Fishing Sim World is a game for serious armchair anglers, but is it enough to hook non-fishing fanatics?
Over the last few years, anglers haven’t had an easy time finding decent simulations of the hobby they love. Since Dreamcast-era Sega Bass Fishing, whose allure was at least partly down to the plastic fishing rod it came with, there haven’t been many options. Last year’s Rapala Pro Fishing and Ubisoft’s Legendary Fishing, which is also out this week, both take an arcade-style approach, with QTEs and underwater views of your prey wiggling about on the hook, but what if you’re looking for something more serious and realistic?
Fishing Sim World is an altogether more strait-laced proposition. Coming from Dovetail Games, makers of the baffling but rigorously authentic Train Sim World, Fishing Sim World is a similarly uncompromising take on the world’s least stressful sport. Sequel to 2014’s Euro Fishing, it retains most of that game’s mechanics and carp-heavy fishing spots in the UK, Germany, Austria, and France, whilst adding American lakes and their preponderance of smallmouth and largemouth bass.
Clearly made for people with waders in their wardrobes, the tutorials are short, non-interactive videos that tell you in short order how to cast, where to find different species of fish, and how various pieces of tackle work. After that you’re on your own, starting either at one of the pre-determined areas on the banks of each lake, or hopping in a boat and looking for promising signs of fish.
Boats are equipped with sonar that indicates lake depth and shoals of fish, although our experience with digital fish spotting was that it’s either woefully inaccurate or our lacklustre angling skills are beyond the reach of technological enhancement.
Fishing from the bank is a more straightforward introduction, especially because you can fish with three rods at the same time, which inevitably leads to more bites. You start by casting your line, which is done using either a golf game-style power meter, where you time your trigger release for the distance you need, or via the right analogue stick, which gives greater control over your rod but is considerably trickier to get right. However you do it, you’ll end up with some sort of bait in the water, and that depends on what sort of fish you’re trying to land.
To catch bass you need a lure that mimics an injured fish, reeling it towards you in short, slow speed jerks, waiting for a nibble before timing your strike to make sure the hook is firmly embedded in its fishy face. Carp prefer static bait, ideally near underwater weed beds or lily pads. That also makes them susceptible to the triple rod method, which is undoubtedly the easiest way to get catches and level up your fisher-person.
Earning XP and currency for each fish you land, you can buy new tackle, faster boats, and a variety of unutterably dreary clothing with which to customise your character. All the lakes are unlocked right from the start though, so while you might struggle to catch legendary bass with your default starter tackle box, it’s at least theoretically possible. It also lets you explore the world and make early choices about which species and terrain you prefer.
The fish themselves are algorithmically generated, so a tench that you hook will not be the same as one caught by your friends, or the next one you land. In practice, fish of the same species look virtually indistinguishable, although you will be able to compare the weight of each, your personal best for every variety is logged in an angling diary.
The problem though, is that waiting for things in real life is an inescapable nuisance. Waiting for things in a simulated environment, because it’s wholly avoidable, needs to have a spectacular payoff at the end to make it feel worthwhile. Landing a big fish, especially after a hard-fought battle can be rewarding, but inevitably most times it’s not something huge and is often just an aptly named crappie.
Another issue is the lack of things to do. While Rapala Pro Fishing and Legendary Fishing jazz up the experience with arcade-style timed button presses and artificially dramatised underwater camera work, Fishing Sim World is entirely poker faced. The minimal lakeside scenery, absence of music, and almost inaudible background sound effects combine to focus you fully on the rod and line, which only serves to highlight how sparse and repetitious your interactions are. You don’t even get to land fish. Instead a net icon appears over their tired little heads before they automatically teleport into your hands.
Despite online tournaments, multiple international locations, licensed tackle, procedurally-generated fish, and a variety of boats, your agency in the game boils down to such a sparse set of tasks that it’s hard to find any sense of engagement. If angling is your true love, being able to undertake a watered-down version of it from your sofa might appeal. For anyone else trawling this month’s releases, this will be punishingly dull and best left as the one that got away.
Fishing Sim World
In Short: A ruthlessly realistic simulation which not only has no interest in being a video game but also seems intent on making fishing seem as drab and mechanical as possible.
Pros: Procedurally-generated fish mean you’ll never catch two the same, and there’s an abundance of different species. Geology, weather conditions, and time of day affect your chances of a catch.
Cons: The process of landing fish swiftly becomes routine, leaving only the boredom of waiting for a bite. It may be realistic, but it’s also joylessly tedious.
Formats: PlayStation 4 (reviewed), Xbox One, and PC
Publisher: Dovetail Games
Developer: Dovetail Games
Release Date: 18th September 2018
Age Rating: 3
By Nick Gillett
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