“All men dream, but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds, wake in the day to find that it was all vanity: but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act their dream with open eyes, to make it possible. This, I did.”
Welcome back everyone to this week’s blog of Uncharted Drakes Deception. I am so elated and delighted to continue this journey with all of you through the Uncharted series. I am hopeful that many of you out there are reading them and enjoying them. Maybe you are even finding them helpful, or maybe these blogs are enticing you just enough to make you want to go back and play through them just to experience the game again. Maybe you want to see for yourself both the positive and negative things about these games. As much as I love the overall gameplay and graphics of Uncharted, to me it has always been about the depth of the characters and story. Watching the characters grow in their relationships, personalities, and struggles is what makes these Uncharted games a lifetime commemoration. If a character in a series stays the same throughout all the games, the player will be filled with a sense of purposelessness. If Nathan Drake did not have a climatic ending in a Thief’s End, I would not be writing about these games.
I have not mentioned this before, but I am very picky and biased on the games I play and purchase. I do not buy every game on the market, I have specific tastes in games and therefore I don’t consider myself a “gamer.” For example, if someone were to come up to me and ask “Hey, how did you like playing the game Bloodborne?” I wouldn’t be able to give any feedback. In case anyone out there is wondering, the only games I have right now as I write this are the Uncharted series, the Last of Us, Shadow of Mordor, Shadow of War (which I am playing through right now), Crash Bandicoot Insane Trilogy, Ratchet and Clank and NHL 17. I do plan on playing the Last of Us 2, Call of Duty WW2, and Days Gone when it comes out, but you get my point. Not a whole lot of games, but the best ones out there as far as I can tell, that’s just my opinion, it’s not fact. The reason I am writing this is because I have written a few blogs already all focusing on Uncharted, but I haven’t really talked much about myself, and I don’t want anyone out there getting the wrong impression thinking I’m a huge gamer. So, without further a due let us continue with the third installment of Uncharted Drakes Deception.
Nathan Drake and his friends embark on another adventure to pick up the trail of T.E. Lawrence, a.k.a Lawrence of Arabia, to find the lost city of Ubar buried in the middle of the Rub’ al Khali Desert. It is also known as Iram of the Pillars and The Atlantis of the Sands. Within this city is living water; water that can give one eternal life. We all know it’s not that simple either, because this water is cursed. When the player gets halfway through the game, you meet Salim. Salim gives the player more background to what happened to the lost city and its water supply. King Solomon cursed the Gin and buried them deep within the city, it’s these cursed spirits that cursed the water. It caused the inhabitants of the city to see hallucinations and through these hallucinations they all killed each other. The effect it had on a person was totally based on that persons struggles and fears. Unfortunately, the cities secrets were kept under guard by a 400-year-old Satanic cult headed by Marlow and Talbot (in present day) who sought the location of the city to use its hallucinogenic water to control people. Naughty Dog again wants us to focus on something and that is, that glorious riches have much deception. Nothing is as what it seems.
I would have to say that this game is darker in its theme. I enjoyed it because Naughty Dog created this game to be more spiritual and psychological for the player. This is the game where I think Naughty Dog started to get deeper with Drake and his friends and wanted to introduce to the player for the first time Drakes past. By introducing Drakes adolescent’s and lonely past, Naughty Dog is wanting you as the player to see that Drake has a dark history. Everything that we know about Drakes personality and what shaped him is because Naughty Dog showed us his youth. Naughty Dog then carries this over into a Thief’s End. By the time you play a Thief’s End, you should be able to draw a timeline of Nathan Drakes life. Combining Drakes complicated and dark past with Marlow and Talbot is a great twist because when Talbot drugs him, the things Nathan Drake fears the most come true, and what does Nathan Drake fear most? Abandonment. When he hallucinates, what does he see? Not Elena leaving him, but Sully dying. Nathan Drakes father abandoned him, and Victor Sullivan became a father figure to him. When Drake gets drugged by the water he sees Sully get shot and die. In fact, in all the times that Drake hallucinates in this game the hallucinations are all about Victor Sullivan. In one hallucination Sully is pointing a gun at Drake and Nate is forced to make a choice, shoot Sully the only father you ever had, or let Sully shoot you, just like your father betrayed you. Even when Nate gets held captive by Marlow, she tries to get into his head and cause him to question Victor Sullivan’s loyalty to him. Why not try and get him to doubt Elena’s loyalty or their troubled marriage? Because the biggest most painful scar that Nathan Drake has is not that his mother committed suicide (because he could always fall back on the fact that his mother was the most amazing treasure hunter and historian there was), but that his father abandoned him to an orphanage when he needed his father the most. Are we feeling emotional? Maybe doing some soul searching ourselves? Well that’s the point of this game my friends, to dig deep into Nathan Drakes life and slowly draw out the issues like you would draw poison from a wound.
What I have come to love the most about Drakes Deception is being able to play Nathan Drake as a teenager. We get a whole lot more background on Drake, Sully, and how they met. This is important because when we first meet them in Drakes Fortune, they both have such a close relationship and tons of stories to reminisce about. Drakes Deception was designed perfectly for this little history tour of both. They both met under negative circumstances, Drake is trying to steal Sir Francis Drakes ring from a Museum in Colombia, and Sully is working with Marlow to try and acquire the same artifact. Sully saw potential in Drake, negative potential at that, but nonetheless he helped Nate acquire the ring. On top of that, the first time that they meet each other is when Drake was trying to steal Victors wallet, which of course Sully knew Nate was going to do that and he wanted to see where Nate needed to improve. It is interesting to note that Marlow was a villain in Drakes life that he had previous history with, along with Rafe in a Theif’s End as well. This causes their encounters to be a little more intense in the climax of the game. When Marlow is getting pulled under by the quicksand Nathan tries to save her, and in a Theif’s End when Nate and Rafe are sword fighting not only is Drake trying to avoid a fight with Rafe, but Rafe is initiating the fight, based on his past experiences with Nate. I have to say that it is sad that Drake at such a young age is self-sufficient and confident in his survival; the reason being is that Nathan never had his parents around and survived, so he thought he was good on his own. Sully never tried to dig that deep into Nathans life and never tried to be his father either, just a good supportive friend. Sully and Nate were perfectly matched up and though and Nate would never admit it, he found a father figure he never had. I believe that Sully is the spine in Nate's life and Elena is his heart, both Elena and Sully represent the mother and father figures Nate never had, and the character design created for Elena and Sully was perfect for a character like Nathan Drake. One thing that Nathan Drake, in his pride, could never admit, is how much he depended on Sully’s support for his survival, because without Sully, the character we know as Nathan Drake would not exist.
