Uncharted: The Lost Legacy is like a Greatest Hits album: short on surprises but a blast from start to finish. Naughty Dog’s greatest challenge with this standalone story was proving that its adventuring universe can survive without its wise-cracking protagonist – and it’s passed the test with flying colours. For as much joy as Nathan Drake has given us over the years, we barely noticed his absence here, and that’s testament to how seamlessly familiar faces Chloe Frazer and Nadine Ross step into his shoes.

Originally intended as DLC for Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End, this spin-off feels familiar, but to call it an “expansion” would be doing it a disservice. Yes, the gameplay is built using the same blueprints as last year’s lengthy campaign, but the story and setting is brand new – and at around eight to ten hours in length, it’s a meaty slice of content.

Set in India, the title sees you in pursuit of the Tusk of Ganesha – an artefact that’s also attracted attention from the local warlord, Asav. As with previous entries, the release wraps its own fiction around real-world mythology, and the setting provides ample opportunity for the studio’s artists to go wild. Architecturally, this game features some of the most impressive monuments in the series thus far – and the outstanding visual fidelity is paired with a soundtrack that has a distinctly South Asian flavour.

While the moment-to-moment action will do little to surprise, the title does experiment with a few new ideas of its own. One early chapter whisks you away to the exotic Western Ghats, where armed with a map you’ll be free to explore a sizeable open world in a familiar 4x4. In a series first, this section has a fully-fledged side-quest, which really captures the treasure hunting feel the franchise has always flirted with.

This chapter may sound like a pace-sapping distraction – and it’s worth noting that it can largely be skipped if you don’t want to invest in it – but Naughty Dog keeps the story moving by packing the optional three hour distraction with character development. Nadine and Chloe stay in constant communication, and their discussions ebb and flow seamlessly around what you’re doing; engage in a spot of combat, and the pair will quit gabbing, only to pick up the thread of their conversation at a more convenient time.

In fact, you could argue that The Lost Legacy is better paced than its immediate predecessor. As a shorter story, there’s less padding than in Nate’s concluding campaign, and a more consistent mix of combat, climbing, and conundrums keep things moving more briskly. It’ll do little to change the mind of those who’ve already fallen out of love with the series’ unique brand of action, but for everyone else, it feels meticulously designed.

There are some new elements worthy of our word quota, though: Chloe’s been augmented with a lockpicking ability, meaning that you can open up supply crates scattered around the world for essential treasures and supplies. She also has a smartphone on her person at all times, and occasionally opportunities will arise allowing you to take a photo.

But this really does feel like a mega mix: it’s the absolute best of the brand spread across several stunning hours. The writing is sharp and self-aware, and while the stakes never seem quite as high as they did with Drake, this feels like the start of a new era for the series without its main man. The final chapter, paired with its sublime “stay for the credits” epilogue, are pure vintage Uncharted – and we’ll let you experience all of that for yourselves. We dare you not to smile.

Conclusion

If there was ever any doubt of the talent at Naughty Dog, consider that Uncharted: The Lost Legacy was built in less than a year. This sensational spin-off not only beds in two of the franchise’s more mysterious characters, but it also gloriously repurposes several of the series’ best moments. As a pseudo-Greatest Hits, the title will do little to tempt those who’ve had their fill of treasure hunting – but at a budget price (with multiplayer included) then this is essential for fans of PlayStation’s most iconic brand.