Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End is the end of an era. The Uncharted series had been such a cottage industry for Naughty Dog that it felt melancholy for it to give us a story that was so up front about being the finish of Nathan Drake’s story. But then the game hits you with a twist at the end, something it’d been building up to the entire game: The story’s not over.
The adventure doesn’t have to end — it only ends when you say it does. Uncharted 4 might be the purest example I’ve seen yet of an “and the adventure continues” ending.
Spoiling Uncharted 4
Uncharted 4 follows Nate going on his one last big heist with his not-quite-dead big brother, Sam. The two are on the hunt for a pirate treasure, racing another treasure hunter named Rafe and his mercenary army to get it. Eventually Nate is betrayed by Sam and discovers that Sam has made some pretty big moral compromises in order to get this treasure — compromises Nate belatedly realizes he’s not willing to make.
Throughout the game, Elena and a few other characters have been urging Nate to try a new kind of treasure hunting that will satisfy his need for adventure without putting him in danger of compromising his morals. He eventually takes them up on that.
Uncharted 4’s final scene takes place several years in the future and shows Cassie Drake, Nate and Elena’s daughter, playing Crash Bandicoot and roaming around her family’s lavish beachside home. She eventually comes across mementos of her parents’ (well, Nate’s) adventures and questions them about it when they get home. We’re given to understand that Cassie is as much of an archaeological enthusiast as her parents, given that she knows the sites and treasures they’re referring to, and she’s very much a chip off the old block.
The game ends with a sort of unspoken promise that Nate, Elena, and Cassie will continue having adventures… and I can’t wait to see them.
And the Adventure… Well, You Know
The big conflict that sets the plot in motion in Uncharted 4 is Nathan Drake’s ennui. From the moment the game begins — in his giant house, with his lucrative job and his beautiful wife (really invoking my sympathy here, Nate) — he seems down and distracted, unable to accept the fact that the part of his life where he had exciting adventures is now over. It’s the only reason he even bothers to go along with his long-lost, kinda-sketchy big brother.
It’s this tunnel vision, this refusal to see that one ending begets a new beginning, that results in his unwittingly being played by Sam. Nate would never have dreamed of ditching Sully and Elena if he weren’t so discontented. He most likely would have spotted the holes in Sam’s story were it not for the fact that Sam was dangling the possibility of a return to his old adventures in front of him.
However, both Elena and later Cassie prove, in their own way, that the adventures are not over, just different. The adventure only ends when Nate gives up on it. Elena proves that point well by finding a legal way for Nate to continue his exploits, but Cassie and her potential continuation of the Drake legacy drive it home even more effectively.
Nathan Drake is certainly not the first badass video game lead whose offspring eventually takes his place. Just look at Gears of War’s Marcus Fenix and his son J.D., or Dishonored’s Corvo Attano and his daughter Emily, or potentially even God of War’s Kratos and his “BOI” Atreus.
It’s hard to think of very many recent games that offer both an end to the story and also leave it open for so many other possibilities. It doesn’t needlessly leave Nate’s story open so that Naughty Dog can keep making games about him forever — and yet, there’s always the chance he can come back if Cassie decides to go off on her own adventures.
I have no idea if we’ll ever get another Uncharted game, but it would be cool to see Cassie take on more adventures with her father playing the older, experienced “Sully” role. Last we saw of Uncharted, Chloe Frazer had taken over Nate’s role and had formed an adventuresome partnership with Nadine Ross (for some reason). But if Uncharted ever truly wanted to pass the torch and give us a next-generation Drake adventure, Cassie’s been effectively set up to keep the story going.