Last Saturday was host to Sony’s second annual PlayStation Experience event in San Francisco, where among other announcements, fans were treated to a new Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End trailer. But to the surprise of many, this was no typical showcase of the game, with the revelation that Drake’s newest and possibly last foray on the PS4 will actually have cutscene dialogue options. But is this the right move for Uncharted?
The prior mentioned trailer featured of course our hero Nathan Drake, as he welcomes new character to the series, Sam, a previously unheard of brother, back into his life. As they discuss lost time, we’re shown a screen prompt for players to choose to reminisce on the events of either of the previous three Uncharted games. After the choice, the conversation steers back towards the discussion of Elena, seemingly a point where each dialogue option would lead. Its inclusion in the trailer might hint that it would be a relatively trivial feature in the grand scheme of the narrative, but we can’t be sure yet.
Though insignificant, my immediate reaction towards this feature was apprehensive. Uncharted is well known for its charming dialogue and incredible voice acting and performance, so at first blush when seeing three separate options to choose from I couldn’t help but worry, “But I want to see all of them!” I would never want to miss out on any comedic or memorable moments simply because I picked a lesser choice. Could I possibly experience Uncharted 4 and accidentally miss an incredible conversation like the infamous “hooker in church” discussion from Uncharted 2 simply because I chose a more forgettable option? I can already see the video on YouTube now compiling every different option, which I know I’ll track down immediately on completion of the game.
But if these options are truly as trivial as they first appear, why include them at all? It certainly might add to the replayability and player involvement in the flow of the narrative. But with so many mainstream games now heavily featuring dialogue options, from Witcher 3: Wild Hunt to Life is Strange, I can’t help but wonder if it’s always a necessary inclusion in story-heavy games. Naughty Dog’s writing has already proven to be so strong that I undoubtedly trust it at this point and would prefer to take the narrative journey that they’ve finely tuned themselves, rather than have to shape my own path in the story, however minute it may be.
Though what if these choices are more noteworthy than they first appear? Could we actually be able to alter the narrative in major ways? There was some discussion on the very end of Naughty Dog’s previous game, The Last of Us, on whether players should have been given a choice on the final outcome. Could the developers have taken this possibility to heart and implemented it in Uncharted, allowing for branching storylines, or multiple endings? Could this muddle the potential for a singular well-crafted linear narrative, or just leave us with even more of that beloved Uncharted story goodness to choose from?
Alternate endings like this however, I am all for.
Ultimately it’s all just speculation, and we’ll have to wait to find out the answers to all of these questions for a bit longer as the game is slated for release March 18, 2016. I’m hopeful that in the end I’ll be able to look back on this article and laugh at my reservations about this new feature. Naughty Dog hasn’t let us down yet, and despite the raised eyebrow I still can’t wait to see what they have in store for us soon with Uncharted 4.