Yesterday we found out what is behind those UNCHARTED; Fight for Fortune rumours. And it is a card game (which we pretty much knew anyway). But the ‘Uncharted’ bit wasn’t a typo, or a publicity stunt, but the game will be a kind of a spin-off/expansion from UNCHARTED; Golden Abyss. Ferreting led people to suppose that it was something to do with a glitch that had been reported by some while playing Golden Abyss. And it seems this is the case. As there is quite a lot of unsubstantiated claims on the internet about the game I contacted Sony Bend to ask for clarification on a few points. They obliged, so I will refer to their responses when relevant.
The trailer (which I will attempt to embed below) tells us that we will be customising our stack of cards, which we can use to defeat the hands of the opponents. Interestingly, collectibles found in Golden Abyss can be used to ‘power-up’ our hands; so I hope you were paying attention and exploring the heck out of Quivira when you had the opportunity. However, according to my inside man at Bend, the game is stand alone; so you *can* play it without having played Golden Abyss. Though I suspect that if you are a fan of UNCHARTED and own a Vita you probably have Golden Abyss, anyway. And if you don’t; you should.
The trailer also boasts an 8+ hour campaign, though I am informed that there isn’t a narrative as such; however “character cards are heavily influenced by their roles in other games.” So anyone who plays against me with Harry Flynn in their deck really had better watch out. The game has both single and multiplayer modes. As to how the game progresses etc; as yet I am not sure. But 8 hours sounds pretty impressive, especially given the fact that it will set you back the enormous(ly small) sum of $5. Wow.
Reaction to the reveal has been somewhat mixed; some seem pleased to be getting a new UNCHARTED game, albeit not UNCHARTED4, while others seem to be somewhere on a scale between underwhelmed and downright angry. So, this isn’t UNCHARTED4, but it isn’t getting in the way of any potential UNCHARTED4 reveal. It is a side project that (and I quote my inside man) “didn’t detract from other games.” It is developed by One Loop and Bend; so Naughty Dog are free to make another UNCHARTED game if they so wish. I have seen some comments along the lines of; “Naughty Dog are too busy with The Last of Us…” well, they *are* busy with The Last of Us, but remember that they have a much expanded studio now, a whole team is working on the post-apocalyptic adventure. When I spoke to Evan Wells and Christophe Balestra back in March they were still undecided about the future of the second team.
I asked Sony Bend what their involvement was in this latest title and was told that they “created the initial design, and One Loop handled most of the coding. There was one artist and a few designers and production people working on it from Bend.”
So why all the hate? The PS Vita (for which this game will of course be an exclusive) has had a fair amount of bad press lately, mostly centred around its lack of games and quality titles that the pre-release hype suggested we would be getting. Some of the negativity surrounding the reveal is partly down to this issue, I am sure. On the other hand comments like “we want games not cards” fail to notice that it *is* a game. That uses cards as a mechanic.
But is it UNCHARTED? Well, it is and it isn’t. But in order to answer that more usefully; you have to ask; what *is* UNCHARTED? It is a game franchise based on strong narrative and strong characters. There’s combat, puzzling and platforming. With some history and treasure. From what I can gather from the video, the only thing that is likely to be missing is the platforming, and the narrative. As such it is hard to develop character and storylines in any meaningful way, and this was not the aim. But I argue that this makes it no less ‘UNCHARTED’ than many of the multiplayer modes that come as part of UNCHARTEDs 2&3. Deathmatch (especially the Free-for-all) hardly sits within the narrative or ethos of UNCHARTED at all.
The worry is that the brand is being diluted, and that UNCHARTED will die a hideous death at the hands of money grabbing developers. No one wants to see that, but ultimately the franchise will eventually move on and *cough* die, and I’d rather it is with expansions such as these that keep the essence of UNCHARTED; (fortune and treasure) than by endlessly shoving Nathan Drake into games like PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale*, which strikes me as the game character’s equivalent of Celebrity Big Brother of Celebrity Fit Club. Or worse still a Lifetime Achievement award. (See Patti Smith’s Q Lifetime Achievement Award acceptance speech in which she said it made her feel like she was being put out to pasture. She used stronger words than that.)
So, while this isn’t UNCHARTED4, it doesn’t get in the way of UNCHARTED4, and to my mind looks a heck of a lot more impressive than other options for the future of the series. (Please GOD no Unkarted!) And I am painfully protective of Nathan and his brand. If anything I would have expected to be the one vomiting. As it is; I’m looking forward to it.
*I’m not hating on All Stars per se (I have yet to play it) but such games do feel like the place that characters go to die; we love them, but there is no other way forward for them. That said I’ll be playing All Stars as soon as possible and will report back.