The Joys of A Thief’s End

The Joys of A Thief’s End

Over the course of the past few months, I have marked off a few games which I probably should have played a few years ago. I am, as you might have guessed if you read my note on remasters from last week, talking about the Uncharted games. In a short period of time, I worked my way through Nathan Drake’s first three adventures, and have now completed his tale in A Thief’s End.

Nate’s fourth, and potentially final, adventure is without a doubt, my favourite of all the Uncharted games. What more do you want when it features:

  • A great closure to the arc of Nate and Elena’s story
  • Perhaps the strongest individual story of the four games
  • A wonderful lack of “other” enemies
  • A fun heist sequence
  • Pirates!
  • A prison break
  • Open world sequences on land and sea
Sully, what a guy.
Sully, what a guy.

In talking about the game with others, I’ve described it a game which has the confidence to tell the story it wants, in the way it wants. From the start, this feels like a game where the developer’s, Naughty Dog, saw the potential with the PlayStation 4 and pushed the console for all it’s worth. This is a stunning game, as well one that is great fun to play.

While playing the first three games in the series, I felt that Nate and Elena’s on and off relationship was one of the underdeveloped story threads. It always felt overshadowed by Nate’s adventure and his relationship with Sully. Playing A Thief’s End, I initially feared that Nate’s reunion with his brother, Sam, would again overshadow the love story that I felt was really at the heart of the series.

Crash!
Crash!

Fortunately, the story told of Sam’s return from the dead which leads Nate back to a life of risky adventure is wonderfully folded in with Nate’s new life with Elena. Some might feel like the downtime with Nate’s salvage job and the sojourn into the couple’s home life (complete with Crash Bandicoot) took away from the adventure, but I felt these moments added so much to establishing the motivation behind the characters actions later in the game. The confrontation between Nate and Elena in King’s Bay was heartbreaking, and I was pleasantly surprised to see the couple talk through their problems like adults later in the game.

That’s not to say Nate’s relationships with Sam or Sully, or even Rafe, were pushed aside. The expanded length of the game means everyone’s motivations can be explored in greater detail, with the flashbacks working exceptionally well. I also thoroughly enjoyed the fact that the hunt was for a treasure where the financial worth was long established. No more elixir’s of life, this was a hunt for cold hard cash. All $400 million of it. Getting rid of some of the supernatural elements was certainly a great move by Naughty Dog, though I did miss the opportunity to pick up an MP40.

Some of the action scenes...phenomenal!
Some of the action scenes…phenomenal!

Even the tweaks to the core gameplay experience worked well. Stealth was actually a realistic option during encounters, but fortunately wasn’t a requirement. If you wanted to go into all of the encounters all guns blazing, that was an option. There were some of the usual problems with ever more heavily armoured enemies appearing towards the end of the game, and many of the enemy character models being popping up over and over again, but I can forgive them. Indeed, Naughty Dog even made a token gesture to explain why all of Nate’s enemies end up ahead of him in the apparent lost cities – the Shoreline mercenaries headed up by a Rafe’s partner in crime, Nadine, absolutely love dynamite and are willing to throw it around to get ahead, even if it means they nearly destroy some important finds as they go.

The other major change comes with the open world sections that you traverse in a jeep and on boat. These are fairly small sections, but they offer the chance to just explore this gorgeous world, something you didn’t get to do in the previous games. During the on foot sections of A Thief’s End, there certainly are more routes to take through each level than in the past, but it is really only when you are in a vehicle that you have a greater sense of freedom.

Just some of Sony's product placement. Made me laugh.
Just some of Sony’s product placement. Made me laugh.

A few other moments of magic standout in my mind: the high intensity prison break (both times), and the heist which comes off as something from Ocean’s 11 rather than what you traditionally expect from Uncharted. These moments show us that this series could have offered up a straight action game or something more akin to Thief and Hitman. As they are here though, they work perfectly to offer something different to the formula which has worked so well for Naughty Dog.

The last moment I want to talk about is the epilogue, which was such a fitting way to end the series, or at least, this entry in it. Nate and Elena decide to tell their daughter, Cassie, about their past adventures which could perfectly set young Cassie up for an adventure of her own.

I certainly enjoyed the jeep sections.
I certainly enjoyed the jeep sections.

I’m so glad that I have finally experienced the wonders of the Uncharted series, and even more so, that I completed the first three games right before I dived into A Thief’s End which provided me with some great context to the story.

If this were a Verdict, I think this would be receiving a Red Mist. Brilliant.

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