Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune

Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune
Developer: Naughty Dog
Available on
: Playstation 4
Price: $19.99

Last year I played Uncharted: Lost Legacy, my first Uncharted game. I enjoyed it so much I wanted to try the previous games. PlayStation Plus offers two free games each month, and January’s was Uncharted: The Nathan Drake Collection. Packed in this collection are three out of the five games in the series, allowing me to finally try them.


Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune is a fine entrance into the series, introducing us to Nathan “Nate” Drake, the self-proclaimed descendant of 16th century English pirate/slave trader/colonialist, Sir Francis Drake. Nate is a treasure hunter as well and has just discovered his ancestor’s coffin, leading him on a chase to find El Dorado. Accompanying him are Elena Fisher, a journalist filming the whole journey for her TV show, and Victor “Sully” Sullivan, a longtime friend and mentor of Nate’s.


With great voice acting, funny dialogue, and good AI, Sully and Elena feel like actual companions on your journey, not animate objects. They can help you, whether it’s lifting each other to reach high spots, joining you in combat (much appreciated when you’re as bad at shooting as I am), or even providing a lighter to move the story along. There are nice touches for added realism with Nate, like how he’ll mutter to himself when he has to jump onto the umpteenth ledge or needs to mentally prepare himself for a wild stunt.

Sully and Nate have their backs turned toward the camera as they look at a large, rusted U-Boat in the jungle. It’s on the edge of a waterfall.

The game is clearly inspired by Indiana Jones. That sequence where the bridge starts breaking and we get a view from the front as we watch it fall apart behind him was straight out of a movie. Complementing these sequences is a dynamic, soaring score that fits the game perfectly. The sound design is well done too, such as when a grenade goes off near Nate, everything sounds muffled.

The remastered graphics were great, especially for a game from 2007. You spend most of your time in the jungle and a bit inside ancient caverns and industrial areas. The jungle locations do become a bit repetitive by the end of the game, but overall there is a nice ambience to it.

Nate’s animations were surprisingly fluid for an older game, with him jumping and gripping onto ledges in different ways, wincing and stumbling when he’s grazed by a bullet, and landing from great heights in a more realistic manner than even some modern games. I later realized the characters felt so realistic because they are motion-captured by their voice actors throughout the series from cutscenes to action scenes.

Nate runs toward the camera holding a gun. He’s in the ruins of a jungle with several people shooting at him.

The gameplay largely consists of platforming and shooting. You’ll spend your time jumping around and climbing walls or hiding behind cover and shooting at people. There’s a discrepancy in the feel of the game between these two forms of gameplay; relaxed and unthreatened platforming versus neverending firefights that kill you repeatedly. Sometimes these fights were too relentless. I would get through one section and then there’d be another, and another, and another. If I died, to add to my frustration, it would restart me from the very beginning. It should at least save a checkpoint after each wave.

Drake’s Fortune was released in 2007, so I understand some of my complaints are likely unfair but I must make them. The controls can be quite clunky at times. I wish they had done some overcorrecting with the platforming as sometimes Nate would miss a jump I intended to make dozens of times in a row.
 On the other hand, he is an unbelievable athlete, jumping to heights no mere mortal could. It may seem unrealistic, but it makes sense in the context of an action-adventure and keeps the game moving without having to get stuck as often as you could in other games.

The jet ski section was a nightmare. Either let me drive the jet ski or shoot the gun, but do not make me do both. I died in that section so many times because I don’t have four hands to be doing so many maneuvers at once. I much preferred it when Elena was driving the jeep and Nate was covering them. I didn’t have to worry about hitting anything while driving and could instead focus on doing what I do best: murder.


Nate drives a jet ski while Elena stands behind him brandishing a firearm. They are surrounded by ruined buildings and palm trees with explosions of fire in the water.

Enemies will attack you in a few ways: shooting, grenades, and melee combat. You have to stay behind cover and usually avoid getting close (unless there’s only one enemy left) because Nate can only take so much damage. You can’t stay in the same place for too long either because enemies will eventually come closer and start flanking you. If your cover is fragile, they can even break past it.

Something unique to Drake’s Fortune that many games could take their cues from is its hint system. Often, characters will guide you to the next step through natural conversation, just in case you’re unsure of what to do next. If you still haven’t solved the puzzle after some time, you’ll be offered a hint instead of being forced to receive one. If you so choose, the camera pans in the direction of whatever you need to interact with or where you need to go and a quick sentence tells you what you need to do.
 I never found the game frustrating in terms of puzzles because if I did get stuck (which wasn’t often), it would help me along. As someone who mainly plays adventure games, I am all too familiar with impossibly difficult puzzles.


