Over the last several months, there has been an uptick in fishing games and the fishing simulator genre. Whatever the root cause, it brings me excitement. In late 2019 I had the opportunity to review another fishing title: Fisherman Fishing Planet, which I found incredibly relaxing. Fishing: Barents Sea Complete Edition from Astragon Entertainment GmbH and Misc Games AS moves away from the recreational sportfishing of ponds and lakes to commercial deep-water ocean fishing. But was this experience as relaxing as holding a digital fishing rod?
The concept of Fishing: Barents Sea is a compelling idea. Commercial fishing is an employment experience, much like a pilot or bus driver where many have encountered them, but few have tangible experience. It is with a small amount of knowledge that I began my professional fishing journey. Fishing: Barents Sea is a pretty piece of bait. Graphically it can be quite beautiful making good use of the Unreal Game Engine. That is when it works. I experienced a plethora of graphical issues in my time with the game. However, we’ll go into that in a bit.
Gameplay in Fishing: Barents Sea is straight forward. Character creation is dead simple featuring a limited palette of options to shape an in-game avatar. The player’s boating adventures begin by inheriting a family fishing vessel. Through this vessel, players are introduced to the basics of long-line fishing, wait times, and hauling tackle. The long-line fishing simulation is surprising. After hooking fish, they must be loaded in a certain timeframe, gutted, and put on ice to prevent spoilage.
Fishing: Barents Sea sports 4 primary fishing modes: long-line, net, crab-pot, and trawling. Each mode allows for progressively more fish to be acquired and, in turn, becomes more difficult and expensive. Along with added difficulty comes the necessity for hiring a crew. A crew of varying skills and overall worth can be hired from one of the seven ports in the playable area. These additional individuals are necessary to assist with the hauling, gutting, and storage of the fish.
Various jobs can be acquired from the ports which can help improve your reputation and also deliver some quick cash in return. Jobs vary from simple non-fast travel delivery missions to a request for a specific quantity and species of fish. It is by completing jobs and traveling set periods of distances that a player can level up, unlocking a different license. These licenses, in turn, allow players to helm larger, more expensive ships.
Fishing: Barents Sea, all in all, feels like a fairly realistic simulator. Players explore this small portion of the Arctic Sea using sonar and radar to track fish movement and school sizes. Ships must travel the ocean to unlock the fast-travel option, which allows ships to travel at 2x speed.
An aspect that I can appreciate about the game is that while there are moments of bliss and beautiful scenery, it is a tedious profession. Fishing tackle must be recovered within strict timelines to procure optimal fishing yields. If too much time elapses, yield suffers, and tackle can be damaged or lost.
Overall the game is fun, but there are multiple areas where serious improvements are necessary. As previously mentioned, I encountered many different graphical issues in my time with Fishing: Barents Sea. Framerate issues are present at all times. When making turns from the third-person perspective the mast clearly shows a frame-rate issue, repeating itself multiple times. While the atmosphere elements like the sun and moon reflecting off the water could be beautiful, it regularly glitches, causing artifacting. At its worst visual moments, the game’s setting starts glitches causing a strobe-like effect, which could quite possibly trigger players sensitive to such things.
In addition to the graphics, there are a few features not present which would seriously improve overall gameplay. It is not possible to “wait” at your catch lines. Players must travel back and forth to ports to allow a time jump. While this is realistic, the monotony of shuttling back and forth gets old very quickly.
The crew management screen can also be finicky. Unlike other screens where hitting the “B” button exits a window, the crew assignment panel must be deactivated by returning to the assignments menu icon and selecting it again. Additionally, there is no way to assign crew to a specific task automatically. Each must be individually selected and placed. While in the game’s original PC form, this might not be a problem, in the port to a console environment, it is incredibly irritating and frustrating.
As a whole, Fishing: Barents Sea is a mediocre simulator. It sticks to realism with annoying diligence even when it shouldn’t. Combined with the graphical issues I found the game irritating with sporadic moments of fun. A serious amount of grinding is necessary to earn enough capital to purchase the bigger boats. This requires hours of missions or calculated fishing runs. If you enjoy that type of time commitment, then this game will be fun for you.
Fishing: Barents Sea has promise. It could be a fun game. In its current state, however, even with my fondness for fishing, I found it tedious and generally bland. If some of the glitches or lacking features were worked on, I would recommend this to serious immersion fans.