Any time I talk to a non-gamer about playing a video game that simulates a real-life activity I am always asked by the uninitiated why I would waste my time playing a game when I could just do the real thing? The answer is often very simple: I don’t have access to the superior equipment or the ability to perform at the level a game affords. A perfect example of this is hunting or fishing. I own a fishing rod and go fishing with the kiddo a few times a year, but the odds of me ever catching a trophy bass are slim to none. So it’s with this keen understanding of my actual fishing acumen that I turn to games like The Fisherman – Fishing Planet to experience everything the sport has to offer. Recently released for PC on Steam, Xbox One, and PlayStation 4 by developer Fishing Planet LLC, The Fisherman – Fishing Planet is the newly released buy to play version of their longstanding free to play title, Fishing Planet. Does this new version, which includes all the DLC content of Fishing Planet, deliver a realistic fishing simulation or does it end up being yet another big fish that got away? Let’s cast out our line and see what we reel in with our The Fisherman – Fishing Planet review.
Life On The Pond
Fishing in The Fisherman – Fishing Planet is seen through the first-person view, with the usual gun of first-person shooters replaced with a rod and reel. Even though you usually get a bite within a couple of minutes, much of your time fishing in TFFP is spent taking in the beauty of your surroundings, so the visual fidelity needs to be on point. The Fisherman – Fishing Planet is far from ugly, with the stellar water visuals stealing the show. Ripples coming off of a cast or a fish jumping during a battle look fantastic, as do the reflections of your surroundings on the water. The F2P version launched back in 2015 and the foliage and the rest of the environment are starting to show their age. If you want me to switch from another fishing game, or from the F2P Fishing Planet for that matter, you really need to wow me with the visuals and upgrading the rest of the environment to the standard set by the water effects would do just that.
Along with fantastic visuals, recreating the excitement (relatively speaking) of the catch is critical in adding longevity to a fishing game. The Fisherman – Fishing Planet packs more to bait you in than I had expected. There are 19 different venues spread across the US and Europe, from small ponds to lakes and rivers. Dynamic weather, along with a full day/night cycle and changing seasons to add variety to each visit. Fish react strongly to the weather, so these simple variations ensure you will find a new challenge even if you mastered the spot on your last visit. There are over 1000 pieces of gear and tackle to choose from, and you’ll need it all as you attempt to hook all 143 species of fish. Each species has its own personality and temperament, so you’ll have to put it all together if you want to move from the average catch into the trophy size and then the mammoth unique fish of each species.
One of the carryovers from the free to play version is the inclusion of Baitcoin (what a great name). This premium currency was a primary revenue generator for the free to play model, allowing players to convert real money to purchase equipment with better specs than an angler of their level would normally be able to get their hands on. I’m perfectly fine with the concept, but seeing as how you can’t purchase Baitcoin in TFFP I don’t understand why it’s still here. You are able to slowly earn Baitcoin as you complete missions, but you have usually out leveled the premium items and their benefits by the time you can afford them. I’m not a programmer, but I would venture to guess it was easier to leave the coins in the game. It is a minor nitpick but leaving Baitcoin in the game is just a distraction that could have been avoided.
Each fishing hole is stocked with multiple species of fish and the main menu has several sections to help you prepare for your day of fishing. The weather display gives you a 7-day weather report with a graph showing prime fishing times to help maximize the time you spend on the water. You can also pull up a list of the fish available at your chosen fishing site which gives a general overview of each species, complete with preferred baits and some hints about the expected size of the fish and what type of habitat it likes to lurk in.
I’m a novice angler on my best day, and on my worst about the only thing I will catch is a buzz from drinking a couple of beers to pass the time. Fortunately, The Fisherman – Fishing Planet has a revamped tutorial and it did a great job of getting me familiar with the game. The tutorial taught me everything I needed to know about how to assemble different types of rod and reel combos. I was even schooled on the different techniques of luring in fish, from the sit and wait of using a float (I actually already knew this one) to the Stop and Go or Twitching needed to pull in the big predators. Heck, I learned more in my time playing TFFP than I have in years of catching assorted twigs and algae in real life.
Casting in The Fisherman – Fishing Planet is straight forward – point your rod in the direction you wish to cast, press the left mouse button (or trigger button on a controller) to start your power meter, then make a second press at the appropriate time to send your bait on its way. Once your hook is in the water your float will wiggle around as a fish nibbles and then dart around once the fish commits to the bait. A stiff pull on the rod will set the hook, followed by a battle that can take anywhere from a few seconds for a small fish to 10 or more minutes for a large fish that won’t go quietly. During the fight, you have three stress meters, one for each key piece of your rig (rod, reel, and line) that must be managed. It takes patience and skill to tire out a big catch and a mistake can lead to the fish getting away from a broken line.
There are some beginner aids that can be turned on or off depending on your skill level. The pure beginner can use a simplified cast that adds a target indicator and a release zone on the power bar to help you land a perfect cast. Early on, turning on the bite indicator was a big help. Doing so displays the relative depth of your lure along with a clue to how well you are doing at whatever method you are using to reel in your line. The last option is to switch to a single bar load indicator, making it easier to manage the fight with your prey.
Where the in-game info screens and beginner aids don’t help is when it’s time to make advanced choices in your gear or what techniques work best on a specific fish. With over 100 species of fish and hundreds of pieces of gear and tackle to pick from in the Fishing Planet Superstore, pairing the appropriate tackle to a specific fish can be daunting. The fish in TFFP have AI based on their real-life counterparts, so if you find yourself at a loss you can always search the internet for some tips. A better option available to you will be the other anglers in the game. I rarely found myself as the lone fisherman at any spot so there was always someone around to ask for advice. The TFFP community was very friendly and always willing to help. The only trolling done in fishing involves a boat, so any advice given was helpful and wasn’t followed up with the typical “newb” or “git gud” you may see in other online games.
If you’re looking for more in a fishing game than just hanging out on the shoreline catching fish after fish, TFFP has several ways to keep you engaged. There are 18 achievements on Steam, and these are supplemented by the various missions in the game. There are even themed missions, like the current Frankenfish Hunt, that give you several tasks to complete on your way to earning themed gear. If that still isn’t enough to keep you going, you can always jump into a competition. These quick-hit events pit you against real-life opponents. Read through the rules to ensure you are prepared for the event, then use the time allotted to earn the highest score to bring home cash, Baitcoin, and prizes that would normally take hours to earn.
If you’re up to it, feel free to take a stab at the big time by entering a tournament. These multi-stage events pull in a large number of entrants (the most recent tourney, Gars&Glory pulled in 103 players). You will have a couple of qualifiers to earn a spot in the semi-final. Getting one of the top scores will propel you into the finals, where the stakes are high and the prizes are insane. More importantly, you will be able to replace those old fish stories with bragging rights.
When it comes to fishing, pretty much everything short of loading the truck and hitching the boat to the back is represented in The Fisherman – Fishing Planet. A novice angler like myself can find plenty of enjoyment while fishing the waters in the different locale while an experienced fisherman should find enough depth to the gameplay to show off their knowledge and skills. The tutorial is a good introduction to the game but adding a compendium of all the equipment and species of fish would go a long way in helping a novice land the big catch. For anyone looking for a solid fishing simulator, The Fisherman – Fishing Planet may just be the last fishing hole you need to visit.
Note: Our copy was reviewed on Steam with a code provided by PR.