I thought I’d review the storyline of a game that I have played all the way through multiple times. Keep in mind that this review will be focusing on elements of storytelling such as character development and plot structure, rather than gameplay elements or gamer hints. Today I’ll be talking about Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune, an action shooter and the first game in the Uncharted series from developer Naughty Dog Studios.
Nathan Drake, a treasure hunter and lovable scoundrel, is following in the footsteps of his ancestor, Sir Francis Drake, to try to find the legendary El Dorado. He follows the trail to a former Spanish colony on an island in the southern Atlantic only to find it swarming with modern-day pirates and a centuries-old curse that could threaten the entire world if he can’t stop it.
The Uncharted series has always been ambitious in its storytelling. The developers have said that their inspiration came from the pulp adventure movies of the early 20th century, the same type of movies that inspired the Indiana Jones character and series. What’s different about Nathan Drake is that he is cast as a sort of exceptional everyman, a likable guy who does amazing things but never loses his relatability. Drake is funny without being snarky, heroic without being an action figure. As I played Nathan Drake, I found myself drawn to his crooked smile and emotional honesty in a way that almost never happens for me in video games.
The rest of the cast is equally well developed. Drake’s friend and mentor, Sully, feels more like your fun uncle than the stereotypical wise old advisor. The story’s love interest, Elena, also feels realistic, with equal parts plucky courage and empathetic vulnerability. Even the villains, who don’t get very much screen time, are interesting and fun in a James Bond Villain kind of way, alternating between witty banter and cat-and-mouse sadism.
The development of the plot is a fine balance of gameplay elements that alternate the player between third-person shooting, platforming, puzzles, and cut-scenes. All of these elements play a role in developing the story, and the game never feels like it’s filling up time or padding the experience. Of course, as in nearly all games, the player is required to have a greater suspension of disbelief than would be required for a novel or most movies, but fans of this type of game should expect and appreciate the epic firefights and elaborate puzzles as a part of the overall experience.
It should be noted that this game’s story is very linear, with no player control over the plot or character decisions. The style can best be described as an interactive thematic experience, with the player taking over for anything involving action or problem solving, and leaving the sequence of events to the developers. While this may be a turnoff to gamers who prefer a branching storyline with multiple endings, I preferred the single, well-crafted plot with its balanced pacing, character development, and foreshadowing.
Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune is a game that pulls the gamer in with a well-crafted Conflict/Resolution Pattern and engaging characters as opposed to reality-blurring gamer input. I would recommend this game to anyone who has ever watched a summer blockbuster and wanted to play along with the movie, rather than change it to suit their own style. For me, as a lover of great stories that are well-told, this game is one of my all-time favorites.