In the third act, the story shifts into something completely unexpected and not something I enjoyed. For the first two acts, the story had been fairly grounded in realism, but suddenly there was a curse on the island that was turning people into some sort of zombie creatures. Up until then, I had been thinking it was nice to play a shooting game with no horror elements since that’s usually the kind of game I get roped into playing, but that wasn’t the case after all.

Nate runs along a wall of a decrepit monastery. There are large candelabras on the floor and a chandelier hangs nearby.


The most infuriating sequence for me, to the point that I even had to lower the difficulty, was when Nate and Elena had to outrun these creatures. No matter how many variations I tried of shooting, rolling, and running, I could not get it. The time I did get it was a miracle and through sheer luck. I was just glad the majority of the game wasn’t spent dealing with these creatures.

Something that isn’t atypical to any media is the inclusion of a female character solely to be a romantic interest for the male protagonist. While Nate and Elena never kiss (thankfully), there are classic moments like falling and landing on top of each other and it is implied at the end that something romantic is about to happen between the two. There was also the archetypal older cigar-smoking mentor, Sully, who had some classic old-school misogynist lines but was still supposed to be likeable. These archetypes are common for a reason and they don’t feel out of place with Indiana Jones’s descendent, but they’re still disappointing to experience all the same.

Overall the game is compelling but the weakest of the series. While I’m glad I experienced it once, I wouldn’t play it again. I’ve told others unless you really love shooters or want the basis of the story and its characters for the rest of the series, you can skip it. The later games in the series are so much better than what I thought could be possible after Drake’s Fortune. Still, it was good enough to keep me entertained for its ~8-9 hour runtime.

Nate and Sully face forward, guns ready, looking at the treasure of El Dorado, a large golden figure with a face, and a man standing in front of it. There are lots of skulls and miscellaneous artifacts around the room on the floor and hanging.

Top Games of the 2010s

My favorite games of the 2010s ordered by release date. For some of these, you can click the title to read the full review.

  • Mass Effect trilogy (2007, 2010, 2012)
Commander Shepard is standing holding her hand over her stomach, her arms and face covered in blood, bruises, and scratches. She has a close-shaved head and is looking at a holographic human. Behind her is space.

Getting to play as Commander Shepard is quite the experience. You grow attached to her after three games, the choices she’s made, the relationships she’s formed, and the ways she’s altered the galaxy’s fate. Jennifer Hale did an incredible job voicing her, giving one of the best performances I’ve ever heard. Traversing space has never been as fun to me as in this universe. Despite being a shooter (a gameplay mechanic I generally dislike), the companions are what Bioware does best, and in the second installment is when they truly shine. Everyone has such different personalities, you get to choose whether to help each and every one of them on their personal journeys, and by the end, you really feel you’ve earned their presence or lack of it. Mass Effect really lives up to being a roleplaying game from its morality choices to how you treat the world and those who inhabit it.

  • Dragon Age series (2009, 2011, 2014)
A mage, archer, and two warriors are all fighting a large dragon that encompasses most of the screen. They’re in a forest.

These are the first Bioware games I played because my friends talked a lot about their love of the Dragon Age and Mass Effect, and I figured I’d like them. What I didn’t expect was to enjoy them to the extent that I did. I got the ultimate edition of Dragon Age: Origins for $5, and in one playthrough (including DLC) I spent a little over 100 hours. Well worth it. I got so immersed in the world, the characters, and the story, I got through all of the games over the course of several months. It’s the first series I’ve played where you can have such intimate relationships with characters and choose whether you’re friend or foe. I’m used to games letting you get close with characters, but the relationship is predefined. This may be the most exciting possibility for all games that the series introduced to me.

The world of fantasy is not one I often play, I’ve never much enjoyed period dramas or medieval worlds, but Dragon Age enraptured me. I love the character customization, you can play as a mage (or warrior or rogue) elf (or human or dwarf or qunari), and these choices will affect your origin story, how others treat you, and possible outcomes. There is an unbelievable amount of intricacy in all the details of the world, and no two playthroughs will be the same because you can make so many different decisions.

  • The Walking Dead: Season 1 (2012)
Lee is holding an axe and has one arm on Clementine. He’s angry and she’s cowering, while they’re surrounded by zombies.

