Uncharted Drakes Fortune is the beginning of a series in one of the most popular game series on the PlayStation gaming system, beginning with the PlayStation 3 and moving on into the PlayStation 4. I have to say, when this game came out in 2007, my first play through wasn’t until 2009-2010 and the graphics looked great at that time. I first played this game at my friend Joann’s house and didn’t have my own PlayStation 3 system at the time. I would have to go to her house to play Uncharted and I will be mentioning her a lot as I played most of the Uncharted series at her house, except for a Thief’s End and the Lost Legacy. There is so much to say about this first game. The game itself is and was amazing, even though the game was already 3 years old when I first played it. The graphics, and landscapes were just phenomenal. Especially the way game developers started to incorporate color tones, shadow effects, and body mechanics, these simply just blew my mind away.
One of my favorite sections of this game was when Nathan Drake and Elena Fisher get plane wrecked on the Island before the Fortress chapter, I just loved it. I loved the Jungle, the trees, plants, and waterfalls. I remember how I would just sit and stare at the landscapes, look at the textures, and say to myself, “whoa.” I did the same at the Monastery as well, the trees, overgrown vines, and the aged look of the trees was just amazing to me. More amazing than the graphics though, was the story, and I think that is the key to the Uncharted series. The great storytelling and fantasy mixed with a little historical truth made the game feel real. How many of us played the Uncharted games and felt as though we were reading a novel? Games have come so far, from Mario Brothers, Sonic the Hedgehog, and Donkey Kong to the story telling in Uncharted. I loved the idea of a cursed treasure story, the infamous El Dorado, not a city of gold, but a golden idol that the Incan’s worshiped, that later cursed the natives.
The progression of this story is startling, and when I was watching Seraphim17’s Brutal difficulty walkthrough, he mentioned something that I never noticed before. The scene where Nate and Elena find one of Eddie Raja’s dead bodyguards caught by a trap. Nate mention’s that the pieces of the trap were made from their wrecked air plane and then he notices those weird looking feet in the mud around the trap. He said at that point it started to get creepy, because now you know you’re dealing with an intelligent creature who made the trap! We all know what they were and what that golden idol did, it cursed the natives, and they became these Gollum like creatures or as Seraphim17 says, “Andy Serkis’ Circus.” (LOL). Sir Francis Drake was sent by the Queen to look for this treasure and once he discovered the truth, he sought to keep it from leaving that island. I have to say going into that ship to turn on the generators was no fun, I remember sitting there with my friend Joann, and telling her, “I don’t want to do this, this is scary,” and it was. Those creatures would just jump out at you and it was scary seeing the random dead German bodies lying around. The climax of these stories in Uncharted always seem to be amazing, and the developers always put in great twists.
What would Uncharted be though without the characters? To make a game great and memorable, you must combine a great story and great characters. Naughty Dog created characters for these games and to me they will always be memorable. This game is the first encounter you have with the characters. The opening scene to this game is when you first encounter their personalities, their order of importance, and who will be the main three characters in all the future games. Others are just added in later, who really don’t get too much depth, except for Chloe, who I will be talking about later. The game opens with Nate discovering Sir Francis Drake’s coffin and Elena recording it for her T.V. show. Right off the bat you are introduced to Nate’s sarcasm and Elena’s defensive reaction to his comment. For me the moment that Nate spoke, it drew me into the character and of course the sarcastic remark he made, “Hey, you got your story lady!” One reason that could be is that one of my many struggles in life is sarcasm. Seeing that in me and in this character showed that we had something in common and drew me into the character more. In fact, my friend Joann used to call me Drake Jr. Then Nate and Elena get caught because they were out there in the boat illegally (Elena didn’t know that), and Sully comes to the rescue with his plane.
