Of all the components of Final Fantasy XV that Square Enix could have chosen to expand upon in a VR-exclusive spinoff, fishing was a surprising choice — but also weirdly fitting. The fishing minigame in the original ‘flat’ Final Fantasy XV featured quite prominently and was a competent, if shallow (pun emphatically intended) distraction the first time around. Now, thanks to the magic of PlayStation VR, it’s been given new life as a standalone title that aims to please fans of Noctis and co and general VR aficionados alike.
Opening with a brief tutorial on the basic mechanics of fishing, the first thing that’s immediately clear is that Monster of the Deep: Final Fantasy XV is one of the most atmospheric and visually rich games to grace the PSVR platform. Pristine bodies of water flow gently against majestic river banks and give way to lush environments peppered with recognisable FF beasties as sunlight peeks through nearby trees. Adding to the immersion are the sounds of the breeze and running water, creating an incredibly peaceful and immersive experience that quite nearly justifies the existence of this game all on its own.
Thanks to global warming we’ve got the monster but no deep
Alas, a fishing game this be and fishing shall be done. After completing the tutorial and having your car totalled by an enormous aquatic menace, your very own custom-made player character is introduced to FFXV’s unrelentingly Southern gearhead Cindy, who fixes your ride and takes you home. From your base of operations, a quaint log cabin befitting of a true fantasy fisherman, it’s time to take on all manner of quests, hunts and tournaments — all of the fishing variety, naturally. The game offers many ways to fish, from challenging timed competitions to relaxing ‘free’ fishing, but the main goal is taking down a series of ferocious ‘monster’ fish as you make your way towards taking sweet revenge on the giant aquatic arsehole that embarrassed you in front of ol’ Daisy Dukes.
When it comes to the actual fishing in Monster of the Deep, things aren’t too different from the original minigame. Stand at any number of casting spots in each environment and use sonar to detect the locations of fish, then cast a line as close to them as possible. Well, try to. There’s a good chance your line will fly a lot further out than you wanted, or drop right in front of you, or veer off in a completely different direction to where the motion of the cast was. I can safely say that a good 75% of my time in this game was spent casting my line over and over until it eventually landed where I wanted. God forbid I realise too late that I was using the wrong lure for the fish I needed and need to start all over again. At first, I thought perhaps my PSVR or Move controllers weren’t properly calibrated and spent hours fine-tuning every aspect of their setup, only to find that although the tracking of my head and hands in-game was absolutely spot-on, the physics of my line were still completely wacky. After asking around online, it seems I’m not alone in this either, although individual players’ experiences with this seem to vary wildly. It’s an unforgiveable issue, especially so because once a fish is successfully hooked the act of actually reeling them in is so incredibly simple that it’s almost automatic, resulting in a complete anticlimax when they’re finally caught that makes none of it feel worth the effort.
Don’t forget to kiss it before you throw it back in
The most exciting part of every fish, the aforementioned ‘monsters’, come out once a certain number of fish are caught in each location, and represent a much-appreciated change of pace from the banality and frustration of the preceding catches. Each of these boss-like fish is hyper-aggressive and attacks relentlessly with their own unique abilities until they are brought down with skilled use of a crossbow, allowing for an attempted catch. Despite the shooting not being particularly exciting or fluid, these battles are generally great thanks to some fantastically designed creatures with nicely varied behaviours. Reaching each climactic battle is almost motivation enough to slog through the rest of it. Almost. It’s a shame that such a crucial element of this game is so half-baked (for me, completely broken) that it makes it incredibly hard to enjoy what is otherwise an enjoyable and immersive bit of Final Fantasy fanservice. Hanging out with Noctis and friends in a virtual space is a truly exciting prospect and a huge part of me wants to spend so much more time in that world. Just not fishing, preferably.
Monster of the Deep: Final Fantasy XV has all the right ingredients to be a great fishing game, and an attractive piece of fanservice, but it trips over itself as soon as the actual fishing starts. Unless Square Enix can patch the incredibly broken casting mechanics, I can’t really recommend taking the plunge just yet. Unless you’re happy just to wander around incredibly pretty VR lakes and rivers and ogle the sexy boys of Final Fantasy XV, in which case, I totally feel you.
Reviewed using PlayStation VR on a PlayStation 4 Pro.