Wrapping It Up

Warning: This post contains spoilers to the ending of Uncharted: Drake’s fortune.

The boat glides through the water, causing nothing but a faint ripple upon the glimmering surface. Nathan Drake and Elena stand at the back of the boat, gazing at the unmapped island that they are finally departing. The ghouls, the traps and the supernatural spirits have all been encountered and left behind, leaving them both and their close friend Sully to indulge in the delights that their stolen treasure horde will inevitably bring them.

Nathan is apologetic to Elena for not getting her intended story, but she lets it go, gently reminding Drake that he still owes her one for saving his life earlier on in the game. They move closer, as a soft instrumental score pipes up to send the crew and their treasure into the oncoming sunset.

[drop] The above description is formed from the ending of Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune, and remains one of my greatest videogaming moments to date. It doesn’t attempt to leave you waiting for a sequel, and it ties up every loose end in such a way that makes it impossible not to grin. Riding a boat into the sunset may not be original, but seeing the trio put their adventure behind them and venture out to sea not only completes the game, but also serves to make the entire journey worthwhile.

Financial analysts may say that an ending as seen in Killzone 3 makes more financial sense, but it fails to provide the player with a final element of achievement that is crucial to any interactive medium. As the Uncharted credits began I felt a genuine warmth that justified the notes I had spent in a matter of minutes, and the same could easily be said for the original Portal.

A surge of emotion at any point in a videogame is usually worthwhile, but one just before the credits roll provides the player with time to contemplate their emotion, and as such are more likely to remember the ending (and game) with fondness. Ask anyone whether they recall the original Resistance: Fall of Man ending or the now infamous Portal resolve, and the most likely answer will be along the lines of the latter every time.

Whereas the conclusion of Modern Warfare 2 may suggest that Infinity Ward are getting carried away with the marketing mammoth that is the Call of Duty franchise, the final act of Uncharted exudes both love and affection by the team at Naughty Dog, and a genuine care that seems to be becoming harder to find in this increasingly competitive industry.

[advert]I don’t deny that leaving a videogame open for a sequel can be positive; it’s impossible for some stories to be completely tied up on a single disk, and as long as the developer makes it clear that the player has had a significant impact in the progression of the story, an ending like this can work just as well as one that wraps everything up. It’s when a final stage falls flat that it flees from the memory and typically ends up thrown on top of the bargain bin.

With the financial cost of videogaming reaching new heights, you can’t help but wonder whether it is time for developers to cut out the cliff-hanger and regularly finish the plot in a single title. The Portal series serves to show how a sequel is still a possibility whilst concluding most of the original game, and this is a skill that other developers would do well to adopt.

An ending as seen in Uncharted adds a certain credibility to the title, and also details the final consequence of the player’s actions. There are no impossible resurrections or new scenario’s; just three people who are sailing away from a horrific chapter of their lives.

Wouldn’t it be nice if we could eventually see Sevchenko and Velasquez riding into the sunset, too?

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22 Comments

  1. I’d like Velasquez to simply go at the beginning of the game, and never come back.

  2. I think it depends on whether there’s a proper story arc between the games, you really didn’t need to know the story of the first uncharted to play and enjoy the second, whereas with the Assasins creed franchise, knowledge of the previous ones is kinda necessary to understand the story. I loved the endings to all of their games, they’ve always had a cliffhanger that’s worked really well.

    Although conversely, it’s difficult to think of a conclusive ending that kills a franchise. Even if you kill off the main character, you can follow with prequels or different characters (just look at taggart!) so financial reasons shouldn’t really apply. As long as the cliffhanger serves the story I guess i’m ok with it

    • Knowing who Elena is would be useful though. I agree with you on your last point – no game has the life of a character so completely explained that you cannot add more story in another game, for example. Perhaps Metal gear Solid though, as then universe is so in depth. They always manage it though, don’t they? Aha.