I really enjoy where this game took the player in the story. From France to Syria, and Syria to Arabia all the locations to me were phenomenal and beautiful. Especially in the remastered versions of these 3 Uncharted games the graphics were sharper and clearer. I really enjoyed the rich forests in The Chateau, the time of day Naughty Dog had the player there, the way the sun rays would shine through the trees of the forest and even the trees, gravel, plants, and water all done so wonderfully. One thing I have noticed Naughty Dog do is that they are faithful to be realistic to the type of environments you would encounter in these areas. The forests in France are different than the forests in Borneo (Among Thieves), and the Caribbean (Drakes Fortune). Then traveling to Syria to sneak into the museum, the effects of being there in the middle of the night to sunrise the next day was a good effect because it makes the player feel like they went through it all with Drake all night long. From the stars in the sky, to the detail in the structure of the museum was nothing short of true realism. Finally, the rest of the game takes place in Arabia and in its Rub’ al Khali Desert. When Nathan and Sully first meet up with Elena at the airport you get a pretty good idea as to where you are at. Then there is the town you walk through along with the platforming across the buildings when your stalking Talbot. I cannot say enough about the details that Naughty puts into everything, they really made you feel like you were there, and that says a lot on their patience and skill in developing these levels.
One thing I haven’t really talked about that much is 3rd person shooters. If my memory serves me correctly, then the first 3rd person perspective games I ever played was Splinter Cell on the Xbox, Zelda Ocarina of Time on N64, and Lord of the Rings on Xbox. Whereas 007 Golden Eye and Star Wars on N64 were all from a first-person perspective. On Splinter Cell and Zelda, you fight and platform from a 3rd person perspective, but shoot from a 1st person perspective. In Zelda you would fight with your sword from 3rd person perspective and shoot Links sling from first person perspective, same thing with Lord of the Rings. Call of Duty does a great job with 1st person shooting, and I have always enjoyed their games, but Uncharted really got me to love 3rd person shooting. I remember the very first thing I loved about the Uncharted games was when you would go to aim your gun, you were looking over Nates shoulder, not being brought to a screen with just the crosshair in the center. I really enjoyed being able to see Nates reactions to the gun kicking in his hand and seeing the dirt and sweat on his face. This 3rd person kind of shooting really drew me into the action of the moment. For me, I don’t necessarily like it when I cannot see my characters body when I’m in a combat situation because I cannot see exactly the position of his body in relation to any cover I’m trying to utilize. In 1st person shooters (this is only opinion, not fact), the player cannot tell if they are behind cover correctly. For example, on a 1st person shooter you can be behind a wall for cover, but all you can see at that moment is the wall and you cannot tell if maybe your arm is sticking out which will allow the enemy to shoot you. On a 3rd person shooter you can get behind cover and rotate the camera around to not only see if you’re in good cover, but see where the enemies are at and where they are coming from. I know it sounds like I am favoring 3rd person shooters, but I am not, I remember my old PC game era of Day of Defeat and Counterstrike, I absolutely loved it and was good at it.
When it comes to the characters in Drakes Deception I have mixed feelings about them. I really enjoyed Charlie Cutter, he had a great character role and sense of humor. I loved the way he would respond when Drake is trying to plan a stalking mission, or the way Charlie would interject when Nate was trying to give a history lesson. In London when Nate is trying to plan on how to go about stalking Marlow and Talbot, Charlie interjects with, “These people aren’t messing around a bit, if you encounter them shoot first ask questions later.” Awkward silence. Or when they discover the old Victorian rail station in London Underground and Nate asks who these people are Charlie responds, “I don’t know, but they are seriously weird.” Charlie Cutter was somewhat like Tenzin, a great character for a brief time in Uncharted, though he is mentioned in a Thief’s End when Drake and Sam are arguing over the trustworthiness of Sully before sneaking into the auction in Italy. Charlie Cutter was a smart guy and well educated in his history; in Syria he was helpful to Nate in solving a lot of the riddles and puzzles. I adored his fear of closed spaces, those scenes were really funny. I felt bad for Charlie when Talbot drugged him, and I thought it was a great scenario when Charlie tried to fight Drake and almost choked him to death. Sully of course pulled out his .44 Magnum and was just going to shoot him until Chloe interjected and calmed things down. One of my favorite lines from Sully is what occurred right after, Charlie asks, “You weren’t really gonna shoot me were you?” Sully responds, “Like a rabid dog.” (LOL). I have always loved Sully’s protective attitude toward Drake, it didn’t matter who you were, you try and kill Nate and I’ll kill you.
Chloe Frazer is worth mentioning very briefly because her appearance in Drakes Deception lets you as the player know that Naughty Dog is: 1. Not done with her and 2. She is now a part of the team. Even in her second appearance you can see the changes in Chloe, she seems more mature and less flirtatious. Some can argue that she is not in a Thief’s End, but she is. When Drake is in his attic reminiscing on all his adventures, you get to pick up a post card Chloe sent him with a note on the back. I believe Naughty Dog wanted that little nugget of Chloe Frazer to be in there for a purpose, but that is just my speculation. I honestly wasn’t to impressed with Talbot or Marlow. I understand their characters and their role in the game, but just simply not my favorite villains just like Navarro in Drakes fortune. It could be that they were part of a Satanic cult, and Talbot not only used hallucinogenics, but tarot cards as well to control people, either way, not my favorites.
