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A Word With Neil Druckmann About The Last Of Us and Uncharted 4

A Word With Neil Druckmann About The Last Of Us and Uncharted 4

Filed inside: Games

Just over a month ago, Sony Computer Entertainment of America flexed their system-exclusives muscle at E3 with their cinematic trailer to Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End, the next chapter in one of Sony’s most successful current-gen franchises.

While Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End is scheduled to approximately release in the second quarter of 2015, very few details have been revealed about the game.  Thus far, we’ve been given a short trailer featuring an aging Nathan Drake getting ‘back into the game’, and a report from Naughty Dog stating that Bruce Straley will be returning to direct the game with Neil Druckmann after their success in The Last Of Us.

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Determined to learn more about one of the most anticipated titles of 2015 and the direction in which Naughty Dog studios is headed, I was fortunate enough to have a brief, but revealing conversation with Mr. Druckmann at San Diego Comic-Con:

Thumbthrone: Mr. Druckmann, before we begin, I want to say thank you for taking the time to talk with me for a few minutes. I know it’s late on a Friday night here at the con, and we’re both really tired.

Druckmann: Absolutely, it’s a pleasure.

Thumbthrone: With time not on our side, I’ll jump right into the questions. Looking back on the success of The Last of Us, the Left Behind DLC, and the American Dreams four-part comic, what direction do you see the franchise going?

Druckmann: Well, the main bulk of my work with The Last of Us, of late, has been working on the live-action film, which has by now been in production for a while now. We’ll be having a live reading on Monday, taking over a theater with actors performing the scenes on-stage. I’ve talked to Troy Baker and others about joining in; We were wanting this to be our goodbye to the game. We’ve also put something special together for the fans that will be in-house and I think that this will be a very fitting end.

Thumbthrone: Right, closing the chapter of a great story and beginning on another, which leads me to the Uncharted series and Uncharted 4. At this year’s E3, we saw this beautifully-rendered reveal trailer, which showed an aging Nathan Drake and a noticeably darker, more serious tone. With a series that is known for it’s pulp-adventure setting, what ideas are you taking into the next Uncharted?

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Druckmann: When my bosses, Evan and Christoff, asked Bruce and I to take over the project, we looked at the previous three games and took the approach that they have been a setup for this one last adventure. We wanted to explore the concept of what it means to be a modern treasure hunter—a criminal—and how it affects relationships. [A Thief’s End] goes a little more personal with it. Of course, the tone, at times, needs to be light-hearted. Nate needs to be charming and an adventurer; we recognize that the tone in The Last of Us is way different.

Thumbthrone: Right, by getting more personal with Drake’s character and his relationships, I can see how things can get more somber and see his values change as he ages.

Druckmann: Yes, you hear it in the trailer dialogue; he’s been out of the game. But after being out for so long, something personal is forcing him to go in, [back to treasure-hunting] and that’s all I’m going to say.

Thumbthrone: Fair Enough! With a title like A Thief’s End, will we see this to be the end of the Uncharted series before the studio moves on to bigger and better things?

Druckmann: Honestly, it’s hard to know where we’re going. The Last of Us game  is standalone, but we also said that if we can make a compelling story that can bring us back into the world with new or old characters, and  it feels like [the story] can take us to a new place, and it doesn’t feel like more of the same, then we’ll do it. If we can’t, we move on. That’s the reason why we didn’t make a Jak and Daxter sequel and decided to make The Last of Us. With Uncharted, we wanted to tell this very stand-alone story of an adventurer who has given up the chase and is dragged back into the game.  [But this title] will is take him to his physical and emotional limits.  Will it be the last one? I feel like it would be spoiler if I said anything….

Thumbthrone: With a cryptic answer like that, I have to ask: Could we possibly see the beginning of Drake’s career as a treasure hunter? We were given a brief glimpse to his childhood in Drake’s Deception and I think it would be interesting to see an adventure where he isn’t so competent of a climber or fighter.

Druckmann: Well, we hinted at stuff in Uncharted 3 that we wanted to fully play out in this game. After this game, it wouldn’t be impossible. But [Without giving anything away] it would be difficult to expand into a unique angle on it.

Thumbthrone: That’s about all the time we have, unfortunately. Thanks so much for taking the time, again, on such a busy and tiring night, to talk about the game.

Druckmann: Thanks, take care.

Uncharted-4-Drake-Lost-In-Jungle

Walking away from the interview, I started trying to connect the dots. We have Nathan Drake, now a has-been treasure hunter who’s retired from that lifestyle. Presumably having spent the last few years as a family man, he’s been coerced back into the morally ambiguous world of artifact ‘acquisition’. The idea of ransom definitely comes to mind, especially with the strong likelihood that he’d have a young child with Elena Fisher. From what we’ve seen of Drake’s personality in the past three titles, he’d be willing to go to any length in order to protect his loved ones.

So while we still don’t know much about the gameplay, I think we can rest assured that Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End will be the cinematic, thought-provoking, and dynamic climax that the series deserves.

A special thanks to @PaulFierce of PS3blog.net for scheduling me with Neil on a busy Comic-Con Friday.

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Written by Andrew Aguilar

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