Victor Sullivan is such a great character and my friend Joann’s favorite character. Sully became to Drake the father figure he never had; he is a shady character, always involved with bad people, and always encouraging Nate to keep going even if half the time it’s illegal. Sully would at times correct Nate and tell him if things didn’t feel right and to be careful, even at times later in the series he was always there encouraging both Nate and Elena to work on their relationship. Even though he was a good and bad influence in Drakes life, he never lied, cheated, or betrayed Nate, and I am so glad that we as the players never had to witness Sully in anyway betraying Nate or Elena. He at times was in it only for the money because he owed people, but let’s face it, without Victor Sullivan, Nate wouldn’t be able to go anywhere. Who always provided a good getaway and escape? Victor Sullivan. Who had connections to make their travels easy? Victor Sullivan. The player gets little bits of the relationship Nathan and Sully have, and their history together when you’re playing a section of the game. When they have a conversation, and Sully is talking about his past travels, or their past travels together, this helps the player create little back stories in their imagination. To me what completed Sully’s character and made him who he was, was his cigar. What would Victor Sullivan be without his cigar? What would Nathan Drake be without his journal? What would Elena Fisher be without her Journalism? These three main characters are Uncharted, and Naughty Dog’s selection of Nolan North (Nathan Drake), Emily Rose (Elena Fisher) and Richard McGonagle (Victor Sullivan), could not have been a better choice. I was not too thrilled with Narvaro as the villain to fight at the end, he just wasn’t that great in my opinion, but Naughty Dog did a great job with making these villain fights better throughout the series. Honestly, as a side villain Eddy Raja was my favorite, he had a great personality, and I loved Eddy and Nate’s love-hate relationship. Even when push came to shove they helped each other out fight off those creatures.
I believe the theme song is one that stays with all players of Uncharted. Music is key to any movie, or game and music sets the mood in the progression of Uncharted. Some may disagree with me on this point, but the Uncharted theme song sticks with me like the Indiana Jones theme song. It is a tune that when you hear it, you automatically know that its Uncharted. Not many games or movies have this effect. Star Wars, Indiana Jones, Jaws, Jurassic Park, the Terminator, and the Lord of the Rings all have theme songs that only belong to them. The moment you hear one of those songs you know exactly what it belongs to. The same goes for games like Super Mario Brothers, Sonic the Hedgehog, and Crash Bandicoot. They all have theme songs that only belong to them, and when we hear that tune, some of us go all the way back to childhood memories. I love how in a Thief’s End they have a piano version of the theme song to Uncharted, though the music throughout the game changes a bit. Hearing the piano version to Uncharted sets the theme to the overall game play. You will also notice that as you play the game, the music tells you what kind of situation you’re in and when the music stops, you know you have come to the end of whatever it was that you were enduring. An example of this is when you enter a fight and the music picks up and gets intense. Once you have killed that last guy, the music stops followed by Drake stating that it’s all done or asking if Elena is alight. Music is a key thing to pay attention to in Uncharted and in most games.
One last thing I have come to love about the Uncharted series is how throughout the game the characters outfits change, though in Drakes Fortune, they do not change that much at all. In the other Uncharted games, it was great to see not only a change in scenery, but their clothing as well. In Drakes Fortune, in the opening scene Nate is in his wet suit, and then his jeans and T-Shirt all the way through the rest of the game. It’s not a big deal since he was in the same general location the whole game (they did this in the Lost Legacy with Chloe too). You can see how things improve, and how Naughty Dog had the characters travel more. I love traveling and I love how throughout the Uncharted games you get to see the world, and the characters outfits change with it. I believe this helps draw the player more into the story, game, and character.
Now we come to the criticisms of Drake's Fortune and my dislikes in the overall gameplay. My criticisms will be focusing more on the platforming of the game, the times when you’re in cover, certain fighting scenes and the use of the grenades. I know that I must tread carefully here, because I know that criticizing a game can be easy when I really don’t understand how it is made and the programming to make the game work. I think it is important to understand the time in which the game was made, and to understand the technology available at the time. Drake Fortune came out in 2007, so the developers probably started writing the story, doing conceptual art, and the programming around 2003-2005. I have also come to learn that a lot of game developers are usually waiting for technology to catch up before they can improve graphics, and the frames per minute (this has to do with the speed of the game, character movement, body language, video cut scenes, and characters response speed to the player). Taking all of that into consideration, one of my first issues that I have had with the game is the platforming. I have heard players of Drakes Fortune say that though it was a great game, it was rough. Rough how? The way Drake runs, jumps, climbs, and grapples across walls. Some of the time Drakes reaction to your commands would be slow, or when it takes Drake a few jumps before he finally grabs that ledge. Naughty Dog continually improved this issue and by the time a Thief’s End came out and Lost Legacy, you can really see how smooth things got. I must admit I still had platforming issues with those games too.
