If I didn’t go through a review of The Fisherman – Fishing Planet without making any sort of fish pun, I’d be doing a disservice to dads everywhere. This fintastic release from Big Ben Interactive is in shops 17th October 2019, and it’s my job to give you a fair account on whether you should be leaving your tackle alone and picking up this bad boy.
Let me make it clear from the outset, I’m not a fisherman. I know many people in the world of fish (don’t ask) but do I know anything about catching fish? Not really. To be honest, I don’t even eat fish, so playing this game could seem a little half-arsed, but not in the slightest. I was caught with my pants down with the Bus Simulator game. I don’t like buses, but I very much enjoyed it. But, is The Fisherman – Fishing Planet any good, or is it a pile of carp?
My fishing experience, outside of carnivals has mostly been in plaices like Saint-Denis and Van Horn Trading Post. Before that, well… nothing really. I come to The Fisherman – Fishing Planet with wide eyes and a lot of patience, as I would expect one would need that to catch dem fish. Don’t expect any narrative here where a dragon has taken your fish away, zombies taking over the world or escaping the underworld. This is straight-up – find the best location, the right type of equipment and conditions to catch the greatest prize.
The graphics are beautiful. To some degree, I wanted this to be more of a sandbox so I could go for a stroll and dick about in the water, but that would be silly. Hats off to the developers though in creating such a gorgeous environment. There are dynamic weather effects, realistic water movements, plus you get to travel the world in many different fishing locations that are all accessible from the main menu.
The Fisherman – Fishing Planet is jam-packed with content, and despite not having any interest in the field, I have to say I’m relatively hooked, and not just because it was an easy pun. Before your fishing tour, you can create a character – either male or female and with a few simple custom areas; their head, skin tone and colour of their jeans. It’s far from anything like Fallout 76 or The Sims in terms of customisable attributes, but that’s a good thing – other than taking photos in third-person, you don’t really see your avatar too much.
Once you have a super-duper fisherman or fisherwoman, you get to play a few tutorials to ease you into the fishing world. The controls are relatively straightforward, but the over complexity and depth are quite overwhelming. Initially, tooltips are informing you of the buttons and how to handle your rod. There’s the option to turn these off, but I kept them going as I foresaw that I would come unstuck as the game progressed. I was right – there are so many configurations and variations of equipment, tools and bait that it wasn’t long until I was out of my depth. If it weren’t for the tooltips informing you where items are in the shop, I wouldn’t have had a clue. More on the shop later.
As you can expect, the pace of The Fisherman – Fishing Planet is very very slow and is not for anyone anticipating an adrenaline rush. With that in mind, where it lacks in fast-paced set pieces, it makes up for it in therapy. Talk to fish if you like, I mean that the game is therapeutic – there’s something tranquil about patiently waiting for a catch and whether it’s what you expect – be it the species, size or weight. You just don’t know what you’re going to get unless you use the appropriate baits, fish in the right locations and at the right time. I haven’t the foggiest how to do this, thankfully the game does give you a guiding hand.
At the core, The Fisherman – Fishing Planet is mission-based. From collecting a licence to fish in certain waters to setting up a new rod, the objectives are clearly spelt out, but you can choose which of those you want to do. Some tasks include catching a particular species or building a fishing setup. For the latter, this means purchasing the appropriate parts to improve your productivity and general efficiency. With the species side of things, switch to the main menu via the options button, and there is a breakdown of all the local fish, their behaviours (they behave in-game as they would in the wild), habitats and the baits most effective for snaring them. It’s most definitely a science. If you fish, this might be obvious, but for newbies like me, it’s Wikipedia.
Items like bait can be purchased from the store, which is accessible from the main menu again. The game might have well switched to a theme of quantum physics written in Hebrew as I was totally lost. Where could I buy the rods, string and maggots? Instead, there were spinning rods, sinkers, worms – even a kayak. Some items I knew what they were or did – others? Not a clue. However, I persevered and soon started picking up the lingo herring and there as I went along. By the way, money doesn’t grow on trees or can be fished out of the water. Actually, that’s not entirely true. Aside from gaining XP to level up, unlocking new equipment and locations, you can also sell the fish you collect in each area. You have to take into account that travelling costs money, as do the supplies, but as you progress, you earn bigger and better equipment and can even have multiple setups to collect a quota at the same time. Just remember to listen out for the bell (you can buy bells that attach to the rod and ring when there is a movement – but us fishermen knew that already, am I right?).