As with all the Uncharted games the first 3 chapters are tutorial. The reason being is that each game Naughty Dog releases they either changed some things, or try to improve some things. A lot of this has to do with the melee in the games, also some grenade throwing, but my focus here is melee. In Drakes Fortune they teach you the basics, just simply punching. In Among Thieves the punches are different as well as the body movement, but they incorporate the ability to counter and dodge punches. In Drakes Deception, the melee became different and I think in a good way. I really enjoyed the opening bar fight scent in this game. Naughty Dog in this game really incorporated the environment for the players melee combat. The player was able to use the environment around them to fight, like using glass bottles, pots, pans, and huge fish to hit the enemies with. If you were next to a table Nate would slam the guy’s head onto the table. They also incorporated that ability for that A.I. to grab you from behind while your being punched by another enemy. So, you had to keep elbowing the guy holding you and then you had the ability to lift yourself up and kick the guy in the head trying to punch you. Being surrounded by a bunch of guys and being able to evade, block, and counter their punches and kicks was awesome. Even though I really enjoyed the bar fight scene, and the opening fight when Drake is being held captive by a modern-day pirate (Rameses), I still feel like they are a little drawn out and go for a little too long. Naughty Dog in this game took it a step further with the melee by bringing in those huge prodigious guys.
My favorite encounter with them was the bar fight scene, I loved it when it was just one on one in the bathroom and Drake ends it with the toilet cover to the guys face. Naughty Dog did a good job with the physics of it too, how these big guys would move with the realism of their weight. They would punch slow and kick slow, giving the player a better chance at countering. Of course, the climax of these fights is awesome, Nate cups his hands together and hits them three times until it takes Nates whole body weight for the finishing punch. On Crushing and Brutal difficulty, though this gets tough, because during a combat situation when you got 15 guys shooting at you and then out comes the heavy charging you and you go hand to hand with him while the other guys shoot at you. Again, knowing where the spawns are is key, because if you know where he is going to come from you can use you Micro Uzi and end him quick, but when you get caught by surprise it stinks. Did you know that you can tell the frame of the game by the melee encounters? The game starts with a huge melee encounter, then when you reach the midpoint of the game (captive by Rameses), it’s another huge melee encounter and at the end of the game you’re in a huge melee fight with Talbot. The melee has always improved throughout the Uncharted games and I have always really enjoyed them.
My favorite chapters in this game are The Chateau, Abducted, Rough Sea’s, Crusin’ for a Brusin’, and the Settlement. The Chateau to me was a wonderful level. When I first played Drakes Deception it was The Chateau that opened my eyes to how much Naughty Dog improved the graphics. The trees were beautiful, the texture of the dirt on the ground, the plant life, the stream running through the forest, and the fallen leaves everywhere. As I mentioned above the sunlight coming through the trees was so realistic, just the way Naughty Dog took their time with this programming shows dedication. Then when you get to the Chateau, the design there was amazing, not to mention when you play it on the remastered versions the sharpness and clarity blow the mind away. Some may disagree with me on this and I guess it’s all a matter of opinion, but when I play a game like Uncharted I really take my time playing it. When I get to a beautiful level like The Chateau I like to look around at everything and enjoy the detail. I am someone that enjoys the making of a game or movie more than the actual game or movie itself. I love to take time and appreciate all the hard work that goes into something so beautiful like the Chateau. Touring the Chateau was great, walking around and enjoying Naughty Dogs attention to detail. How it was half destroyed, the moss and vines all over the building, and the design showing nature taking over the building. When you stop to look at it when Nate and Sully first get there, the designers did a masterful job showing you that it is an ancient building being overtaken by nature, but you were also able to see its “once upon a time” glorious Victorian beauty. Then, when you get inside The Chateau the detail in the kitchen, the pots and pans, the oven, the dishwasher, and the broken-up tile were great. Of course, the grand staircase, the sewing machine, and the popcorn machine were just a few of the details Naughty Dog included. Chateau me any day, I absolutely loved this chapter.
Abducted, Rough Sea’s and Crusin’ for a Brusin’ were my favorite chapters because of their mental fervidness. I would say that number one reason I like these chapters has to do with the ocean effects, the tanker junk yard Nate is in, the huge storm that hits, and the gigantic ship wreck Nate gets in on the Cruise ship. The number one effect that I liked about these chapters is how Naughty Dog made Nate seem so small. Not only are you swimming in the water trying to avoid a bunch of enemies but your surrounded by these gigantic tankers. To me it was just one of those scenarios in the game that made me feel small. Rough Sea’s was intense because you’re in the middle of a battle but you’re also fighting the physics of the huge storm. In this chapter you have to use an RPG to take out all the enemy boats surrounding you and on top of that, the boat that you’re on is going up and down like crazy making your aiming pretty hard. So many times, I would try to shoot an enemy boat and the rocket would either go over the boat or into the ocean. Also, there was a section on this part where not only did you have to take out enemy boats, but you had other enemies rushing you, so you had to utilize cover from RPG’s coming from enemy boats as well as take out those rushing you.
Rough Sea’s transitions into Crusin for a Brusin smoothly. At the end of Rough Sea’s Nate jumps onto Rameses Cruise ship and as your climbing up the side of the ship the chapter title appears. Crusin for a Brusin is somewhat of a platforming chapter mixed with a little stealth, a little battle with a heavy, and one huge battle in the Ball Room. If your prone to sea sickness I can understand why Naughty Dog has warnings before the game starts. As your moving through this chapter there is just a lot of rocking back and forth as Nate struggles to stay on his feet. Plus, if you pause and rotate the camera to look out into the ocean, seeing the huge waves coming toward the Cruiser can make one sick. I really enjoyed the part where Nate is trying to make it toward the second level of the Cruiser and he must climb onto the survival boat to make his way up, when all the sudden it detaches from the Cruiser and Nate is hanging on for dear life. Your hanging onto the boat and its swinging back and forth on nothing but a rope over a raging sea! Just another crazy Drake survival moment. There were 2 battles in this game that I dreaded getting to and one of them was in this chapter at the Ball Room fight. Obviously, there is no stealth approach to this part, I have tried multiple times, it is just a fight that you must face. The key of course in knowing where the enemy spawns, on any other difficulty other than Crushing or Brutal it doesn’t matter. Knowing the spawns is important on Crushing and Brutal difficulty. I loved the ending to this chapter even though I thought Drake was going to go one on one with Rameses. I mean they introduce this pirate to you who would seem like a minor boss fight, but Naughty Dog decided to just have him commit suicide by shooting the glass. It was a cool cinematic, but I was hoping to fight him a little. I hold the opinion that Rough Sea’s and Crusin’ for a Brusin’ could have been combined into one chapter. I just don’t feel that Rough Sea’s was long enough to be its own chapter, but that is just me, not fact.