This was the first Telltale game I played, upon a friend’s recommendation insisting it was incredible, and I would love it. I have no interest in the comics or TV show, so it was a hard sell, but ultimately I gave in. I had never seen a narrative game like this before, nor a Black protagonist with such nuance (and voiced spectacularly by Dave Fennoy). While the game begins with him on his way to prison, throughout the story we see what an empathetic and caring man he is. His past does come back to haunt him, but we don’t see him solely as the violent act he committed, and this is why he’s one of my favorite characters in any media. How rare is it to see a Black men in a leading role portrayed with realism, flaws, and such kindness? Plus, when the zombie apocalypse happens, we see how dark white people that seem to be sweet as pie can be.

  • Dishonored series (2012, 2016, 2017)
The three covers from Dishonored, Dishonored 2, and Dishonored: Death of the Outsider. The first shows Corvo Attano in his classic skull-like mask, black hooded cloak and pants. His arms are in an X, one gripping a sword, and the other glowing with symbols. The second image shows Corvo with his daughter, Emily. Her face is covered except for her eyes by an elegant handkerchief. She sits on a triangular chair, her left hand glowing blue. Corvo stands to her left wearing an upgraded version of his mask. The third image shows Billie Lurk in the center of her ship. There are dozens of meters behind her. She wears a red jacket, brown pants and gloves, and an eyepatch. The entire image is tinted red.
The three covers from Dishonored, Dishonored 2, and Dishonored: Death of the Outsider.

Before Dishonored, I hated stealth games. This series has quickly shifted my perception of the genre. Now I realize I didn’t hate stealth, I hated poorly done stealth. What’s most fascinating about the series (besides its worldbuilding, story, and characters) is how there are so. many. ways. to solve everything (or not solve, that’s always an option too!) Besides choosing between stealth and violence, you often have multiple solutions beyond that as well. Sure, there are “choice driven” games, but they often result in the same ending; multiple paths all meeting at one. Dishonored shows that you can be making choices from your very first moments until the ending.

9 of the main and side characters are lined up, walking straight at the camera.

Point and click games are usually known for being the best at comedy, but I have to say even years later, this is the funniest game I’ve ever played. The casting is perfect, everyone’s got comedic timing like you haven’t seen, and some of the most lovable robots to exist in media. Tales from the Borderlands utilizes the Borderlands universe to its utmost potential in making a game that none of the originals could ever come close to. This isn’t a shooter, and it’s so much better for it. In writing this, I realize it does something similar to Mass Effect where your choices actually have an effect on who will be there at the end as well, and it’s got some other mechanics that I hadn’t seen before or since in Telltale games.

The startup loading screen, stylized in pixel art. Cadence carries a sword and torch as a ghost is coming towards her.

I have hundreds of hours logged in this game. While I don’t play it often now, years ago I would play it every single day, at least once. It’s a combination of several genres: rhythm games, roguelikes, and dungeon crawlers. What makes it fun is how a friend described it, “you’re thinking in the short, mid, and long term: on the beat, on the level, and on the run.” It’s always rough when you first start playing (it’s been hard for me to convert any of my friends because the struggle is too much for them in the beginning), but it’s such a joy once you start getting the hang of its melody.

  • Life is Strange series (2015, 2017, 2018-2019)
Max and Chloe are kissing as they stand outside in a storm with a tornado behind them.

The Life is Strange games differ so much from Dontnod’s previous games. Set in the seemingly idyllic Pacific Northwest, there are gorgeous natural landscapes to look at, mixed with the uneasiness of The X-Files and Twin Peaks. The first game is even about finding a missing teen girl who was beloved by the town. There’s supernatural elements thrown in as metaphors for growing up and childhood trauma. The prologue in between the first and second games shows us the events preceding the first, letting us meet the teen girl we spent all first game obsessing over. No matter how happy anyone seems, there’s often a darkness underlying their past. The second game continues the thread of following children involved in terrible events and is much more traumatic than the first one (for me, at least, as it focuses on Mexican-American children). It’s not set solely in one town, instead you’re traveling across the coast trying to escape the immediate past. These games have many details in their environments, the characters you play as and interact with, and the story itself making you feel like you are really experiencing what is happening. This is life, and often life is strange.

A fake iPod ad like the ones in the early 2000s is on the left. The player’s chosen username is at the top, Sailor_Chrisy. Underneath, the player can choose an icon for January 2007, ranging from album covers by Beyonce, Mika, and Avril Lavigne to movies, TV shows, and video games like Juno, 30 Rock, and Guitar Hero.

