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The final chapter to Uncharted, one of the most beloved video game series ever, almost had a very different vibe, primarily due to a change in antagonist that occurred when the original writer left.
Indiana Jones-esque figure Nathan Drake is dragged out of retirement in the PS4's Uncharted 4: A Thief's End by his brother, Sam, who’s in dire straits, and his age-old accomplice Sully, in order to track down some hidden pirate treasure. Booby traps, betrayal, and one troublesome private mercenary group stand in their way. But as it was originally written, according to ex-series director and writer Amy Hennig, the main thing standing in Nathan’s way was Sam.
Hennig left the project partway through production and was replaced by The Last of Us directors Neil Druckmann and Bruce Straley. In an interview with USGamer, Hennig explained that the character of Nadine Ross, who was in charge of the merc company Shoreline, didn’t exist in the original script and that Nathan’s relationship with his brother was much, much different.
“It was meant to be a little bit of a return to form,” Hennig said of the finale. “This idea that a lot of the story would be taking place on this undiscovered or forgotten pirate utopia island and that the detective story that we could weave through that. So all the beats, if you look at the chapter beats — with the exception of we didn’t have the flashbacks to his childhood and then we didn’t have the Nadine character — but just looking at the break by break that sorted the chapters, like where they go, what was happening, that was all while I was there.”
The flashbacks, which establish the tone of Sam and Nathan’s relationship that was forged in their tumultuous childhoods, alter how players feel about the character. He’s endeared to them as a caretaking figure, one that shows Nathan the ropes and has plenty of rivalry, but is ultimately good. That wasn’t so in Hennig’s original plan. While “the DNA and the core story were all there,” she says, “the major differences had to do with like, I was introducing the idea of Sam as the brother.”
“My take on it was sort of different, that it was a little bit more — I mean I wouldn't call him the antagonist in the classic sense, but it was an antagonistic force in Drake's life that he then had to reconcile. So it was, you know, complicated by stuff coming up from the past. So, it's a little bit different than him showing up and you know, ‘Hey bro, I got a problem.’ Then, of course there was an antagonistic element to Sam in the final version of U4, but it wasn't right there from the outset. So we kind of, in my story, it was a little bit more of the journey from this ghost from Drake's past being an antagonist to sort of reconciliation and reunification.”
With no constant source of faceless, gun-wielding baddies (or a source that has a much deeper family connection), Uncharted 4: A Thief's End could’ve felt much, much different. Less touchy-feely, unless of course the ending really pulled off its “reconciliation.” The game could’ve also avoided the whitewashing controversy caused by its casting for Nadine, but the past is past. Now fans simply have to wait for the upcoming film adaptation...or they could just go watch the Nathan Fillion short again.