Unearthed: Trail of Ibn Battuta Episode 1 Review [PSN]

The word “Unearthed” is about two letter switches away from the word “Uncharted” and, indeed, it seems that this game is trying to emulate the success of Nathan Drake’s big, blockbuster adventures. The set-up is very much the same: an avid fortune hunter – Faris Jawad – follows the footsteps of the Muslim explorer Ibn Battuta through uncharted and mysterious locations, with his female companion, Dania, for company.

It’s a bit like a budget Uncharted then, developed by Saudi Arabian studio Semaphore. It does, however, try to one up Uncharted in certain ways. For example, titular explorer Battuta is touted as having travelled three times as much as Marco Polo, which is a very impressive feat.

It’s just a shame, then, that the budget appears to have been about fifty three pence (that’s 3 Saudi Arabia Riyals), a bit of string and a packet of M&Ms. Sadly, this game is about as far as you can get from Naughty Dog’s masterpieces in terms of quality.

Let’s kick this off by saying that there’s absolutely nothing impressive about Unearthed at all. I wish there was so I could have something nice for the “Whats Good” section at the bottom, but there really isn’t. It’s a poorly developed, not at all realised third person shooter with platforming and adventuring elements that feels more like a pre-alpha prototype than anything I’ve played before. It’s so bad that it’s hard to tell how it ever managed to get published.


Out today on PSN

Episodic adventure

Semaphore’s first title

Also available on PC, Mac, iOS and Android

In fact, it’s so bad that my notes for this review read like a list of things you’d want to completely avoid when developing a game. It’s plagued by bad graphics, clunky controls, long load times, bugs, poor signposting, bad writing, disjointed animations and nearly everything else you wouldn’t like to see in a game.

For starters, the story just doesn’t work – it feels like a bunch of random sequences loosely tied together, with new villains popping up out of nowhere and pointless plot threads throughout. The cringe-worthy dialogue exchanges and extremely wooden performances really don’t help the situation, either. The only thing that does work is the back story – the historical facts – although this entails a sequence in which you walk for about ten minutes listening to a man drone on about Battuta.

Mechanically, it’s completely flawed. The amount of damage you take seems to be random at times, and the forced hand-to-hand combat sequences flow as well as a blocked artery, attempting to emulate Tekken but ending up with poor collision detection, clipping and unresponsive moves. The clunky, cumbersome controls will cause many mistakes and an extremely unhealthy dose of frustration.

Long load times, poor check pointing, constant crashing and extremely misjudged signposting also crop up, all of which make you wish you had never wasted the the electricity or bandwidth it takes to download the surprisingly hefty 4GB file.

There are about two hours of inherently broken gameplay here: the clunky controls are one thing but the core gameplay is probably the least enjoyable thing I’ve ever played. There’s one section in the middle of the game which redeems it somewhat, but still fails to ever reach anything above “quite rubbish”.

The real crux of Unearthed is the way it actually gives you a headache if you play it for too long. Due to the disjointed animations, jittery camera, poorly textured environment and framerate drops it made me dizzy a few times – something no other game has achieved. And it does this while looking like a PS1/PS2 hybrid game – textures are often blurry stains while animations are almost entirely incohesive.

As for the sound design, there’s a fleeting sense that it might actually be good when the title track starts up, but other than that it’s very disappointing, with no use of loops to mask cuts in background sounds and the aforementioned wooden voice acting.

It’s all just laughably bad, so much so that there were a few times I couldn’t help but explode with laughter at how terrible the animations, gameplay or everything else was. Even the best part, survival mode, which is unlocked post completion and offers waves of zombies, mummies or tribesmen, is still shoddily underdeveloped.

What’s Good

  • You’ll get a good laugh at it, though not with it.

What’s Bad

  • Almost everything.
  • Feels like a one month prototype rather than a two or three year final release.
  • Ticks the opposite of the boxes it needed to.
  • Gameplay is completely flawed.
  • It’s so badly developed that it induces headaches.
  • Episode 2 might actually happen.

Here’s the deal: Uncharted feels like a world to explore – most games do – but Unearthed feels like a box. There’s no way this could ever be a good game – there’s nothing about it that will impress you unless you’ve never seen a game before. Gameplay, visuals and the plot are entirely flawed; it’s even worse than that Doctor Who game last year – at least that had some decent characters.

Let’s keep this one buried.

Score: 1/10


  1. What’s Bad:
    •Episode 2 might actually happen.

    Haha, it was worth reading the article just for that zinger.

    • “Almost Everything” made me chuckle, and headaches, lol!

  2. That’s oil money for you :p

  3. Played this briefly and didn’t think it was anywhere near as bad as Blair’s making out.

    Yes, it’s not up there with Naughty Dog but it’s clear budgets were smaller and you can’t fault the ambition.

    The first level’s nasty, but I thought the second one was very Tomb Raider-esque and average at worst.

    Didn’t play past there, though.

    • Are you sure you’re not defending it because Blair accidentally said it was a PSN game but he really got his hands on an Xbox One early and this is an exclusive ;)

    • Here’s the main thing – I’ve watched a trailer from over two years ago and it shows the exact same thing as the final product. This isn’t a game, it’s a quickly developed prototype that shouldn’t have been published, IMO.

      I just don’t feel like they even tried, hastily sweeping together what they had to make a shoddy tech demo disguised as an ‘episode’.

  4. Wow, that almost kind of looks like what a video game would look like on Super Nintendo if Drake was playing it inside an actual Uncharted video game if that makes sense… but only crapper!

  5. They’ve even robbed the Uncharted font/lettering from U3!

  6. seems like they desperately wanted it to be uncharted, but lack of resources seems to have crippled the project.
    or possibly lack of talent, though let’s give them the benefit of the doubt and say resources were the problem.

    you can’t fault the ambition, but maybe they should have started with something a little less demanding and worked up to this when they had a few titles, and some more experience, under their belts.

  7. I am so buying this. Games that are so bad they are fab are great, i’d rather play them than some souless polished shite like Batman.

  8. It does sound ambitious but surely it can’t be that bad?!

    The headache problem does sound like a worry though for anyone who buys this. I’ve had my fair share of motion sickness from gaming, and it’s horrible.

    • Reisistance 3? ;)

      • Yes! Bloody death trap that game was, even though I loved it.

    • Certain games have given me motion sickness but its normally if I’m watching someone else play, particularly females.

      • I find it’s the ones which heavily alter motion blur and depth of field, and where the lighting is bad.

      • Are we still talking games or on about leaving the pub? lol

  9. That video is hilarious. I can’t believe how much they’ve tried to rip off uncharted!
    Jesus it looks awful.

    • They say it’s a form of flattery but… it’s like the stillborn twin of Uncharted that’s been flushed away and then caught in the pipes. Like the likkle baby in the news! (who’s thankfully alive)

      • That’s certainly one way of putting it! :)

  10. looks absolutely awful haha, saying that so did deadly premonition that was so bad it was good :)

Comments are now closed for this post.