I know that it will never be perfect, I get that, but the frustrating part for me was when you’re in a gun fight, and you want to escape it and get some health back. You go to jump for cover, and Drake doesn’t grab the ledge like he was supposed to. There were times my friends when I spent a good 30-40 minutes in a hard fight and that would happen to me, especially on the crushing difficulty. Another issue that I have had and is common with other players have is how the cover in Drakes Fortune can be deceptive. I was watching Seraphim17 play a section in the Fortress, where he was completely inside this doorway, and he got hit by the A.I. There were no enemies to be seen anywhere, or when he was shooting and using the wall as cover, some of his bullets would hit the wall in front of him even though his reticle was on an enemy. He talks about this often throughout his play through. Naughty Dog also improved this issue a lot throughout the future games as well. Now some may be thinking, who cares, those are just minor things, but it’s those minor things that get players mad the most. It’s always the minor things in life that frustrate us the most, because when you play these games on crushing or brutal difficulty you want these things to work, because on these difficulties the checkpoints stink guys, and girls.
There is one scene in this game that is hard, and you know what? There is no strategy, it’s just all about if you beat it, great, you got lucky and if you don’t, you will eventually, just hang in there. It’s the jeep scene, when Elena rescues Drake from Eddie Raja. Even on crushing it took me 6-7 tries, and the terrible thing about it is when you die, and get a checkpoint, is the moment you start your getting hit by bullets. You respond like “come on man, give me a chance to get ready” and on brutal its 2-3 bullets and you are dead. This is just the way the game was programmed, like for some reason the A.I. has the jump on you, and you’re getting hit before you even see what’s going on. The key to this scene is knowing where the enemy spawns are and a little bit of luck. I think this was the worst part of the game, next to the water room in the Fortress. Same thing with the nightmare water room, you got to know where the spawns are, and you must be fast and accurate in you aiming. Do you ever sit back and think that you would like to play through an Uncharted game on crushing or brutal, but then remember a terrible fight scene, and you talk yourself out of it? I do it all the time. Like I want to try the remastered games on brutal, but there are certain scenarios I remember where I’m like, yeah, no. Lol.
This brings me to the use of grenades. I believe the use of grenades in the Uncharted games have always been an issue, and even though Naughty Dog improved the graphics of the explosions, the blast radius, and damage of grenades, they never seem to improve the players aiming capability. Like you’re behind cover, or even standing and your aiming the grenade, and you’re thinking “I can’t see where it’s going.” You throw it, and it goes way too far, or hits the rock above you and you got to dive out of the way. I think what it is, is simply the players depth perception is messed up and you can’t read the distance correctly. Then here comes the A.I, it throws a grenade and it lands perfectly next to you. I’m going to jump to a Thief’s End really quick here, in No Escape (Some of us cringe at the mention of that chapter), I was watching Seraphim17 hang on the cleft of that rock face above the ship, and the A.I threw a perfectly aimed grenade right on a cleft of rock behind him, and it nearly killed him. Not fair Naughty Dog! Then he tries to aim a grenade and can’t see anything. Even when I was doing it on crushing difficulty, the A.I. would be able to perfectly throw the grenade next to me and I would get blown out of cover and then get shot up and die. The same kind of things happen in all the Uncharted games. On the player you get this terrible shell shock effect of a grenade, but you watch the A.I. when you throw a grenade, and it doesn’t get any shell shock affect from your grenade. This is one area that Naughty Dog could have improved. I know, the game must be challenging, but it should also be fair. In Uncharted 3 you could throw the grenade back and half the time it would explode in the air and do no damage. We as the players want to fight the way the game plays, not the way the game is, we don’t want to play a game and fight against its terrible programming the whole time. We want to play the way the game is or was intended to be. So many of us I believe are fighting against just bad programming.
