TGC Review: Unearthed: Trail of Ibn Battuta: Episode 1
Unearthed: Trail of Ibn Battuta is just enough like Uncharted that it can be considered an homage. Is it an homage worth playing though? Can it satisfy your need for adventuring until Uncharted 4? Or will you have to settle for some NeoPets instead? Let’s find out.
Unearthed is all about Faris Jawad and his sister, Dania Jawad. These two treasure hunters receive a call from Morocco which will take them on an exotic adventure on the trail of famous Muslim explorer, Ibn Battuta. Neither realize how dangerous their journey really is until they’re caught up right in the middle of the action.
How much does Unearthed resemble Uncharted, though? Is it too much to dissuade you? Nope, not at all. It’s clear the guys over at Semaphore had the intention to make a game similar to Uncharted, but it’s also clear that they wants to make their game unique in its own ways. Each of the game’s 6 chapters has a different kind of gameplay style thrown in to it. Whether it be driving around the streets of Tangier, Morocco, or being chased in the desert by mercenaries while going full speed on an ATV, the game has enough diversity to keep each minute fresh. It made it quite an exhilarating experience at times, personally.
Of course, just because the game has diversity, doesn’t mean everything is perfect with it. There were countless times when I became rather frustrated with the driving mechanics, the awkwardness of aiming, the stiff jumping and climbing, it all made it almost hard to play at parts and caused me multiple deaths. An odd glitch here or there didn’t help, either. The camera also wasn’t making it any easier, but it held its own for the most part, thankfully.
The checkpoint system was perfect though, with just enough time in between each one as to not make it too hard or too easy. It notified me when I reached one, too, so I knew I was in the clear, which with the gameplay gripes was a welcomed breather.
The music in this game though, was phenomenal. It made the game much better than it might have actually been to me. It comes on and off at the right time, and when it is on I feel a sense of real urgency if I’m in a gun fight or running for my life. There were some moments when I just kind of sat in a safe spot and listened to the awesome Moroccan drumming or Arabian wind instruments.
The sound effects, however, were downright awful at times. The gun shots, the jumping, the explosions, they were all practically recordings of recordings. With the music being so good I was surprised to hear how bad the sound effects really were, they’re just not up to par for a PSN game, at all.
Voice acting wasn’t that bad at all though. In fact, it was pretty good. All voice actors are able to effectively convey their respective situation’s tone, and they do it all relatively well. With the voice acting, you’ll learn to like these characters and root for them against the mercenaries and cheer for them on their journey. Faris had some pretty funny moments where I caught myself laughing here and there. The characters all have some sort of depth, whether they talk about past experiences or memories. Not all are elaborated on well, but it’s still there.
The game occasionally has some nice graphical moments, too. At times, I stopped to admire some of the Moroccan setting. The game definitely doesn’t look particularly good, especially for a PS3 game as it is clear it was built for iOS devices, but it can hold its own at times. Some beautiful areas to experience. The setting was definitely a good choice, and if they continue in the same direction as they did in episode 1 for episode 2, be sure to expect some diverse, pretty environments.
The graphics though look like they’re from the PS2 era. They’re shoddy, a bit ugly, and sometimes the textures refuse to pop in. It really hampers everything else about the game, especially on a game that could and probably should excel in this area. Of course, it’s only a PSN game, but it doesn’t excuse graphics from the PS2 era.
There isn’t a whole lot to keep you occupied either for the price of 10 dollars. There is the actual campaign, which will last you around roughly an hour and a half if you’re lucky and depending on what difficulty you chose to play on. There were extras though, which was a welcomed addition since many games don’t include that kind of stuff anymore. There was concept art, character models, renders, cut scenes, and more. They were definitely a nice addition.
There is also survival mode after you beat the main game. There are 6 maps to choose from, but when you get it you’ll find it is the most basic, cliché form of survival mode around. You chose a random character (all share the voice of Faris, save for the other two main characters who have their respective voices) and then you just shoot zombies as they shamble towards you. Each kill nets you 10 points, and you go until you die. There is a very basic leaderboard which you have to get to on your own afterwards, and that’s it. It’s a kind of random addition, but it’s a nice one if you want to play it.
There are some collectibles though. Seven, to be exact. They aren’t very hard to find, but if you feel like treasure hunting they might give you an extra 15-20 minutes of gameplay. You’ll get a nice gold trophy if you do find ‘em, so I guess they’re worth it.
In short, the story can be pretty good at times, but downright odd at others. Characters are likeable, graphics are shoddy but definitely have their moments
Story: Faris and Dania are likeable enough characters with some added depth and light humour. Interesting enough of an adventure to keep me interested for episode 2. 7.5/10
Sound: Fantastic music, probably the best element of the game. Voice acting is decent, enough to make you believe they’re real characters. Sound effects downright awful, definitely in need of improvement. 7.1/10
Gameplay: Good diversity each chapter, enough to make you sort of excited for the next. Some types of gameplay need some tuning, but they all have potential and some are rather fun despite frame rate issues. 6.9/10
Graphics: Has some great looking areas, but in definite need of some sort of overhaul. Textures are unreliable, character models look iffy, but environments are awesome. 6.6/10
Lasting Appeal: An OK amount to do. Survival mode might keep you busy for a short amount of time, it is way too basic. Campaign is rather short, and collectibles won’t last long. Still, an OK amount of content for 10 dollars if you delve into all of it. 6.9/10
Final Score: 7/10
Definitely keep an eye on this series. Apparently the developers plan on improving a lot of aspects for the next episode, so if you do end up buying episode 1 and you enjoy it to its full extent, be sure to keep an eye out for episode 2, I’m actually kind of looking forward to it and I’m sure there’s greatness to come.
Unearthed: Trail of Ibn Battuta was reviewed on the PlayStation 3, and is available now on PSN for $9.99 and iOS and Android devices for $4.99.
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Release Date: May 29th 2013
Platform: PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, PC, iOS, Android
Version Tested: PlayStation 3
Review Disclosure: Review code provided by publisher.