Jamstew Reviews – Uncharted: The Golden Abyss on the PS Vita

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Anyone who knows me, knows about my deep love for Naughty Dog games. It is important to note that Uncharted: Golden Abyss is not a Naughty Dog game. Well, not as much as the Uncharted Trilogy is. Golden Abyss was developed by SCE Bend, overseen by Naughty Dog.

The game starts with our wise cracking treasure hunter doing just that. Some treasure hunting. This story takes place before Uncharted: Drakes Fortune and there is a new cast of characters in it. We first meet Jason Dante, a peer of Drakes who is working with Marisa Chase on a dig site, which will eventually reveal some secretes concerning The Sete Cidades, an ancient sect of Christianity with a purpose of finding the Seven Cities of Gold. The main villain of the game is General Guerro, who is looking to use the treasure to fund his bloody conflict with his government. His army acts as the bullet fodder to Drakes adventures.

I really, really wanted to like this game. I am supremely excited for Uncharted 4 and I’ve already got the Nathan Drake Collection of the first trilogy pre-ordered. In true fangirl fashion, I wanted to finish every game in the series. This game was 28% the reason I bought a Vita and it was also the first game I would play on the Vita. Unfortunately, I found this game to be disappointing.

It was hard for me not to hold this game up to it’s predecessors in terms of story quality. I was un-invested in the treasure hunting story line in that half the time I forgot what it was I was looking for. Seven Cities of Gold? Seven Fathers? Whatever. The only time I felt like I was working towards a goal was when I was out to save Chase.

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Which brings me to the characters in this game. Chase sounds like a great female character on paper.. She has the whole “I’m a big girl, I can handle myself” motif which I really appreciate. It’s trying to keep up with the female positive characterization Naughty Dog established with their games. However, the chemistry between Chase and Drake is strange and I felt it would have been better portrayed as a platonic friendship rather than a romantic interest. But always, Drake is a gentleman who treats his female partners like he would his male up until the credits are about to roll.

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Jason Dante, with his hokey accent and crude characterization is very one dimensional. There isn’t much to him other than the angry, Brooklyn stereotype attributed to him. General Guerro is equally as flat. I can’t count how many times he would say “Senor Drake” in a sarcastic tone. He fits a very specific stereotype of the Latino militant.

The AI dialogue is deplorable. They’d yell out things like “We’re going to kill you!” and “I’m going to get you!” like yeah, duh. The dialogue between characters is often awkward and doesn’t seem to match in tone. I wonder if they recorded the lines in the same room with the other person, which does make a difference. Not even the talented Nolan North (Drake’s voice actor) could save the poorly written dialogue. It serves as proof how mo-cap helps with dialogue deliverance. If the lines are being said by the character as he’s hiding behind a boulder after sprinting from another piece of cover, it sounds better if the actor is actually doing those motions while delivering the lines as opposed to a sound booth in a recording studio.

The shining moments in this game in terms of story were when Sully was in them, a loved character from the original trilogy. I don’t know if the dialogue was written better for their scenes or if it was just the established chemistry between the actors/characters. It truly felt like an Uncharted game when it was just the two of them. Team Sully and Drake 5ever.

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The gameplay was actually a lot of fun most times. I really enjoyed the charcoal rubbings and the photography element. The new treasure collecting feature was a nice update as well. At times, it was hard for me to control the camera movements and climbing became a bit difficult but these were issues that can be found in the first Uncharted game as well.

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I really enjoyed the shooting mechanics, it felt familiar. I didn’t like having to swipe the screen during combat, it felt like I was being taken out of it. However, I feel like the game was a very impressive feat for a handheld console in terms of gameplay and mechanics. But the point of the story is to masque the gameplay, to let the player become immersed. That is something I just didn’t get from this game.

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Uncharted:Golden Abyss was a fun game to play in your down time, despite the lacking story and the flat characters. It felt good to get back into that world, even if it felt somewhat stale. It is possible I’m being incredibly harsh by holding it up to the original trilogy’s standards, but at the end of the day, you get to spend more time with Nathan Drake and that itself has value.

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