Going back to the visuals, the environmental effects are superb. From the way the water moves, the fish surfacing and being ripped out of the water to the dynamic changes in times of the day – it’s quite easy to forget time here. When catching a fish, it really does feel like the fish is alive as it wriggles about while you try to get a good view of it. I’m surprised I’m talking about this, but there’s a sense of achievement catching a fish over a specific size and weight and then being told with a notification that it’s a personal best. What better way to celebrate than to take a photo of your prize?
As there is a camera option, I just thought it would be a case of positioning the camera angle and removing the HUD. Instead, your character faces the camera in full pose, holding up their trophy and rather awkwardly looking and following the camera as you move. You can get some decent shots if you try. There are options to change the depth of field, add or remove the stats on the fish and position your person in the centre of the frame, but they just creeped me out, so I opted not to take so many images. I didn’t like my character. He was a menace and has to be on some sort of list.
Controls are relatively simple in-game. You use the left stick to move to the right plaice – i.e. walking to a bank, the middle of a bridge or by a jetty, and the right stick for looking around. With the L2 button you can aim and with R2, cast your bait using the required power from a gauge that appears on the bottom right of the screen. There are a few indicators on the screen that help you monitor your lure, but you can also see nuances in your rod dipping slightly, the line starting to snag or even the controller vibrating. When you do this, you hit L2 to strike. This lifts the catch, and when holding R2 (with the x button if you wish to speed things up), you reel your prize back into your clutches. With the d-pad, you can adjust the load and tenacity when reeling back in – there were a few moments where my line snapped, and I had to rebuild my setup. This was a little frustrating as there wasn’t a quick fix – excuse the lazy writing.
This might be a good point to mention the menu systems. These were by far the most annoying part of the game. Navigating from tab to tab – implementing all four shoulder buttons, the d-pad and both analogue sticks – each with their own function, just got a bit too tricky to juggle. I found myself switching to a new page, selecting/deselecting items in error and buying the wrong goods. It’s too much to take on board, even though there is a legend, John, at the bottom of the page. It doesn’t break the game, but cod was it annoying.
I didn’t venture into anything online, though there is the feature with an online ranking mode and much more. My biggest catch was about 42cm, whereas the leaderboard at the time of this review was 83cm. Almost there. It would be interesting to see how the competitive side of the game would work. Just seeing someone catching a fish double my size makes me want to head back to the nearest pond and persevere. Ultimately though, The Fisherman – Fishing Planet was more about personal gain and development (by gaining XP and coin for the fish I caught!).
Don’t be quick to judge games like The Fisherman – Fishing Planet. I’ve come into the field as a blank slate, and with a memory like a fish (boom boom!), leave a blank slate. But I do have a betta understanding of the subject and dare I say, enjoyed it too. The ambience of the game is what I imagine it to be like sitting patiently, waiting for a bite. I also feel that looking at myself objectively, I did look like a bit of a nob staring at the screen – in particular at the line, watching for little nuances of when I was to strike and start reeling in, but it was so engaging. The greatest achievement was not catching a cold in the process.
The Fisherman - Fishing Planet
Overall - Fantastic - 8/10
It’s hard for me to recommend this game as it is angled to a particular market, but with that said, I enjoyed it and it’s arguably the best fishing game ever. For completions sake and the fact that it is a very relaxing game, I personally will come back to it. As a simulator, it’s fantastic, but as a videogame for the masses, not so much a popular choice.
- Great environmental visuals and effects
- Incredibly in-depth; in terms of fish and equipment
- Somewhat relaxing
- Huge variations of bait and tools to customise your experience
- The photo opportunity mode is a fun feature
- Overwhelming for newbies to the fishing world – there’s so much to learn
- There’s a little too much going on in some of the menu systems
- Requires a large amount of patience – you’re waiting to catch fish
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 a regular PS4.