There is of course one scene worth noting that I am sure many of you are just waiting for me to talk about and that is the Plane Crash in the chapter Stowaway. This was top notch for Naughty Dog. Up to this point in the Uncharted games none of Drakes crazy survival moments even compared to this. When I first played this game with my friend Joann and I got to this part of the game, I was sitting there yelling, “Are you kidding me right now?!” (Lol). The first part of this section was amazing, you’re fighting this huge guy and then when you finally knock him down Drake runs to the cargo netting to unloose the cargo parachute. That then drags everything out of the plane and Nate goes tumbling out of the plane, and your hanging onto the netting at 40,000 feet in the air. Of course, that is not enough for Naughty Dog, you then have to climb up the netting to get back into the plane while at the same time shoot enemies. Once your back in the plane a gun fight proceeds and while you shoot enemies the plane catches on fire, an explosion to the side of the plane causes everything else to get sucked out. Drake is holding onto a crate for dear life, then another explosion and tons of friction, by this time your screen is shaking. Nate then cannot hold on anymore, so he lets go and simultaneously the plane blows in half, and your pretty mush sky-diving at this point. While flying through the air you have to aim for this crate and grab onto it, once Nate grabs on your screen is spinning out of control and you got to mash triangle to get the chute open. Everything about this section is stupefying. Naughty Dogs programming into the physics and realism of this scene top a lot of games out there, a very epic scene for its time.
I really enjoyed the Settlement chapter because of its architecture. An abandon ancient settlement in the Rub al’ Kali Desert gave the player a great sense of adventure. The detail that Naughty Dog put into the cracked stone work, and the appearance of making everything look dried out was legit. The fights were enjoyable because of fighting in the sand. The effects of walking in the sand and when grenades would explode in the sand showed the attention to detail. Even the effects on Drake himself, you could see the sand get all over Drakes clothes and hair. This is also the chapter that introduces the player to riding horses. I think riding the horses was one of the highlights to this game because it is something we haven’t experienced in Uncharted and it added a whole new dynamic to the gameplay. For those of us who loved Indiana Jones, namely The Last Crusade, most likely loved riding the horses in Drakes Deception. For me at least that’s what it reminded me of.
There were of course just a few things that I didn’t like in Drakes Deception. Dislikes in games are always a matter of opinion, so if your reading these Uncharted blogs take everything I say with a grain of salt. I was not fond of the weapons in this game or the reticle (crosshair) that you aim with. For me, I think it had to do with: 1. The sound the weapons made. 2. I felt no power behind the weapons. 3. The enemy A.I. did not react when you shot them. On point number 3, the enemies would be running at you and as your shooting them they just keep coming at you making it hard for the player to tell if they are being damaged or not. In previous games you would shoot a guy and he would do a little dance showing he is hurt which would give you time to either escape to cover or finish him. I also did not like fighting those demon guys in phases when Nate is hallucinating in Atlantis of the Sands. It was tough on Crushing because not only did they die in two phases, but they could also disappear and reappear anywhere making these pretty taxing encounters. I hated it. Again, it’s all about going into these sections with the right weapons, the Magnum and the Grenade launcher are your best bet. There is one thing worth mentioning about the enemy A.I. that can seem kind of unfair. There were often bad mixtures of power between you and the A.I., for you as the player to have the upper hand against the enemy you have to be in a good position, but the A.I. can be positioned anywhere and deal you great damage. If you’re in an awkward position and try shoot, the cover is in your way, if your try to throw a grenade, you can’t see anything. The A.I. of course can be in your same position and throw a perfectly aimed grenade or somehow shoot you. Yes, a game should be challenging especially on Crushing or Brutal, but it should also be fair and realistic. One thing I have always long for in games that I wish programmers would incorporate, and that is the A.I. running out of bullets and grenades. In real life situations in gun fights you wait for the guy to run out of ammo or reload. The A.I. does reload but it’s like super-fast, you barley have time to blink and they are already shooting at you again.
I really enjoyed the boss fight in this game because it’s a good traditional hand to hand fight like you would get in movies. What made this fight so intense was that Drake was going up against a knife. I remember when I first played this game when Talbot pulled his knife out I was like, “Alright, let’s do this Talbot.” Just a great fight of blocking, evading, countering and then punching or tripping. I loved it when Talbot would get on top of Drake and try to push the knife down into Drakes chest and you must mash square to prevent it. This was just an all-around good fast paced fight with a light mixture of adrenaline. How many of us got done with this fight and our heart was pounding? I know mine was. At first, I wasn’t sure how it was going to end because it seemed like you were going to have two boss fights, one with Talbot and one with Marlow. In the end it made sense how they wanted to get rid of Marlow then have Drake face Talbot. Earlier in the game you had a similar hand to hand fight with Talbot in Chapter 11 (As above, So Below) so it makes sense that they would have an epic climax of some unfinished business between Drake and Talbot. Drakes Deception of course had a monumental ending with everything crumbling into nothingness with Nate having to jump from one structure to another until he was finally safe. I really enjoyed the ending cut scene because it gives the player hope for Elena and Nate which of course roles over into A Thief’s End. Thanks to Victor Sullivan, who was the one that interceded and got them back together again.
That is going to wrap up this blog for Drakes Deception my friends. Once again, I would like to thank everyone for taking the time to read these blogs and to thank Indie Game Lover for allowing me to participate. I am really enjoying reminiscing about all the Uncharted games with you and look forward to a Thief’s End and The Lost Legacy. I will probably be doing a Thief’s End in 2 parts because there is a lot to discuss and it is the climax to Nathan Drake; until then take care and keep gaming.
