Fishing Sim World PC Review
It has been a long time since I have played a dedicated fishing game. I have enjoyed the various fishing mini games featured in different titles, but as for sole fishing games, the last one I remember playing was Sega Bass Fishing on the Dreamcast. I also had a stint where I was buying a few for Sony’s PlayStation, titles like EA’s Championship Bass and Konami’s Fisherman’s Bait 2: Big Ol’ Bass, but those were easy to get to grips with, and most titles I enjoyed featured arcade gameplay and fancy multi-camera shots that simulated some Hollywood action scene, but with fish going crazy as I lured them in with my rapid button mashing. Fishing Sim World is something different, and with “sim” in the title, is one that is trying to go for something more on the realism side, plus, as someone who has never gone fishing before, maybe it can teach me a few things?
Well, it did do some teaching, but not in the ideal situation. As a fresh faced newbie to simulation fishing, I went straight into the tutorial section of the game to be met with a few videos that explain the controls, how to use equipment and the ideal way to capture specific kinds of fish. The tutorial felt cheap and not engaging, as I sat watching a guy talk over the video demonstrations. Fishing seems like one of those games where having a tutorial involve what is being explained would be more beneficial for the player, but that isn’t the developer’s way in Fishing Sim World. Thankfully, there is a single player free fishing component that let’s you go out into the digital world and put together everything the tutorial videos convey to the player.
I would mention the character creator, but really, it’s so shallow that it’s more like picking from a generic small pool of few people and giving them a limited hair colour, top and pants. It’s a shame, because you see a lot of the character during gameplay, since the game is often shown from a third person perspective, so having your own unique avatar would have been a nice touch. But this is the type of atmosphere Fishing Sim World is aiming for. This is serious business, there are no jokes, no over the top camera pans or alternative camera angles, no slow motion fish time with dramatic splashes – this is fishing at its core and it is presented realistic in a video game. Due to this, I can only see the people who enjoy putting their reeling skills to the test getting the most fun out of this title.
Jumping into free fishing is the way to go for the first couple of hours, plus, the game does have some objectives to tackle during this game mode. Each of the seven locations has its own species of fish that players need to discover to tick off a list. Also, some of the lakes feature trophy fish, which are huge rare fish that are harder to catch than the average gill-bearing swimmer. Some of the locations are lakes located in either America or Europe, and so the addition of a boat is brought in with its own radar and depth sensor to find underwater fish, but of course, it also enables players to explore these vast amounts of H2O compared to the smaller areas that only allow walking around the edges of water to pick a spot to begin fishing.
To my surprise, the actual fishing wasn’t as difficult as I was expecting it to be. There are some liberties taken with the simulation aspect of the game that make it easier to perform such feats. There are two forms of casting controls available, Basic Cast and Total Cast. Basic Cast is very similar to arcade fishing games, where all it needs is aiming the rod in a direction and pressing a button to begin increasing the power, then another press to stop it. Going over 100% causes the power and angle to skew, throwing the line off the target location. Total Cast is a more accurate control system that involves using the mouse to pull back to perform the act of lifting the rod up and behind the avatar, then pushing forward to perform the motion of launching the line into air. Either is fine to use, but going for Total Cast does offer a sense of being more in control of your actions, including mistakes that can happen due to poor mouse motions.
Once the lure is in the water, it’s a matter of time before something snaps it up. Fishing in the real world requires patience, but while there are moments of waiting, it’s never extensive periods of time, as I was often finding a bite within a minute or so. Lure is important in targeting the type of fish to capture, but the game makes it easy to switch between them by going into the inventory screen and selecting different rods and lures. There are even preset ones based on different fish types, or you can customise them and save it as another preset. The game is good at making it easy and quick to get to the equipment required. Once set, and you have the knowledge to know what is different between a floater and a sinker (I’m not talking toilet habits…), and how to bob the lure around, a fish will soon snap and and then the next part of the fishing mechanics come into play, the sport of reeling the fish in to capture it.