Emily is Away Too has stayed in my consciousness ever since I played it, leading to many late night thought-trains of what my high school and college experiences were like. How could things have been different with the people I knew? Who could I have known but never did? Who were my friends? Who wasn’t? Was my BFF treated badly by her boyfriend? The medium of recreating AIM on your actual desktop is incredibly useful at putting you back in those moments (for a specific set of people who were teens during AIM’s heyday) and adding in pop culture and musical references from the time only immerses you further. If you’re in your twenties or thirties, this is a game well worth visiting, and one you’ll probably end up revisiting.

All the companions stand near the female player character. There is a ghost opposite them. Behind them the clouds are painted orange and yellow, pieces of buildings float in the air, and there’s a large yellow sigil adorning the sky. It looks somewhat like a star with several circles encompassing it. Electricity is at the screen’s edges.

This is a game I revisit every year since it came out, and I’m going to revisit sooner than usual for an easter egg I discovered in the game’s commentary (go to the 9/11 memorial in game on 9/11 in the real world). Wadjet Eye Games is my favorite studio, and Unavowed does what they do best and reminds me why I love point and click adventure games so much. No other genre has such intricate and interesting stories and characters. Sure, other genres may have incredible worlds (although Unavowed‘s urban fantasy in New York City is right up my alley), but the nature of their games doesn’t allow for such detailed stories and characters. Even games with stories and characters I loved like Horizon Zero Dawn are still never going to be able to go as deeply as a point and click. Unavowed makes it even more fun by giving us various companions to go everywhere with, so we don’t have to be alone. We get to hear their interactions, solve puzzles in different ways based on who’s accompanying us, all of which make us that much more invested in the characters.

  • Marvel’s Spider-Man (2018)
Spider-Man is swinging through New York City, he’s looking straight ahead.

I’ll admit, when I hear about a new AAA game, it’s extremely unlikely I’m going to have any interest, and honestly? It’s usually a turn-off. This is a game that made me realize I can’t be so quick to dismiss these kinds of games (I’m still right about my personal assessment for them often, but there are exceptions). I know it’s been said a hundred times before, but the web-slinging mechanic is perfectly executed. How rare is it to want to travel in an open world no matter how many hours you’ve spent in the game? The fact that this game has an achievement for riding the subway (fast travel) shows how underutilized it is and with good reason. Besides that, you can play this game with no prior knowledge of Spider-Man (like me, though that was quickly rectified because of my love for this game) and find the story and characters engaging. It’s fun to fight enemies because it’s not terribly difficult, but you get to take them down in cool ways because of the nature of Spider-Man’s abilities.

Draugen

Draugen
Developer: Red Thread Games
Available on
Steam, GOG
Price: $19.99

Warning in the game for discussions of emotional abuse, suicide and seeing someone jump off a building and their body laying limp on the floor (no blood or gore).

A vector image of Lissie, a young woman with a brown hat and red jacket, and Edward, a man with circular glasses that you can’t see his eyes from, tidy brown hair, and a scar going from his upper lip to his nose. There are mountains and ocean off to both sides of the characters. The image reads “Draugen” with the tagline, “I am not alone.”

Draugen comes from Red Thread Games, the studio that brought us Dreamfall Chapters, and, Ragnar Tørnquist, the mind behind The Longest Journey and Dreamfall: The Longest Journey. It’s a Fjord Noir that takes place in 1923 Norway and delves into grief and trauma. You’ve come to the coastal, desolate village of Graavik in search of your sister, Betty. She’s a journalist, and the last you heard from her was a letter she wrote you mentioning this town. You manage to get in contact with a family there and take them up on their invitation to visit and stay with them.

You play as Edward Charles Harden, a well-read, serious man from Hanover, Massachusetts. He is voiced by Nicholas Boulton, who also voiced Kian Alvane in Dreamfall Chapters and male Hawke in Dragon Age II. His voice is low and earthy, fitting the melancholic character. His performance is almost surprisingly realistic, when he reads and translates something he’ll pause, mumble to himself, and clear his throat the way someone would if they weren’t simply reading a script.

Draugen’s tagline, “I am not alone,” is ironic because you spend much of the game in isolation despite having a constant companion named Lissie. Her relationship to you is unclear, Draugen’s marketing only ever refers to her as Edward’s ward. She’s an eager, quirky 17-year-old whose favorite pastime seems to be teasing “Teddy Bear” (her endearing nickname for such a stoic man). She somewhat serves as the manic pixie dream girl to Edward, but eventually does become tired of his ego, though that too is in service of the plot and pushing his story along.