“ I did not tell the half of what I saw, for I knew that I would not be believed”-
Uncharted Among Thieves', being the second game in the unforgettable Uncharted series. From the start I would have to say that this game is probably close to my favorite out of all the Uncharted games, in fact its a very close tie with A Thief’s End and for so many reasons that I will be talking about in this blog. I remember my friend Joann texting me letting me know that she had just received the new Uncharted game called Among Thieve’s. I have to say based on my first encounter with Drake’s Fortune I was really excited with anticipation to play it. I saw such amazing changes in this game compared to Drakes Fortune, with the character body mechanics and responsiveness to the players demands. Along side of A Thief’s End and the Lost Legacy, I felt that the shooting was way better in this game. I really loved the shooting aspect of this game, I don’t know maybe it was the sound effects, the way the guns kicked when you shot them, or the way you can see tracers of the bullets hitting your target. I also love the body mechanics, there was a lot more effects to how Drakes body reacted to climbing, running, jumping, and even when he would get hit by a grenade, just how his body reacted was very noticeable compared to Drake’s Fortune.
I really enjoyed how Naughty Dog in this game focused on a different historical figure and adventurer, Marco Polo. The focus for Nathan Drake and his friends is to pick up on Marco Polo’s trail to find out what Marco Polo was afraid to let the world know about his travels and what he discovered. A powerful resin created from the sap of the Tree of Life found in an ancient lost city called Shambhala secretly located in northern India, in the Himalayan Mountains. This sap gave people eternal life but at a cost, it turned them into monsters, not like what Nate found in Drake’s Fortune, but these blue colored monsters. Marco Polo believed that the ships he used to sail back home were driven into the mountains by a great storm caused by something divine to keep the discovery of the Tree of Life and its sap from the world. I like how this game brought the player to India, Tibet, Nepal, and a hidden away village in the Himalayan Mountains. Seeing this part of the world was pretty neat, the landscapes were beautiful, the lush rich jungles, the extravagant temples, and the cities that were under civil war. I have to say that the creativity that Naughty Dog puts into these environments is mind-numbing at times. The details that they put into the temples, the cities, trees, and mountains is so realistic that you really feel like you are there. Even having the plants and shrub’s react to Drake walking through them is prolific. I remember in old games on PS1 and PS2 if you had the character walk through a bush, the bush wouldn’t react you would just go through it, but now in games the character’s actually push aside the bushes leaves and branches. Little details like this is what makes a game delightful.
Something worth paying attention to in these games, is how the circumstances that Drake finds himself in, the adventures he takes upon himself, are what build his character, and help draw the player more into his development. Playing a Thief’s End and understanding the depth of the characters in that game is difficult if you haven’t played the first three. Naughty had a purpose for Nathan Drake, and a Thief’s End is the climax to Nathan Drake. So if a person play’s a Thief’s End, but never played the first three games, they won’t really understand the emotions involved, and the struggle between Nate, Elena, and Sully, because there is history between them all. Naughty Dog’s focus I believe is that when the player finally gets to a Thief’s End, and sees the pain in Elena when she finds out he has lied to her for weeks about his travels, that you as the player are suppose to feel the same shock Nathan feels. These first three games are what build all that up, because in the first three games, its much more than just gameplay, its emotional as well. The opening chapter in this game is a prime example of some of Drake’s insane circumstances, A Rock and a Hard Place. The game opens up with a lot of back and forth to give the player background on how he ended up train wrecked, but that opening scene where your hanging onto a train over the edge of a mountain and having to climb your way up was absolutely great. I loved how Naughty Dog just throws the player into the action right away, to get the player thinking, “oh my God, here we go, another crazy Drake moment.” These kind of circumstances I believe help the player and the character become one, in the sense that your both going through it together. Naughty Dog did a fantastic job in the character development in these games.
Enter Chloe Frazer, more than just a character that Naughty Dog added to the story of an Uncharted game, but a new addition to the team. In my opinion I really enjoyed Chloe’s addition to the team, her character is perfectly matched with the others, and her role is somewhat similar to Sully’s role. Chloe and Sully both know and were involved with sketchy people, even criminals. Chloe and Sully both know Nathan Drake enough to help guide him in his adventures and even tell him when things seem strange. Chloe and Sully both know when to tell Nathan that a certain artifact or treasure isn’t worth pursing at the cost of their own lives. For most players I feel that Chloe had to grow on people, I liked her from the start, but my friend Joann didn’t, in fact my friend Joann was sad that Chloe was the main character in the Lost Legacy and there was no more Drake. Once I played the Lost Legacy and learned more about Chloe Frazer, her history with her father, and her childhood, I liked her even more. In some ways her and Drake are very similar with their pasts, both their parents were history buffs and treasure hunters. Both their parents neglected their families for their adventures. With Nate it was his mother, with Chloe it was her father, and these issues show up in their characters. Why was Chloe such a flirt? Why was she in a pickle with Harry Flynn and Nathan Drake? Because she didn’t have her father around. Same with why Nathan struggled with his relationship with Chloe and Elena, he didn’t have his mother around. Chloe even makes an appearance in Drakes Deception and becomes the main character in the Lost Legacy. I will also be mentioning Nadine Ross later as well, as Naughty Dog brings Nadine into the Lost Legacy to partner up with Chloe. Among Thieve’s marks the beginning of Chloe Frazer and the beginning of her development as a key partner to Nate and his friends.
In Among Thieve’s Chloe plays two roles, helping Nathan Drake get closer to the discovery of the Tree of Life, and also working with Harry Flynn and Zoran Lazaravic because of her professional relationship to Fynn. The Player can see that at certain moments in this game Chloe had to play the bad guy to keep her role up as a criminal, but behind the scenes probably told Flynn to leave Drake alone. She was a self seeker for sure and at times hard to believe, like when Nathan was stuck in that prison for three months and she tells him she had nothing to do with Flynn’s betrayal. Chloe also was one of those characters that would string Nate along and then just shut the door in his face. For example when she was taken by Flynn to the train and Nate decides to go after her and he finds her after taking out a quarter of Lazaravic’s army, she says, “I never asked for any of this.” What!? But she was right she didn’t, but Nathan was too blinded by his own passions that he couldn’t see through her, nor could he see what was right in front of him, Elena. Overall I really liked Chloe Frazer, the choice of Claudia Black for the voice of Chloe to me was perfect and I absolutely loved her Australian accent.