Reeling in the fish is a one-on-one battle between fish and player. As soon as a bite happens, a quick tug of the rod will hook the fish and from there it becomes a game of managing the tension of the line, increasing or decreasing the strength of resistance that the fish has when pulling away from the rod, and lastly, the speed in which the player reels in. A tension metre shows when it is dangerous to try reel in, so lowering or alternating the direction of the rod helps ease this. For the most basic fishes, it often becomes the case of letting the fish do its thing, draining its stamina to the point it becomes much easier to catch. These are some of the lesser exciting hunts, because it becomes more about letting the fish tire out than the fighting struggle to reel it in, even if it’s a heavier type of the same fish, it doesn’t feel that different to hunt, like the game isn’t quite getting the sense of weight across to the player through the tension in the rod. It should be more exciting, which I feel comes from the more sterile presentation and realism that the game goes for. Is that the game’s fault? Not really, it’s set out to target that, but for me, that dramatic sense isn’t quite there, most likely spoilt by memories of my time with Fisherman’s Bait 2: Big Ol’ Bass and its “Fish On!” feature.
Catching fish reels in experience points to build a level on your character’s profile. The more points earned, the more that can be spent on improved gear, lure and boats, meaning more chances to catch different fish, since only some will be interested in specific lures or available in certain types of habitats. Some fish like to stay low or hide in weed, while others are happily bobbing on the surface of the water, which can be clearly seen, giving the player a sight on the availability of fish. Having the right gear and finding the correct fish are all part of the game’s strategy before the hunt even begins, and it’s a bless that gear is so easily changeable, thanks to the quick access I mentioned earlier. Also, there are some additional features that help increase the chance in catching fish. When fishing from the banking, there is the option to place down two additional rods and have them reeled out waiting to lure a fish in. As soon as a rod hooks a fish, you can drop the one in hand and switch it with the rod that needs reeling in. It’s also a good way to make distractions in the water to bait the fish towards them.
The problem with having a fishing game that tries to bake itself in reality is that it kind of ends up being too focused on the sport. There is no variety here, and because there is a limit on how far the game can stretched its imagination, due to the aim for realistic fishing, the game cannot introduce silly events or other ways to change the variety – it’s fishing. The offline tournaments do bring in rules, such as having your five heaviest bass fish be the total score within 20 minutes or catching as many fish as possible, but they do not change the core of the game, which can only sustain for so long before it becomes the same across single player free roam or offline tournaments, or even when moving to online and playing with three other people or the online tournaments to be come the best angler in the world through the championship or online leaderboards,
One thing the developers have managed to do is create some rather great looking water visuals for the game’s lakes, probably helped by the tech featured in Unreal Engine 4. There is a level of translucently that enables to see things until a certain depth, and when hooking in the fish, you can see them struggling just under the water, wiggling like excited dogs who haven’t seen their owners for two weeks. The world and its vegetation looks decent as well, but the water certainly got the most attention, and it looks great seeing it reacting to the environment around it, since the game features multiple time of day and dynamic weather settings to produce some beautiful sunsets. The character model is rather generic, and is the weaker aspect of the game. On the audio side, it’s quite barebones, since all there is are sound effects for the environment, fish and the actions of your avatar. It lacks any real soundtrack, so it might be best to put on your own tunes while out on the lake.
Fishing Sim World will have its audience, but it is certainly a niche genre. The focus on having a realistic experience rather than the over the top arcade gameplay that some other fishing games of the past have gone with means this can be a hard sell for people who aren’t fully invested in the pastime. There is plenty of fishing here to do – trying to hunt down some of the trophy fish will be like trying to find a normal fish for any novice fisherman – but there isn’t enough variety to be invested in the long-term. I also don’t feel it does enough to get the sense of weight across when it gets down to the personal battle between one’s man and his rod against some of the fish. Fishing Sim World is a relaxing experience and is enjoyable in short bursts, but turns into a game that I grew bored with the longer I stuck with it. This is a title clearly aimed for the angling enthusiast, and that’s fine, but improvements can be made to make it a better fishing experience.