Uncharted’s brief adventure is powerful without dozens of hours.
Last year was the year of the RPG, there’s no doubt about it. From Geralt’s search for Ciri in The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt to a worried parent trying to find their missing child in Fallout 4, our hard drives were filled with hundreds of hours of content, completing quests, upgrading our gear, and even experimenting with the latest mods.
As of right now, the inverse may be true for this year. In exchange for dozens of hours hunting the latest loot, we may instead be on the lookout for the next diary entry. We’re swapping building our own settlements to building our own connections with characters that are meant to invoke a special bond within us. Quantum Break, Ratchet & Clank, and Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End are just among several recently released titles that are reminding us of the power of brevity.
That’s not to say a big, long, meaty RPG is a bad thing. Spending a finite amount of money for a seemingly infinite amount of time is a great deal. You’re getting quite the bang for your buck, especially if said game encourages multiple playthroughs, or perfecting every weapon available. In fact, many times I feel as if a big, long RPG such as Fallout is exactly what I want so I can dive into a world after a long day at work. But is it really an impactful experience?
It’s one of the best forms of escapism I can think of, creating a different character in a far off land and losing yourself in their world. But how much of the experience do you really retain? It’s not a fault that makes gamers “bad,” but rather it is the nature of playing through dozens of hours of gameplay, and not dedicating enough time to really grow attached to its characters and other components of the game. Don’t remember the significance of your first weapon in the game? Don’t worry, there’s Wikipedia for that. Wait, why is this random townsperson super hyped to see me? Time to check GameFAQs. There are just so many experience-breaking hurdles you have to cross, it feels hard to really understand and grow to love the world around you.
Shorter games, at least for me, are better suited for getting to know a character or group of memorable characters. Uncharted aside, think of games such as Dead Space and Bioshock. While each game has its own varying degree of characterization, they all are meant to leave an impact. The first Dead Space is terrifying because Isaac is just an engineer, not a solider-bro. Bioshock’s creepy world of Rapture is disturbing, yes, and it’s a little bit of a longer game, but it is finite, and you’re not meant to debunk the horrors of the city under the sea. Both Isaac and Rapture are characters unto themselves, and they feel much more impactful since you’re not with them for upwards of 60 hours.
To me, the power of the Uncharted series lies in its pulpy delivery. Each subsequent entry has a certain “punch” to it, and you’re not meant to linger too long on one exact scene or area. From a technical and directional standpoint, it serves as a good way to mask any flaws the game may have. Yet the writers also bring their characters to the forefront of the scenes, and aside from lead protagonist Nathan Drake, they immediately leave, hopefully before you get sick of them. This is also exhibited through most of Uncharted’s set pieces, as you’re able to have an appropriate amount of fun before it overstays its welcome, and filling enemies with bullets becomes nothing more than a chore.
Amidst the ultra satisfying open world games that have been released in the past few years, it’s refreshing to see Uncharted remind us about the importance of brevity in regards to level design, character, and plot development. While I’ll always be excited for the next, big open world adventure through [Insert Relevant Fantasy Franchise], Uncharted’s brief adventures feel just as, if not moreso, powerful.
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