Another character worth mentioning in this game, that not only I really enjoyed but probably most players of Uncharted enjoyed was Nathan Drakes rescuer, Tenzin. Such a great scene in the game, Nathan is bleeding out from a gun wound, exhausted to the point of death, and as Drake hits the snow and looks up, there is Tenzin walking toward him. The scene reminds me of Luke Skywalker in the Empire Strikes Back when he is caught in that blizzard on Endor exhausted just as much as Drake was and behold, Obi-Wan Kenobi appears to help him (well it was actually Han Solo later, but you get my point). Through Tenzin the player gets something that I believe most players in games sometimes don’t get, and that is culture. You get to see the beauty and innocence that is found in some of Tibetan people, their simple way of life, and peacefulness. Tenzin brings Drake back to health, and the two of them become close friends and even go on an adventure of their own in the mountains. What really makes their relationship great though, is the language barrier. Tenzin trying to explain certain things to Nate and Nate responding with his ever so clever responses. Like when Tenzin is explaining to Drake that there is a monster around, that there is a “terror” around by using facial expressions and hand motions Nathan says, “I’m not really good with charades pal.” On top of that how Naughty Dog, despite the characters language barriers made them work together perfectly. Even though Tenzin does not become a permanent member of the team and we never hear from him again, Tenzin will always be in the memory of all players of Uncharted. Fast forward real quick to a Theif’s End when Drake is in his attic remembering all his travels, you get to pick up a picture of Drake and Tenzin, then Drake says, “I really miss you pal.” That little nugget of remembrance tells us how close they got even though in this game their relationship was brief.
Zoran Lazaravic is my favorite villain out of all the Uncharted’s. For Zoran it wasn’t about money, and it wasn’t just about the Tree of Life. It was political, he wanted the power necessary to dominate the world. And he would get it at all costs, even killing two of his own men in cold blood, and killing the reporter Jeff in cold blood right in front of Drake and Elena. One soldier in Borneo tried to steal a little artifact from the dig site, and Zoran saw it as betrayal, he stab him in cold blood, and didn’t give the guy a chance to explain. In another instance, Drake had a gun to one of the soldiers heads, and instead of negotiating with Drake, Zoran simply shot his own man in the heading, stating that the problem with other dictators in history is that they didn’t have what it takes to get the job done. In the end after Harry Flynn endure Lazaravic, Lazaravic betrayed him, beat him, shot him, and left him behind to try and kill Drake, Elena and Chloe with a grenade, blowing himself up in the process. Whats really sick about Zoran is he considered himself better than Stalin and Hitler, and said they weren’t good enough and didn’t have the will to fulfill their visions. Now that's scary, and even sick. Zoran was a villain that could not be negotiated with, the only way to defeat him is deception, pretending to help him in the hopes that your chance may come when you could kill him, but his intimidation and manipulation kept both Harry Flynn and Chloe from doing that. Have you ever asked yourself why Naughty Dog made his character Russian? Two Russians in 1924-1928 embarked on a journey to find Shambhala, their names were Gleb Bokii (cryptographer and chief of the Soviet secret police) and his writer and friend Alexander Barchenko. Their mission to merge Buddist Kalachakra teachings and Communism in order to try and create perfect communist beings. Sound weird? Well, maybe this is what Lazaravic’s mission based on. It is also interesting to note that the villains in the Uncharted series always needed Nathan Drake, whether they knew it or not, or whether they wanted to admit it or not. Nadine Ross points this out to Rafe, by telling him that he knows he needs Drakes help. Zoran even asks Flynn and Drake to solve a puzzle in order to open the doors leading to Shambhala. Its as if these villains really aren’t all that smart, they seem to always be on the wrong track, and they can never solve puzzles or read clues correctly. They even at times totally misinterpret quotes from past explorers that leave them totally delusional.
I feel that Naughty Dog maybe gives us a clue in this game of something they planned on adding to Nathan Drake that we get to use in a Thief’s End, its the use of the rope. If you remember the chapter Breaking and Entering where Nate and Flynn are breaking into the museum, Harry Flynn uses a grappling rope so they could climb in certain areas. If you remember the chapter Mountaineering, Tenzin uses one as well so they both could get across huge gap’s in the mountain. Why do I mention these two events, when all throughout the first three games Nate in some way use a rope? Because in these two instances, you see the mechanic of spinning the rope, and then throwing it so it could grab onto something. I believe that Naughty Dog in some way gives players things to hope for and look forward too in future games. This is just my speculation.
A few of my favorite chapters in this game were Urban Warfare, Desperate Times, Locomotion, and Cat and Mouse. In Urban Warfare and Desperate Times I thought it was very creative of Naughty Dog to place Drake in a city that is in a civil war. The layout of these chapters was awesome, and the idea that you had to climb through blown up buildings and houses to get to your destination gave the impression that there is no easy way to do this. Watching Drakes body mechanics in these levels, as he climb poles, walls, street signs, street lights, and climbing to the top of a hotel was very refreshing to me. Naughty Dog went above and beyond from Drakes Fortune to Among Thieve’s, and they added so much, like when the helicopter blew up the building and your in the building as its collapsing. That affect in the game was just heart pounding, especially how they made Drakes body react to crumbling building, it was a struggle to control Drake and still have to shoot enemies. And on crushing and brutal difficulty, it was pretty hard to do, because of course the A.I. can shoot perfectly, but your reticle is moving all over the place.
