If you believe the stories, Nathan Drake’s discovered El Dorado, traveled to Shambhala and met ancient Djinn spirits. And now the last chapter’s on the way. But what do we really know about Nate’s next adventure? We’ve dug up a journal’s worth of info, and made some informed guesses, on what you’ll be doing in Uncharted 4 (opens in new tab).
1. Hunting Pirate gold (obviously)
The story begins when Drake’s long lost brother Sam shows up with a new piece of information to resurrect the trail for something Nate has tried, and failed, to track down before: legendary pirate Henry Avery’s stash of gold. Avery was a real pirate who sailed the Atlantic and Indian oceans around the mid-1690s, and earned himself the badge ‘The King of Pirates’ after being one of the few sea dogs to retire with his loot. What this means for Uncharted 4’s tale perfectly fits with all the hallmarks we’ve come to expect from Naughty Dog: a simple treasure hunting story with complex relationships.
2. Colouring your own story
One of the big reveals in the 2015 PSX demo was the addition of conversation trees. Effectively allowing players to steer the narrative, at least in a small way, creative director Neil Druckmann has confirmed that these won’t be widespread, and won’t affect the wider story - everyone will get the same ending - but they will give you a bit more attachment and ownership. Something else you will be able to do is look at a lot more stuff in the environment. Much like before, Drake will offer up quips and comments throughout the game, but this time if you see something of interest like a mural on a wall you’ll be able to walk over to it and the characters will talk about what you’re looking at. These might just be throwaway comments, but this additional dialogue will add more colour to the story, giving players a bigger picture of the world if they want it.
3. Saying goodbye (but to who?)
Naughty Dog has made it pretty clear this is the end of the series for them. Plus it seems like we’ll be saying goodbye to at least one character, as well as Uncharted itself. Why? Well first there’s the title ‘A Thief's End’. Now, yes, this could just refer to the end of the story but it’s equally as likely that it’s not-so subtly referring to the end of a thief. Who it’ll be isn’t clear, but with Neil Druckmann recently stating that Uncharted 4’s ending will make it “really hard to do a sequel with Nathan Drake”, it’s not looking good. Especially if you consider that back in 2003, co-president Evan Wells told OPM that “no single character, even the game's lead, was sacrosanct”.
4. Visiting amazing (and very different) places
Travelling is an essential requirement when it comes to hunting lost treasure, and Nate certainly isn't short of air miles. But where? Madagascar’s in the gameplay reveals so far, and a location for a multiplayer beta map. It’s also home to Libertatia, the supposed final location of Avery’s gold, so we can tick that off as confirmed. There’s also a ‘tropical Turtle Mountain,’ which features on a dynamic theme given away as part of the digital deluxe edition. After that we have to assume the story will loosely follow Avery’s travels. That includes New Providence in the Bahamas, while his crew supposedly disbanded to the British Isles, British West Indies and North American colonies like Delaware, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Massachusetts Bay. So there are plenty of locations to choose from.
5. Exploring Drake’s past
We know relatively little about Nate’s younger years. He grew up in an orphanage after his mother committed suicide and father surrendered him to the state. It’s also highly likely that Drake isn’t his real name. The series has played around with flashbacks before so it wouldn't be a surprise if Naughty Dog did it again. The digital deluxe edition of Uncharted 4 comes with a ‘bonus single-player story’ which isn't available at launch and will release as DLC. It’s unlikely that this ‘story’ will weave into the main game and, much like Naughty Dog’s other ‘story’ DLC offering, The Last Of Us’ Left Behind, will instead complement it. What will it entail? Well when Sam is explaining his return from prison, Nathan says, “I saw you get shot”, to which Sam responds with ‘Nathan, we killed a guard’. That’s a heavy bit of backstory prime for expanding.
6. Going on proper treasure hunts
Bigger environments mean more places to hide collectable treasure, and A Thief's End will allow players to hunt for more than just trinkets. Just like in previous games you'll be able to find treasure hidden away in the undergrowth, up a tree, or inside a cave. Only this time that treasure could lead you to more items and even new areas. Game Director Bruce Straley says that now “you’ll find notes that you can flip over and examine” and by following these “You might find clues that lead you somewhere else in the environment to find more treasures or artifacts in our treasure system."
7. Choosing your own path
Being able make choices isn’t something we’ve been able to do much in the Uncharted series, mainly due to the nature of the story and scripted action. That’s changing in Uncharted 4. As we saw in the E3 2015 demo, there are now multiple paths to the same destination. Some will have different obstacles and others might take you around a group of enemies or to a new piece of treasure. Adding to this explorative freedom are Drake's new piton, used to climb rock faces, and a grappling hook for swing around and abseiling. You’ll have plenty of creative ways to fall to your death on the way to exploring your own route.