like scenario that hops between one generation and the next to recount Cassandra’s adventures in the field, and juxtapose them with her late-game looting with Evelyn, the seasoned treasure hunter who confronted Sam and Nate during A Thief’s End. The fourth numbered installment also showed Naughty Dog’s knack for flashback scenes (and Drake’s Deception before that), so there’s a very good chance that the next incarnation of Uncharted will adopt a similar structure for its storytelling.
It’d be a cool and inventive way to show how Cassie got her namesake, before ultimately dedicating the necessary resources for a full-blown adventure starring Nate’s young prodigy or vice versa. Like I alluded to before, an Uncharted anthology would mean crafting a series of standalone adventures that are only loosely connected by theme and gameplay, rather than being restricted by a singular trilogy featuring one hero (i.e. Cassie Drake) and one hero only.
Nathan Drake’s time at the forefront of this franchise is over. The onus is now on Naughty Dog to elect a new protagonist for the inevitable follow-up to The Lost Legacy, be it Cassie, Nadine, Chloe, or a mixture of all three.
But what say you? Uncharted is arguably the crown jewel of Sony’s first-party roster, so if Naughty Dog were to pursue a fifth mainline installment, what would be your own desires and expectations? You can, as always, let us know your thoughts and predictions in the usual place.