Locomotion was just fantastic for its time. I could also add Tunnel Vision too because my focus here is the train. Very great affects, the movement of the train, the passing jungle, and the infamous battle with the helicopter (two actually), where Drake is holding onto the edge of the train, as a portion of the train is collapsing behind him and rolling in its destruction and then right as you think its going to land on Drake, you enter the tunnel and the tunnels entrance saves you. The physics of this chapter is not only very good but realistic. For example when the train is turning, and you try to shoot any enemy or throw a grenade, the centrifugal force affects the trajectory of your bullets or grenade. I have wasted a lot of grenades here because of that, and I love it. I would be behind cover and throw a grenade at a heavy to weaken his armor, but then the train turns and the grenade goes flying away off course into the jungle. Even when I would stealth kill guys and their bodies are laying on the train, as soon as the train would turn their bodies would slide off the train. This is just really amazing smooth programming, because players love realism, and how many of us use to play old games and think to ourselves, “Well in this situation in real life that wouldn’t happen, this would happen.” The realistic programming is this game brings the player to an all new struggle and challenge, games now days have us fighting physics.
Cat and Mouse was a high paced, non stop, on the move chapter. Adding a Tank to Drakes already troublesome situations, makes the player sit back and think exactly what Drake says in the game, “Are you serious? A Tank!” Evading a Tank, while at the same time shooting guys, and trying to get behind cover was pretty intense. Naughty Dog though gave you more of a chance here, and they made the tank seem a lot more intimidating that is really was. Lazaravic’s soldiers do more damage to you than the tank does, even on Brutal difficulty, the soldiers can kill you in 2 bullets, but you can take tons of damage by the tank. I’m glad they did this, it keeps the game challenging but not impossible, it was a perfect mix. The music combined with the tank chasing you and blowing up your cover, makes the player keep moving, and it keeps the pace going. Actually defeating the tank, is easier than defeating the soldiers, its easy to shoot a rocket at a huge moving piece of metal, than it is trying to shoot that guy on the roof up in the corner of you screen. Adding helicopter battles, and tank battles in this game is such a huge jump from what we know as Drake’s Fortune, this is why I believe that from Drakes Fortune to Among Thieve’s there were huge changes.
The overall graphics in this game was pretty good. Something worth mentioning in this game, and all the Uncharted’s is the water and snow affects. Now I don’t know about many of you out there, but from what I have learned from both movie, and game programmers is that water is a very tricky effect, and could at times be the hardest part to program. That being said, Naughty did a great job with this effect, especially the snow, I really liked the snow effect. The times when Drake is walking in the snow and you see his footprints in the snow, or watching how snow slowly accumulates on his clothes, then when you roll in some water is washes off, the artists and programmers perfected this in later Uncharted games as well. I used to love getting Drake to climb up a tall cliff, and just staring out at the ocean in these games, I really felt like I was looking at the ocean and enjoying the peace.
The enemy A.I. in this game was also improved,and obviously only gets better later. Even though they weren’t super intelligent they were able to notice when one of their comrades went missing; which added some intensity to the game. They were also programmed in such a way that some areas and chapters you could not stealth kill all the enemies. The Monastery is a good example of this, there are a couple of areas in this chapter that make you think you can stealth the whole area but you can’t. The first area is the opening of the chapter, when Drake and Elena make their way up the steps to the first battle. I have played this multiple times, and watched others try and stealth it but after stealth killing the first five guys, you get noticed. The second area is when Drake and Elena get to that locked door and you have to climb up and over to the other side so Drake could open the door. I have also tried to stealth this section too, and I would be able to get the first 3-4 guys but I would always get noticed. This isn’t a complaint, its just to show you how as time went on, the Naughty Dog programmers eventually give the player a choice in whether you wanted to stealth a section or use guns. On the subject of A.I., I have to mention the friendly A.I. because most players struggled with the A.I. of Elena, Sully and Chloe at times. This issue shows up most in battles when your trying to get behind cover to use the cover to your advantage, or just trying to shoot the enemy, and for some reason the friendly A.I. is always in the way. They seem to always be running around in front of you or robbing you of the cover you need because they are hogging it. I remember times when I was trying to swap cover and Elena, or Chloe wouldn’t move out of the way. Also there were times when I would be trying to aim down a corridor to shoot an enemy and one of them would run in front of my cross-hair and the gun wouldn’t shoot. These were just some of the A.I. issues that I have had, but once again Naughty Dog really improved this. For example between Uncharted 3 and Uncharted 4, the Last of Us came out, (another fabulous game I will be writing about), in the Last of Us they improved the friendly A.I. and it carried over to a Thief’s End and the Lost Legacy. In the Last of Us if you haven’t noticed this then play it again, but Ellie never gets in your way, in fact she helps you a lot. There were times when a guy would grab me from behind and Ellie would come and stab him to get him off me. Ellie was programmed in such a way that she knew what to do, and what not to do. She knew when to help you and when to just let you play the game. This is a perfect example at how Naughty Dog would look back on certain things, listen to and read peoples criticisms then drop a new game with the issues fixed.
There were also just some minor platforming issues in this game. Locomotion was one of those chapters where Drake would automatically do something I didn’t want him to do. When I would take cover behind a crate with Drakes back up against it and try to move around the crate or roll out of cover, for some reason he would roll of the train and grab the edge. I would be sitting there frustrated like “Stop that Drake!” Often times blowing my cover or stealth approach all because he didn’t do what I was wanting him to do. Often at times I ended up in gun fights because Drake grab something or did something I didn’t want him to do. I know that nothing will ever be perfect, but I found that in the first three Uncharted’s this was a number one issue, but in a Thief’s End and the Lost Legacy the majority of these issues were fixed. Especially in the new Uncharted’s, swapping cover and rolling out of cover became very smooth for the player.
The Uncharted’s have been known at times to have really long chapters in them. The Monastery is a chapter that is very long. This is both a complaint and a complement. A complaint because your playing it thinking “When is this going to end already”, and a complement because as the player you really get to enjoy the scenery and all the gun fights if you thrive off non stop action. Also there were sections of this game where I was like “Why not just combine the two chapters and make it one chapter?” For me, Locomotion and Tunnel Vision could be one chapter, they make Tunnel Vision a chapter because you enter a tunnel? Then you get to the Monastery and its one chapter, and a very long chapter. Some chapter titles makes sense, but at times I’m sure the player is thinking just as much as I am that “Did they just make up this chapter because they couldn’t think of anything else?” Just combine them. I know that they have the game spaced out a certain way and divided a certain way, but this is just my take on it. Even in a Thieves End by the time the player gets to For Better or For Worse you start to feel like the game is getting long and your only halfway through it. Since its the last time we will probably see Drake Naughty Dog didn’t want to end it too quickly. This is also somewhat of a love/hate relationship with the Uncharted’s.