Lissie smirks at you as your out of focus hands are rowing in a rowboat. You see the ocean and some mountains and clouds in the distance.

Lissie is voiced by Skye Bennett, who does a fantastic job of making her feel grounded. Sometimes she is like a petulant child, other times she’s wiser than Edward. There are delightful touches like when you turn away from her while she’s talking. She’ll call you out on it, saying something like, “Can you look at me when I’m talking to you?” She was animated through motion capture and you can see the fluidity and realism with which she spins, does handstands, and leans on her hand as she sits at a table.

The scenery and architecture of the world are gorgeous, and I have seen numerous people say it really feels like the West coast of Norway. You have many chances to sit and watch the ocean, draw various buildings and homes, and study the trees. The atmosphere sways from peaceful to tense with ease, and the lighting and weather change to reflect the story and Edward’s state of mind. There is even a moment where if you look up to the sky it looks like you’re underwater gazing to the surface. The score by Simon Poole (Dreamfall Chapters, The Secret World, The Park) elevates the unease and suspense in a game that begs you to take it slow.

Lissie is sitting on the edge of a cliff. Behind her you see many orange and red-leaved trees, the ocean, mountains, and buildings.

I’m going to fully spoil a plot twist now, so skip the following paragraphs if you want to walk into it unknowing.

Edward is advertised as an “increasingly unreliable narrator,” and the true meaning of this comes alive midway through the story. You discover Lissie isn’t real, she seems to be a figment of Edward’s imagination. She’s been getting increasingly annoyed and jealous of the importance Betty has to Edward (it’s the whole reason they’re in Graavik, after all). She becomes angry and disappears, and a statue of an angel only called The Entity speaks to you. I don’t fully understand who either of them are supposed to be, but it is made clear that they are Edward’s coping mechanisms for his sister who drowned when she was a baby, his mother who committed suicide because of it, and then his father who also committed suicide.

At this point, everything we’ve learned comes into question and we can’t trust anything Edward says or does. As someone who takes mental health seriously, the notion that Edward was simply schizophrenic (or something similar) all along leaves a bad taste in my mouth. Mental health can be a great way to explore a character and different themes (the show Crazy Ex-Girlfriend being my personal favorite and what all media should aspire to), but it can also be used foolishly by neurotypical people who don’t understand whatever illness(es) they are merely using as a plot device. I don’t claim to know the backgrounds of anyone at the studio, but Tørnquist did say he doesn’t have any experience with hallucinations himself.

What was the point of revealing Edward has a mental illness if he’s not going to do something about it? Doesn’t have to be something healthy, but I’m expecting some sort of reaction. He’s clearly endured immense traumas and when you reveal that information, I expect some sort of work to be done on it. You can’t simply mention all these things in passing without fully exploring them.

Spoilers over.

Lissie stands with her back turned toward you. She’s looking at a large house with a Norwegian flag flying at half mast. There are mountains that disappear into the clouds behind it. You both stand in grass sprinkled with pink flowers and some trees.

Something interesting is this first look at the game before its release. It’s stunningly different from the final product, from the reason Edward comes to Graavik to the gameplay mechanics themselves. It appears that the studio intended for the game to lean more heavily on horror and experimental gameplay than it ultimately did. I wonder if the reason the whole story and mystery seem to have been reworked was a lack of time and/or budget. Was part of my disappointment a result of things outside of their control?

The initial mystery is intriguing as you explore locations, discuss things with Lissie, find letters, and more. The third act is when things begin to unravel. The trail you spend the majority of the game investigating gets no real conclusion. What you’ve learned about Edward is only mentioned in passing. As the game ends, Lissie asks you what you think happened in the village, but you never got enough concrete evidence to have a particular viewpoint. Questions are largely left unanswered. While I don’t expect everything to be tied up into a neat bow, I do expect some sort of conclusion. I realize Draugen may be commentary on not getting closure, but it doesn’t sit right with me. This was a case of potential left by the wasteside.

The game’s credits end by telling us Edward and Lissie will be back. This makes me wonder if the sequel will give a satisfying conclusion to the story. Still, I expect more closure from a game, even if there will be a sequel. As Aaliyah said, “We Need A Resolution.”

Lissie stands to the right facing you, hand on her hip. The left half shows you holding up a letter you’re reading with a few words glowing. You’re both inside a home, shadows abound.