Growing up in rural Illinois there are only so many activities at one’s disposal. During junior high where my only mode of transportation was either my bicycle or my own two feet, one of my favorite summer pastimes was fishing. I have so many fond memories of fishing all day long with my best friend. We would spend multiple days a week catching panfish, crappies, and bullhead catfish. The Fisherman – Fishing Planet was as you might imagine, a quick choice to review.
The Fisherman – Fishing Planet is the latest fishing simulator from developer Fishing Planet LLC and publisher Big Ben Interactive. This fishing simulator claims that it ” is for all fans of nature and sport fishing!” And that it is “recreates all the finer details of the art of fishing with unrivaled authenticity.” But, how does it stand up?
Visuals & Audio Engineering
To begin with, The Fisherman – Fishing Planet is both visually and auditorily well crafted. The visuals are built using photogrammetry which helps provides detail based on real-world textures and scenery to build the fictional world. The lakes I was able to visit are simple but beautiful. The visuals, while not overly complex, look good. For me, they fall in the middle ground between realistic and hyper-realistic. The slightly less realistic look puts the focus on the gameplay and audio engineering, rather than how well they convey hyper-realism. While on its website and Xbox Store listing Fishing Planet boasts of its realism, I found myself pondering on the uncanny valley of animation more than I would have liked.
Which brings me to audio engineering. The Fisherman – Fishing Planet is ASMR for fishing lovers. Big Ben and Fishing Planet took a risk with the lake settings. In most titles, a musical track is perpetually present throughout all aspects of the game. Not here. Folk and country music plays in the menu system but once you ‘travel’ to the next lake, players are met with the serene sounds of nature. I began to relax and feel the ‘fishing zen’ wash over me nearly instantaneously. All of the bird calls and atmospheric noises add to the ambience. My only complaint was a singular woodpecker that distinctly sounds like a distant machine gun is echoing through the forest. Apart from that, the noises of reels, casting, fighting drag, and splashing fish all pull you into the setting nicely.
As a simulator fan, The Fisherman – Fishing Planet is a lot of fun to play. It is has a solid balance of easy to learn mechanics and individual customization which will keep fans tinkering for hours. Character design is dead simple. With only 5 categories and a handful of character choices, you’ll have your avatar ready to go in no time. Additional clothing options and gear can be purchased in the shop. More on the shop in a bit.
Learning the fishing techniques is easy. Each technique is broken into a ‘Mission’ with its own walkthrough of the finer mechanics. Players cannot advance until they have not only displayed the proper technique but also caught the requisite number of fish as well. The fishing mechanics make efficient use of the entire controller’s button layout. The reel and jerk controls are typically snappy and usually respond well. The use of the bumpers to open commonly used menus like rod and bait choices is well-conceived.
On top of the well-built mechanics is an incredible in-game shop. With over 1000 products available for purchase. The combinations and customization options are vast. Players can make decisions on the type of rod and reel combination they prefer, type of line, terminal tackle, etc. Needless to say, plenty of hours can and will be spent tinkering with your character loadout.
While my gameplay experience was overall very good, it was not without a few minor glitches. When changing between menus or when performing a rod “twitch” I occasionally encountered inexplicable lag. I also experienced a bit of lag with striking a nibbling fish. I’m not sure whether this has to do with the physics of the water, or my slightly older Xbox One but it was definitely noticeable.
I also ran into a few animation glitches. During my first outing with a baitcasting reel, the crank animation completely broke. My characters head was correctly performing the motion but the handle was not moving. A few minutes later after arriving at a new pond, the issue disappeared.
As a lover of simulators, I also have a few issues surrounding the game’s rod and line management. The Fisherman – Fishing Planet does a fantastic job with line degradation, wear and tear of the rod, reel, and other bits of kit. Players can get snagged on the bottom of the lake, trees, rocks, stones, and shells. My one complaint is thus: why can my line go through any obstacle?
For the first several my real-life experience of managing multiple fishing rods simultaneously kept me meticulously maintaining a safe distance between my rigs. It was only as I saw a fish strike and drag my fishing-line THROUGH a protruding stick did I realize I could not become ensnared due to snagging another pole. While making the game significantly easier it also breaks the realism factor they worked so hard to cultivate through the rest of the game. Additionally, the inclusion of an in-game almanac (gathering techniques, baits, and information into a singular source) would be an amazing resource.
The Fisherman – Fishing Planet is one of the better simulators I have played in the last five years. After several hours I’m still making my way through all of the different techniques and to the higher-level lakes. It’s the type of game players can put on to help unwind after a stressful day. For those who do not have access to a local pond or body of water, it can help take the edge of a tough day at the office. With continued tiers of equipment and ponds unlockable at higher levels, this game will keep reeling you back in. If you are a gamer who also loves the sport of fishing, you will not be disappointed with this purchase.