UNESCO said “Al Zubarah bears a unique testimony to the human interaction with both the sea and the harsh desert environment of the region. Pearl divers’ weights, imported ceramics, depictions of dhows, fish traps, wells and agricultural activity show how the town’s development was driven by trade and commerce, and how closely the town’s inhabitants were connected with the sea and their desert hinterland.”From the product description
About the Experience
I love historic VR experiences, and the architectural and cultural history of the Middle East is always fascinating to me. In Al Zubarah, we have the opportunity to walk around what appears to be a fort complete with a canon outside. The fort itself isn’t actually ancient (it’s from 1938) but was built at the location of a settlement from the 1700’s which was known for pearl diving, date pressing, and other commercial activities. Though there are remains from a number of other buildings in the area, these aren’t part of the experience. Read more about exploring the present-day fort/museum from the inside and outside.
Graphics and Sound
The graphics are unremarkable. It’s a desert setting and not likely to be full of vivid colors, but there just isn’t much detail anywhere. The models are fairly simple (it doesn’t appear to be scanned), and it’s low detail. It also just uses open desert as the backdrop in every direction, so there’s on indication of the other ruins nearby.
There no sound effects or music, so all you have is a silent walk around the structure. In general, silence is ok when exploring, but it’s nice to have the option to play traditional music or at least have some sort of ambient sounds. Since it’s a fort that was converted into a museum, they could have used a curator or some sort of guide to bring something extra to the experience.
There is no narration or popup information. As like a real-world historic site, there are stands with images and text on them. These look like they were actually photographed and recreated from the real site. This would be fine, except the level of detail isn’t very high and it’s a little unusual to wonder around a site in VR in silence with only text to read.
Other than reading the information panels, there is no other context or detail to add to the experience.
Navigation and Interactivity
Navigation and movement are poorly done. You can press any of several buttons to teleport (or walk freely if you have enough space). While holding the button to teleport, you can use the thumbstick on the controller to change the direction of an arrow. This implies that when you release and move there, you will be facing the direction of the arrow, but this only seemed to work occasionally for some reason.
You can’t use the thumbstick to turn while standing (snap turn), so be prepared to stand up or turn your head around like an owl. It’s a simple thing to add so disappointing to be missing.
The experience only requires one controller, but of course the only thing you can do is teleport so it’s not surprising. There are no in-app menus or options.
Updates and Support
This is a one-time release with no updates.
I had high hopes for an interesting experience, but there’s not much here to recommend. There is no sound or music, and nothing to interact with. You can stand within the structure or outside of it to feel its scale and get an idea of how it’s all laid out, but it’s not something you’ll likely return to or want to share with others.
- The location seems like an interesting place to visit
- Poor graphics
- Limiting information content
- Awkward navigation
Documentary & History, Educational, Travel
Disclosures and footnotes
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