There are a few more things I would like to mention before wrapping up, those are weapons, Drakes journal, A.I. development, and the puzzles. Now let’s discuss Weapons. Like most players I always stuck to the 9mm as my main gun. I loved the shotgun in this game, and the M16. I had to put up with the AK47 for the first half of the game, but I got through it. One thing I have always noticed in all the Uncharted games is that the AK47 was always such a terrible weapon. The 9mmFS was stronger than the AK47, what?! In real life, most people prefer an AK47, no joke and I have read plenty of Navy SEAL biographies. These guys loved it when they got a hold of an AK47 and in certain conditions preferred it, because it was a durable beast. When you play Uncharted, shooting an AK47 is crap, especially in a Thief’s End and it got worse over time in that game. I never understood that. You will also notice that the grenade launchers in this game aren’t great either, but Naughty Dog really improved these throughout all the Uncharted games, to the point where I started to prefer it over a rifle. The Desert Eagle was okay, but I still preferred the 9mm over it, because they made it seem like such a powerful weapon. At times it still took 2 to 3 bullets to kill a guy, even when you got a head shot! I don’t care if the guy is wearing a helmet Naughty Dog, it’s a Desert Eagle! A 50 Caliber round! He should be dead! I know Naughty Dog wasn’t supposed to thrive on weapon perfection, but I never understood why some weapons lacked any realism in their damage.
I have come to love Drakes journals all throughout the Uncharted games. I myself have a Journal of all my travels, where I would write every day. Drakes journal reminds me of that, though in this game its technically Sir Francis Drakes journal. I think it’s so funny how the characters in the game hated the way Drake was a stubborn know it all, but come on, he had Sir Francis Drakes personal journal, so. . .yeah, he knew it all. Lol. This journal is a key mark to any adventurer (Indiana Jones had one)! Some might say, but there is nothing like writing your memories down, and the way Naughty Dog developed the journal entries and notes through the series is wonderful, especially in a Thief’s End, where you were pretty much following a whole other story. Naughty Dog even started to have him draw pictures in his journal.
The A.I. development all throughout the Uncharted series only got better, and what I mean by better is more difficult, depending of course on difficulty. In Drakes Fortune it wasn’t so much their intelligence, but their perfect aim. In Among Thieves, the A.I. would start to search the area a little when they noticed something wrong, the same I think with Drakes Deception, but in a Thief’s End, there were phases to your doom. Now I am talking only about crushing on brutal difficulty, but Naughty Dog really improved the A.I. where they would notice a dead comrade and that would lead to the A. I’s routes totally changing and searching around. Stealth became much more difficult later in the series, as the A.I. would be able to notice you very easily. In Drakes Fortune, stealth wasn’t a huge focus or option, it was later in Among Thieves and Drakes Deception where you could obtain a Master Ninja trophy, but Naughty Dog took that trophy away in a Thief’s End by simply giving the player options on how you want to approach a scene. In the Lost Legacy, you can obtain a trophy by getting 10 head shots with the silenced pistol, but Naughty Dog did a great job in allowing the player to choose to either go out guns blazing, or use stealth. Even though I love a good gun fight, I think deep down I really like the stealth approach, which was one reason I loved playing Splinter Cell’s the Blacklist.
The puzzles, oh how these puzzles not only grew but increased in difficulty. Honestly, I have a love/hate relationship with the puzzles throughout the Uncharted series. How many of us could not progress through the game because of a Naughty Dog puzzle? In Drakes Fortune there really weren’t any, except for when you had to turn those statues either north, south, east or west to open a secret passage way. I love how in that Monastery it was each of the Gospels that open that secret passage way, or when you had to make those two bells ring simultaneously to have the same effect. To me throughout these games the puzzles just became unbearable, I love them, and the idea of them, but man they stink sometimes. When I played the Lost Legacy, and got to the Shadow Puzzle, and the Statue Puzzle where you had to jump around, I was stuck on these for 45 minutes. I’m not the best gamer, but at one point I had to look up a video for the Shadow Puzzle, and on the Statue Puzzle, my wife tried to help me. Eventually the game had to help me beat it! (This was on normal difficulty, on crushing you don’t get game hints, I usually do normal first, then hard, then crushing). I know I’m jumping way ahead here because I’m supposed to talk about Drakes Fortune, but I mention this to show how these puzzles changed over time, and just got difficult. For people like Mike Bettencourt, they play the game twice, and can show you how to solve the puzzles in ten or less moves so maybe I’m just impatient.
Well my friends, that’s going to wrap up this blog for Drake’s Fortune, all who have read this one and my previous one, I hope you enjoyed it and I will be back with another about Among Thieves as we continue our way through the Uncharted series.