Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End just launched to stellar reviews and what will very likely be strong sales and numerous nominations for Game of the Year. The conclusion to Nathan Drake‘s story in the critically acclaimed Uncharted series will likely go down in history as one of the PlayStation 4’s best games. Eyes are now on Naughty Dog, eager to see what the developer will do next after having outdone itself in a spectacular way. What will their next masterpiece be?
This is not going to just be a list of their options. We know what their options are: a new entry in one of their other three series, or a new game entirely. Instead, we’re going to analyze based on what we’ve seen from the developer what will happen next. We know that their second team that wasn’t working on Uncharted 4 is likely to be working on The Last of Us 2, so it’s just a case of what the Uncharted team moves on to. From looking at the evolution of Naughty Dog, and from what we saw in Uncharted 4, we can pick up some clues as to what a new Naughty Dog game would look like.
Even when the developer moves to a drastically different setting, gameplay wise their newest title often contains similarities or is loosely based on the previous title. Jak and Daxter may be a huge step up in terms of worldbuilding and lore, but really, much of the moveset is like Crash Bandicoot’s remapped to different controls. Uncharted may be a world apart from Jak and Daxter, but both games are third-person action adventure games with platforming, shooting and puzzle solving, and similarly witty dialogue. Though The Last of Us is set in an extremely different setting with almost the opposite tone, it still has similarities in controls, in traversing the environment, in working with another character and in some mechanics.
So with this knowledge, let’s speculate on what kind of game Naughty Dog could create next.
Retreading Old Ground
Let’s get the obvious ones out of the way first.
The Last of Us series has a huge fanbase left over from the extremely successful first title. As mentioned above, it’s very likely that their other team is working on The Last of Us 2.
Despite the amazing (SPOILERS!) Crash Bandicoot Easter Egg within Uncharted 4, alas, the rights are still with Activision. In fact, an old interview reveals Naughty Dog wanted to put that Easter Egg in the game a while back but didn’t since they lacked the rights, so it’s more likely that they were somehow able to work out a deal with Activision this time around. Unless this means that there will be some new partnership between the companies, and the developers who added in that Easter Egg felt so nostalgic afterwards that they changed their mind, we’ll probably not get a new Crash from Naughty Dog any time soon.
So that leaves Jak and Daxter. Well, the newest Ratchet & Clank game was the fastest selling in franchise history, which may make Sony consider giving the job to Naughty Dog. That, and vehicle elements and open levels were a huge part of the Jak and Daxter series, and were also very welcome new additions to Uncharted 4. So those things, combined with Crash nostalgia make a Jak and Daxter game more likely than in the past, but Naughty Dog have often stated they haven’t revisited the game because of their newer preference for more grounded and realistic titles. It all remains still very much up in the air.
Another Action Adventure Game
It’s very likely that their next game will also be another third-person action adventure. Everything they have made since Crash has been, with the exception of Crash Team Racing and Jak X: Combat Racing. So we can definitely assume that what they develop next will have elements of this genre. Or they may make their first ever first-person shooter game and prove me completely wrong.
This would be a very new direction for Naughty Dog. Each of their stories have been told in very linear, structured ways, but in Uncharted 4, they introduced custom dialogue options for the first time. Furthermore, more interaction with the environment through examining objects was introduced, as well as optional dialogue with other characters. While environment interaction was more likely inspired by The Last of Us, these are curious additions. The options added did not have a major impact on how the game turned out.
Are Naughty Dog experimenting with RPGs? Western RPGs have been all the rage lately, and The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt and Fallout 4 were two of last year’s biggest games, so it may make sense for Naughty Dog to try to experiment with the genre. That, and the fact that a western RPG with third-person shooter combat as seen in Uncharted is not a new idea. Mass Effect, anyone?
A Driving Game
Naughty Dog were always great at handling vehicles, and have been since Crash Bandicoot: Warped. But they seemed to have completely forgotten that while making Uncharted, and only just remembered when adding vehicles in Uncharted 4. Those vehicle sections were excellent and handled well, and featured in a fair amount of the game. They also made sense to traverse the much more open levels. Could they apply this experience to something else?
It would not be the first time Naughty Dog created a vehicle game. Crash Team Racing is still loved to this day, and Jak X: Combat Racing was a great game even if it didn’t perform as well. But so far, Naughty Dog have never made a vehicle game on its own unless it accompanies a larger franchise. If they wanted to make an ‘Unkarted’ game, they arguably would’ve done it already. What’s more likely is that we’ll see vehicles pop up in any future game they develop, which — to me — would be great.
An Open World Game
Remember when Naughty Dog developed the first-ever open world with no loading screens? That was for Jak and Daxter: The Precursor Legacy. The Uncharted series was more obviously trying to emulate the experience of an action movie, so it didn’t make sense for Uncharted to be an open world game, though it did only feature a single initial loading screen and was transitioned seamlessly from scene to scene throughout the game.
But Uncharted 4 featured much more open levels in many areas. Perhaps this was to take advantage of the PlayStation 4’s hardware, and pushing a console to its limits is something Naughty Dog are renowned for. Many areas in Uncharted 4 almost felt like Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain all over again, with much-improved stealth mechanics and plenty of vehicles. Could they use this experience to go back to making open world games?
It’s not out of the realm of possibility. The developer loves pushing the console to the limits of what it can do, and that may include making an open world game. Their recent trend towards linear games has been because the studio has favored linear, cinematic storytelling, but it may yet make sense for the studio to include more.
With how Naughty Dog works, it’s very likely that their next franchise could be all (or some?) of the above. Whether they’ll return to an old franchise or not is more up in the air than in the past. But one thing is not up in the air: they are renowned for taking the best bits of whatever games they’re playing at the time and mashing them into a very strong and unique experience to blow the gaming world away with. I’m super hyped for what they make next, especially after Uncharted 4, which I can easily say is one of the best games I’ve ever played.