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?