I really enjoyed the weapons in this game, it is probably my favorite Uncharted game to play weapon wise. They start you off with a great 9mm, the Ak47 is somewhat sporadic but it gets the job done, but give me that SAS Shotgun with the 9mm or Desert Eagle and Im all in. I loved that SAS Shotgun in this game and it did tremendous damage no matter who the enemy was. Turret guns in the Uncharted’s I think are deceptive in these games. You see a mounted machine gun on a truck with a metal shield connected to it, you run to it so you can use it and the moment you start firing not only do they give you a limited amount of bullets (when the computer has infinite ammo), but it seems that you take more damage behind it than you would elsewhere. I have died many times behind one of these guns thinking that they can’t touch me when in like five seconds I’m on gray screen close to death. In Drakes Fortune there is a section in the Fortress chapter, where you can man the turret gun in the corridor and fire down at the enemies, but on Brutal difficulty the enemies can still kill you in 2 bullets. In Among Thieve’s there are a couple instances where turret guns deceive you, the section in the Monastery where you have to mow down all those heavies, and in Desperate Times on the truck. Maybe Im just not that good like I have said before, but on Crushing I always get so close to death. The Crossbow was a cool addition to the game, but not my favorite for a special weapon choice. Even though it was a one shot kill on most enemies you just couldn’t pick up enough ammo for it, and there wasn’t a lot of it to pick up during a fight. The times I used it was at the Monastery when I would get to the first section, I would shoot the first six guys without getting any attention, and then I would proceed to the inevitable fight. Also toward the end of the game when you have to fight those big guardian creatures, you were somewhat forced to use it because it was a 1-2 shot kill.
Of course what would my blogs be without mentioning grenades. I don’t have too much of an issue with them in this game. To me grenades are great to have to weaken a heavy or if you happen to run into a bunch of guys all grouped together, one grenade does the trick and you’ll probably get a trophy. This was a plus in a Thief’s End because the A.I. was intelligent and sometimes by searching for you they would end up in a group together, throw in one or two grenades and it saves you a long taxing firefight. I will always have issues with the fact that you can’t see where you aiming it sometimes, but Naughty Dog really improved the power of them over time. In this game Drake can be behind cover and a grenade would land next to him and deal him no damage, which was great but kind of unrealistic. In a Thief’s End though you would get blown out of cover and in Drake’s shell shock moment the enemy would shoot you and that was it. This was a great improvement, but an annoying one. I feel like most gamers and players just don’t know what they want, like we want a game as close to real as possible but when it gets realistic, we hate it and thinks its unfair. A Thief’s End brutalized me in this and it wasn’t just hand grenades my friends, it was also the grenade launchers too, especially in No Escape (Uhhh), I would always get blown out of cover and die. Naughty Dog also improved the fact that even the A.I. would get stunned as well, which was fair and allowed the player time to either get in cover, or shoot them while they recover from you grenade. In Among Thieve’s at least if you were in cover the cover would protect you, but eventually the programmers made it to where even your cover wouldn’t last long. If you were hiding behind a box or wooden crate it would slowly dissipate from the bullets and you would have to move, I really enjoyed that in these games because it forces the player to move, to think quickly what to do next and keeps the pace going at the speed it was designed for.
The Boss fight in this game was the hardest boss for me in all the Uncharted’s. I would be playing through the game enjoying it but in the back of my mind I was always dreading the Tree of Life chapter. For awhile I could not beat this game on crushing, I would be running around in circles trying to gain some distance between me and Lazaravic so I could turn around and shoot the tree sap. I hate boss fights where you have to shoot something else in the environment in order to weaken them. Instead of the whole tree sap ordeal I would rather have just gone one on one with him evading his attacks. Then Lazaravic gets so angry, that the guy can throw six grenades at you in one throw, plus shooting you with his sawed-off shotgun. On Crushing and Brutal difficulty if he hits you with his shot gun that puts you close to death, then if one of his stray grenades hits you as well your dead. I did eventually beat it on Crushing, it took me 6-7 tries, but eventually I muscled my way through it. This fight is programmed in such a way that they want you to think that Lazaravic is harder than he seems, and they want you to think that you have to run away from him running around in circles trying to shoot the tree sap. I would always do this chapter the hard way, because I was afraid of Lazaravic, when really the key to his defeat is being aggressive. The player is more in control than the game makes it seem because you can go anywhere around the tree and lure him close to the sap, you don’t have to keep running in circles waiting for the right time. On normal and hard difficulty running around in circles works, but on Crushing and Brutal difficulty you need the fight to end or Lazaravic will end it for you. (LOL). On these harder difficulties you really don’t have time to think and strategize in the moment you got to know what to do before you enter a fight and do it. If you go to youtube and look up Mike Bettencourt’s and Seraphim17’s walkthroughs you will see what I mean by not being afraid of him and being aggressive. There is a trick though to beating him on Brutal, it was probably a mistake in the programming, but there is an area in the game where you could stand next to Lazaravic the whole time. You just let him keep grabbing you and throwing you, and as your doing this you wait for the tree sap to revive right next to him and shoot it every time. I haven’t actually tried this, but I was watching Seraphim17 do it on his walkthrough and it was pretty funny to watch. In fact after watching Seraphim17 do this it makes me want to go and try to play it on Brutal.
That's going to be it for this blog on Among Thieves. I hope you all are enjoying reading these as much a I am writing them. There is always so much to write about in this amazing series. As always, thank you to all those who are viewing these blogs and taking time to read them, and anything else on Indie Game Lover. Thank you to Indie Game Lover for letting me write these blogs on the Uncharted series. I look forward to writing more on the Uncharted games, up next will be Drakes Deception as we all continue our journey through this series. Happy 10th year anniversary to Uncharted and its awesome programmers at Naughty Dog.