Not a lot is known for definite about Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End beyond the fact that the historical premise is an (unknown) pirate’s treasure, and that Nathan Drake and Victor Sullivan are in it. So it is hardly surprising that people are looking to the title for clues. The Uncharted series has thus far done a good line in beguiling us with its titles of double meanings and ambiguity. Drake’s Fortune; Sir Francs Drake and a lot of treasure or Nathan Drake and luck? Among Thieves; honour or no honour? With them or without them? And Drake’s Deception; again two Drakes, and countless deceptions. Sir Francis Drake deceived even his Queen and patron in order to cover up the danger of Ubar, and Nathan Drake deceived us with… well… if you’ve played it you know it.
So it shouldn’t be too much of a leap to suppose that ‘A Thief’s End’ probably doesn’t mean what you think it means. Firstly, we do not know who the titular thief is, or even if it refers to one person or thing. If it were Nathan Drake, perhaps it would be ‘Drake’s End’? Of course the Drake/Thieves/Drake/Thief pattern of the subtitles would be lost, but just the fact that this is (mercifully) not a Kart Racing game nor is it exclusive to PS3 should tell you that Naughty Dog don’t set out to follow rules and pattens imposed upon them by people looking for them. But that it isn’t ‘Drake’s End’ suggests to me that at the very least Nathan is not the only thief in this narrative.
Would Naughty Dog call Nathan a thief, anyway? I suspect they might, to be honest. The implication in the first few chapters of Among Thieves is that this is a world that Nathan has been a part of, even if just as a man on its edge. And in Golden Abyss, the Vita title developed by Sony Bend, Nate laments the fact that he has begun to view everything as just a business, whereas his primary goal is to find Sir Francis Drake, and to become the person he eventually does in Drake’s Deception. During the first few scenes of Drake’s Deception we hear Nate name Talbot as a thief, and shortly afterwards we find why Talbot found that so ironic. While this is a ‘villain’ alluding to Nate’s thiefishness, it still tells me that Naughty Dog are not trying to hide what Nate really is. So all things considered, I believe it is very possible that Nathan is referred to directly in the title, but I find it highly unlikely that he is the only ‘thief’ here. It could be that the pirate whose treasure Nate is on the trail of is one of the thieves, if not *the* ‘thief’. After all, piracy did involve stealing.
And the word ‘End’. Does it mean a death? It might do. Does it mean Nate’s death? Probably not. The chances of Nate not making it through this game alive are slim to minimal, in my humble opinion. It wouldn’t really be in keeping with the tone of the games so far. Even with Neil Druckmann and Bruce Straley in charge, who following the release of precisely *one* emotionally charged and mature game have been pegged as the darkest men in the industry, the death of the central character seems just a step too far off course. Could it mean Sullivan, who after all is also in the same world of thievery? More likely, I believe. His increasing age and mounting near death experiences must be catching up with him. On the other hand, the issue of his death and what that would mean and do to Nathan was explored rather thoroughly in Drake’s Deception so I can’t help feeling it would be covering old ground.
Perhaps the word ‘end’ in the title doesn’t refer to a death at all. If the title already refers to the pirate (and if that pirate is indeed Henry Every whose name is in the initial trailer, and whose thievery was legendary even in the context of pirates) the ‘end’ could simply refer to the fact that no one knows what happened to him. The font of the subtitle looks like it was written with a quill, and the trailer animated it in such a fashion. Every pulled off the single largest pirating raid in recorded history and spent the next decade or so living on Madagascar trying to give the rest of his crew the slip. Whether he died there, en route to England, in England (having been diddled out of his fortune) or somewhere else entirely is a complete mystery. And has all the hallmarks of a great Uncharted story.