  3. I speedran the first uncharted on Saturday, for trophies & French revision [playing with French audio & English subtitles, works excellently, I might add] & found myself watching all the videos. Such a good game, there’s a definite warmth to it. Made me feel more emotional than some films.

    • thats a good idea! Wish i had thought of it for my French exams!

      • I tried it with a few games and films, best was star wars as I’ve seen it so many times I knew pretty much all the english lines anyway!

  4. There are some good ways to end games that achieve both results, leaving you satisfied but also wanting more. Resistance 2 springs to mind, that ending shocked me so much, it was the definition of finite… but I wanted more!!

    I do agree though, Uncharted get’s it right from start to finish. Killzone 3’s ending was divisive, some people loved it, others hated it.

  5. For me wrapping up the story in the end always gives me a feeling that the game was finished. Some cliffhangers to me seem like the developers didnt have time to finish the game and just sent it out there anyway. Not all as some work well but i’ve played games that have ended in a cliffhanger but a sequel was never made.

    • A feeling of closure with any particular title is good but both options aren’t mutually exclusive. There can easily be something subtle (or not so subtle) to imply where the next game in the franchise might be heading – which leaves us wanting more but with a happy head full of satisfaction and endorphins. :)

  6. I have to say, I love a game that’s got a full story complete within in, where the end ties everything up and feels like one full, complete experience. Both uncharteds, heavy rain, enslaved etc. You’re right, there’s more of an emotional attachment when you see things all tied up at the end.

  7. Well i love the stories to each uncharted game, this is because im a big fan of ancient history, el dorado and shambahla really interest me so i enjoyed it purely because of the settings and the history behind the story

    • but i do think that some stories should just be wrapped up sometimes. Im a big fan of KIllzone series, killzone 2 left a great ending to follow on, and Killzone 3 seemed to wrap it up but then again it left it completly open to another game, and left the ending being a horrible mess. In both Uncharted’s the story has been wrapped up very well, i kind of see the games as indiana jones movies if you know what i mean, new story for each game/movie, historically correct stories, new girl every time. Which i love about the games. Also games like Heavy Rain should be complimented for the story and i believe heavy rain to have the best story a video game has ever seen. Red Dead Redemption and LA Noire seem to give a full experience of the game too.
      (btw i switched to my laptop as my ipod couldn’t handle this post)

  8. Sequels are obviously the way to go to make money. But why not conclude the game with a bang and have a Flash Gordon ending… Have twist after/during the credits. I realise that not all games could feature Ming the Merciless but….

  9. Pros and Cons to both sides here for me –

    I love the MGS series, but even though MGS4 had just about the whole saga crammed onto 1 bu ray, i still feel newcomers to the series at that point would not have a clue to the most part as to what is going on.

    Uncharted have done well so far as to each story being well done for each game, although it will get more complicated as they bring out each new game in the series.

    Rockstar in the GTA world do this best for me – they subtley drop in references to characters from across the universe, which you would only notice if you have played them all in detail, but if you don’t notice it, that doesn’t mean you would enjoy it any less or be missing out on any vital info.

    If i were a game dev i wouldn’t be scared of the idea of having a complicated story line interlinking to previous/parallel titles – if the game & story is good enough then it just gets you more kudos with your hardcore fanbase, and is likely to increase that fanbase with the newcomers who want to know the whole story and then go back to play the previous titles.

  10. Interestingly, Valve changed the ending of Portal on the PC during the run up to the announcement of Portal 2, to include a cliffhanger explaining why you are still in the lab.

    • What?

      • Interestingly, Valve changed the ending of Portal on the PC during the run up to the announcement of Portal 2, to include a cliffhanger explaining why you are still in the lab.

      • What?

      • Starting to ask that question myself now!!

      • ok well I don’t wanna spoil it for anyone who hasn’t played either ending but they just added a little bit (less than 5 seconds) before the start of the credits, and points the story slightly more towards portal 2.
        You can see it here:
        http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YXAq34TrVXM
        It wasn’t necessary but certainly adds to the end for me

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