Norway has some of the most magnificent vistas on the planet. I know this first hand, as I’ve seen photos and videos of other people enjoying the landscapes. What better way to enjoy these stunning places than in a video game, and in Fishing: Barents Sea – Complete Edition, there’s plenty of time to take in the scenery. This game is slow.
I’m connected to the world of fish; not because I’m Aquaman, but in a professional capacity, so I viewed this as an opportunity to study up on terminology and products, having never been out at sea, but been on more than enough fishing boats to fill… err.. the sea. It was time to get initiated.
The premise of Fishing: Barents Sea – Complete Edition is a simple one: make money selling fish. In the early stages of the game, you inherit a beat-up old boat from your grandpa, following the family tradition of fishing. That’s fishing on a boat, not angling like in The Fisherman – Fishing Planet. That’s the story covered. From the early stages, it’s about hauling in enough product to earn a profit and with the profits come the bling: bigger and better boats.
You will be spending a long time in the boat, as that’s clearly what the game is about, so you’ll be pleased to know that the modelling and water effects are very good. Though the boat only just sits on the water and doesn’t cut through the waves. There are two perspectives to switch from: first-person and third-person. With the former, you can walk across the deck and enter the wheelhouse (cockpit for us noobs), or in the later boats, check out more advanced deck machinery and processing equipment. The wheelhouse is where the magic happens as from here, you can either steer the vessel in either perspective. I almost always opt for a first-person view but decided on the third-person on this occasion as in rough waters, it gets a little disorientating, like the real thing.
However, the steering has got to be the most infuriating I’ve ever experienced. Well, maybe not the most, but it’s at the top. Now, this might not necessarily be the game as you can hardly pull a handbrake turn in the open sea, but the controls are incredibly sluggish and unresponsive. If you go past your marker, you move back with the analogue stick only to miss it again. Even when you think you’ve positioned yourself correctly, you end up drifting while scrolling through the available actions such as hauling in gear.
When it’s time to haul from your longline setup, you use a hook to pull the fish out of the water. In turn, this triggers a QTE (quick time event for those fortunate enough to miss this old school mechanic). Press the X button as a ring appears onscreen, and if you get it within the desired colour coding (blue is good, red is bad), the weight of the fish increases — the greater the weight, the better the money.
The next step after capturing a fish is to gut it. Here you draw out your knife, Rambo style, and take out the hidden goodies from within. Anyone into gore will feel a bit let down as the incision you make looks like an airbrush tool found on any generic art software. Nothing is animated other than the movement of the blade going from left to right. There is an ‘X’ either side of the fish and a dotted line indicating where to cut. Having a steady hand is essential, especially when the boat is bobbing up and down. If you perform well, your success will be measured by the weight of the guts you remove.
The controls I suppose are accurate to real life – this is a simulation after all, but the target market will be very specific as this isn’t as pleasant an experience as other simulators such as Bus Simulator, Pure Farming, or the unreleased Toilet Attendant. I made that last one up, but if you’re a developer and make this, think of me. It’s just all a bit too real in that it takes an age to travel. In the time it took to get from a fishing area to port, my wife put the kettle on, made a cup of tea, and I drank it. Slowly. While there is a fast travel option, you can’t use it until an area is discovered (plus it uses more fuel). I sat with the analogue stick pushed up for what seemed like an age. My beard must have grown a further inch.
Heres a fun fact for you: these last few paragraphs were written while I was making my way back to port. My thumb firmly pushed upward and checking the screen every 3 minutes or so. Nothing happened. I haven’t done this much one-handed typing since I first discovered the internet. It’s so rare for me to have a distaste for a game. I’m the guy that can tolerate minimal gameplay if there’s a good story, but that’s not what this game is about. The avatars you create are relatively dead, and all you can customise is their name.
Let me make it clear: I love games where I can upgrade, level up, grind – you name it. Time permitting with the real world, I don’t have any problem in committing to a game and seeing it through, getting all the bells and whistles. In Fishing: Barents Sea – Complete Edition, you can continually upgrade to bigger and better boats and a plethora of other goodies. However, I just found it a chore. Although I love exploration and locating every possible area in a game, while there is fast travel, even with games like Fallout 4, I still like to go the distance manually. When in the open seas, however, I would fast travel in a heartbeat, even at the sacrifice of fuel. There was no incentive to sit still for 15 minutes or so holding up and going in a straight line.
Is there anything redeeming about the game? The data and accuracy are fantastic. Locate different species, monitor the weather and use an effective sonar that is an officially licensed brand; the attention to detail is excellent. Attention to detail means you can quickly run out of fuel and resort to calling out a mayday. This is far from an arcade game. There’s more than enough content too. In the Complete Edition I played, I had access to the Line and Nets, plus King Crab DLC, which I have to admit, I know nothing about the latter. It was a nice bit of variety to the fish, but the fundamental side of fishing remains the same.
When I came to Bus Simulator, I almost scoffed and thought I’d be wasting my time, but I was wrong. With Fishing: Barents Sea – Complete Edition, I was actually looking forward to it and to stuff in a fish pun, came away gutted. It’s the best open sea fishing game I’ve ever played, but it’s also the only open sea fishing game I’ve played.
It’s like rating Wikipedia as a place to have fun. Sure, it’s very informative and packed full of data, statistics and all the gubbins, but can you have fun with it? Unless there’s an alternative version of Wikipedia out there, I’m going to say no. Fishing: Barents Sea – Complete Edition is comprehensive in approach – it couldn’t be more accurate other than the wet clothes and smelling of fish. However, I didn’t get any gaming satisfaction with it and found it to be quite repetitive, unexciting and frustrating. I’ve already given my disclaimer at the beginning of the piece, so not going to go back and repeat myself.
As Shenmue 3 was one for the fans, Fishing: Barents Sea – Complete Edition is for people who fish or are interested in the industry. I’m the latter, and as a learning exercise, it’s spot on, but for entertainment, not so much. It’s refreshing to see this sort of title other than the typical angling ones, but while other simulators have gained new fans, I don’t see this being the game that saves the fishing industry.
Fishing: Barents Sea - Complete Edition PS4 Review
Overall - Bad - 4/10
As an informative piece giving an insight into just how bloody hard the fishing industry is; ‘top marks’. In terms of gameplay and experience; I’m afraid this one is a load of pollocks, in my opinion.
- Replicates a ‘day in the life’ of Nordic fishermen
- A high level of accuracy; from trawling setups to sonar
- The scope of the open world is incredibly vast
- A good soundtrack, if a little exaggerated
- The gameplay is incredibly slow and tedious
- QTE’s are there to give variety but aren’t exciting
- Closer to an actual simulation rather than a videogame, i.e. educational but not much fun
- The controls can be infuriating
Review Disclaimer: This review was carried out using a copy of the game provided by the publisher. For more information, please read our Review Policy.
Reviewed using PS4 Slim.