- Developer: Bit Golem
- Publisher: Forever Entertainment
- Release date: 27/8/2020
- Price: £17.99/$17.99
- Review code provided by Forever Entertainment
Introducing: Ultimate Fishing Simulator Switch Review
I’ve always loved fishing. My earliest memories must be from around age 3 or 4, going fishing with my parents at a local Loch for Trout. I’ve been on countless trips around Scotland, including a few harrowing boat trips in the Winter. It’s fair to say I’ve got a bit of experience with a rod, but surprisingly have never touched a proper fishing simulator. This one, well, it’s apparently the Ultimate Fishing Simulator, so I was keen to see how it compares to the real thing.
Ultimate Fishing Simulator sets you up with your very own fishing sandbox, with the option to choose your own style and gear (in time). The game has nothing in the way of story, but instead offers progression via a levelling system and in-game economy.
You have access to one small Trout filled Loch to begin with and a basic spinning set up, as well as some floats, hooks, weights and bait. The game offers a brief tutorial before sending you on your merry way and from there on it’s up to you to choose how and where to fish.
The game is played from a first-person perspective, where you are free to wander around each of the areas, observing for fish rising and picking out spots where you might get more success.
Before casting you can adjust your drag and the speed of your reel, before casting in and settling down for the long haul. The game offers some degree of fine control over the strength of your cast to ensure you can place your bait when fishing with a float or on the bottom. The mechanic also keeps you engaged when spinning, as you need to pay attention to get a cast with decent distance, not unlike hitting the perfect shot in a golf game.
The game is fairly realistic, so you won’t be whipping in a fish every cast. It does however have a slight bit of balancing to ensure you don’t have to spend 5 hours flogging away in the pissing rain with nothing but pleurisy to show for it. I had been worried the game would throw fish at you, which is very much removed from the painful reality of fishing (or at least Trout fishing in Scotland).
Each of the different fishing styles manages to feel distinct in how they play and also very good in terms of offering a realistic depiction of that style. The gear and bait you choose has a real impact on your success and allows you to target specific species. A little bit of knowledge goes a long way, but thankfully the game includes an encyclopaedia which outlines where to find each species and how best to attract them.
When fishing with bait and a float or bottom fishing I found I was able to relax and listen to the ambient environmental sounds, getting some sense of the peace I find when I’m out in the wilderness. Spinning, which for the uninitiated is a more active type of fishing whereby you cast a metal fish shaped lure into the water before reeling it in to mimic a small fish, offers a more dynamic and active style of fishing and felt just like the real thing.The controls allow you to modify the speed at which you draw your spinner through the water as well as twitch it around to attract fish.
Fly fishing offers another even more technical form of fishing, which again manages to feel like the real thing (which I am admittedly god-awful at).
The game also includes ice fishing, provided you buy an Auger to drill through the game’s frozen bodies of water. This plays the same as the other styles, albeit with a very short rod and very little visibility of what you are doing. I didn’t enjoy the ice fishing compared to the other modes, with it feeling a little restrictive. I enjoyed being able to gradually work my way along the banks of the game’s Lochs and Coasts and found the need to drill a new spot each time spoiled the flow.
You also gain access to boats as you progress, with the option to trawl (drag your lure along behind the boat) or lower your anchor and fish off the boat into deeper waters. The boats include fish finders which allow you to be a bit more targeted in your travels.
When you finally hook a fish the game uses on screen meters to denote the tension on your line, allowing you to adjust your drag and rod position to play the fish and hopefully land it. The game includes a deep physics system which goes down to the detail of the size of your hook and the strength of your rod and line. With that in mind, choosing the correct gear is essential. You won’t be landing a huge Catfish on the light starting gear.
Catch of the day
Catching fish in the game earns you cash and XP, which are used to obtain new gear and unlock new places to fish. Gear and the different places you can fish have level requirements as well as a cost, either to purchase the gear or a permit. This helps give the game a natural progression path and gives players something to aim for, but may annoy those who want to jump straight in and fish for the big monsters. The levelling system also allows you to unlock some basic perks which can improve you strength and casting distance or reduce the prices of gear slightly. This is also how you unlock boats and Augers for ice fishing. The perks are significant enough to offer a feeling of progress without feeling like superpowers. Speaking of superpowers, the game does allow the use of a hunter vision, which shows fish in the water, but being old school I never bothered with it.
Gear is a little expensive, meaning it can take a bit of grinding to get the new kit you have your eye on. The game also does a poor job of explaining what equipment you need to set up for each style. You need to have line which matches your type of reel and then equip hooks, floats and weights in the correct order. If you try to equip things in a different order from the game’s intended manner you simply can’t which might lead to some being unsure how to progress. I was baffled for a while when I tried to revert from a spinning setup to a float setup, as I couldn’t attach a hook. Eventually I realised I had to attach the float first. Some better tutorials (or more a flexible system) would have helped this.
The game includes a nice trophy room, which includes a mounted stuffed version of each species you catch. As you progress through the game there is a real sense of satisfaction in seeing your cosy lodge fill up.
The game manages to do a brilliant job of balancing a realistic depiction of fishing, which is also fun and offers a real sense of progression and goals to aim for. Where it really falls down is in the visuals. The initial Lake looks simplistic but can look okay in the right light. The water effects are pretty enough and help make up for the fairly ugly surroundings. The first lake is set among some mountains with pine trees which look a bit like something from a basic mobile game, but I was set to forgive that when I took into account the game’s mechanics.
Once I progressed to the third lake however, I was appalled at how bad it looked. I’m not joking when I say that the environment looks like an N64 game. That is potentially doing some of the gorgeous N64 games a disservice! I watched some footage of the PC and Xbox One versions of the game for comparison and found they actually look lovely (and admittedly above what the Switch is capable of), but the downgrade here is so drastic that I’m left wondering what went wrong. The Switch is underpowered compared to its competitors, but when you look at some of the visual masterpieces available on the machine it feels like something is amiss here. I would love if the devs were able to improve on the visuals, as the core gameplay is great, but part of the joy of fishing is enjoying the landscapes that surround you and that simply isn’t possible when they look this bad!
Adding to that is the fairly terrible and generic music, which thankfully can be turned off. Once I did I found myself soothed by the ambient soundtrack of chirping birds, cicadas and the gentle breeze.
What a fankle!
The game plays smoothly enough in both docked and handheld. Everything is nice and stable, but there are some issues with the menus that are presumably a hangover from the game’s origins on PC. The menus are overly fussy and difficult to navigate. The game offers touch screen controls in the menus, but some of the icons when equipping or removing gear are so small that it can be difficult to hit the right point on the screen when using a finger. It can be difficult when using the sticks to navigate also, as the game sometimes jumps across two squares or stubbornly refuses to select an option when navigating the grid of different bits of gear. The game also has a constant reminder of the controls plastered across the bottom left of the screen, which was pretty distracting. I messaged the devs about this and they stated their intention to add a binding to minimise this, so hopefully we do see some improvements in future patches.
Ultimate Fishing Simulator is very much aimed at those who are already into their fishing. I think it’s unlikely the game will win many casual observers, but those who take the time will find a deep and enjoyable fishing experience, albeit one which is blighted by poor visuals and a clunky menu system. Despite these issues I really enjoyed the game. I would love to see the developers do a little more to improve the graphics and refine the menu navigation to round out the experience. Those with the option to play this on another system may well get a better experience in the meantime!
- Deep mechanics
- Huge amount to do
- Satisfying progression system
- Visuals are awful
- Clunky menus
Ultimate Fishing Simulator is a brilliant depiction of the real thing, let down by poor graphics and a clunky UI.