• The Fisherman – Fishing Planet review by Rick Moscatello

    The Best Pure Fishing MMO, EVER

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    I've always enjoyed fishing in MMOs, whether it was mining in Eve Online or the more "normal" fishing of Final Fantasy games. Pure fishing games, however, never seemed to work for me, getting too boring too fast being the primary issue. The Fisherman changes that, as it outweighs all other contenders. To be fair, The Fisherman is really just a "paid" version of the free to play game Fishing Planet, so this game has had a long time for refinement. Having played both, Fishing Planet is pretty good on its own, although you'll probably have to spend money to get to the features which are far more accessible in The Fisherman.

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    Now, you only play online, and there are other players, but this isn't really a multiplayer game. While most MMOs are packed with people, this game basically sets up a server for each lake, with a population limit of half a dozen or so players, using as many copies of the lake as necessary (and you can set up your own lake if want). Other than that, it's a completely solitary experience, with no need to compose a party or anything like that. There's no trading of objects, though you'll certainly quiz whoever you see for information about how to catch the local fare, and you certainly don't have to form a group to get to the best fish. Just log in and start fishing.

    There's so much goodness here I don’t know where to start. I'm hard to impress with graphics, but the lakes, the foliage, and, of course, the fish are all rendered to near photorealism (warning: the highest settings cause even my best computer to heat up dramatically). Sounds likewise are addressed with great care, from the sound of your rod and reel to the local insect and bird noises, to the rain and weather effects. I usually ignore ambient noises in games, but The Fisherman continued to impress me long after I've normally turned the sound off in most games. Let's talk about the fishing.

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    The game world is littered with lakes, at least in North America and Europe. You have a "starter lake" in Texas, stocked with a few bass and other fish. You'll spend plenty of time here, even at higher levels, since it presents a free way to test you how well your gear arrangements work in practice. Other lakes will cost money to travel to, with distance not relevant to expense (a lake in Missouri might cost several thousand, while one in Europe only 60). You'll also need to buy local fishing licenses, but this is a holdover from the free game (where licenses were expensive and time limited)--you'll just buy the advanced license once and be done with it. Each lake is populated with half a dozen or so species of fish you can catch. That might not sound like much, but each fish comes in "standard," "trophy" and "unique" sizes, with wide variations in weight. You gain experience points and dollars based on these things, so you'll want to catch many of them. You can fish in many different ways, from the basic "put a worm on a hook and hope for the best" to fly fishing, chum, feeders, sinkers...just too many options to list, really. It never gets old, and time and again I found myself doing "just one more cast" instead of stopping like I planned to, half an hour earlier.

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    There are dozens upon dozens of choices for rod, reel, line, hook (ok, only 20 choices for hooks), baits, and a ridiculously wide array of lures and lure-related items. Just figuring how to configure this stuff can be a puzzle to the new player, but there are many tutorial quests which help fill in the details of how to play.

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    Did I mention experience points and quests? Yes, The Fisherman is sort-of a role playing game. While you don't gain levels and skills per se, lakes are generally level-restricted, so you'll need to be a certain level to go there. There's a "dress up" system for your character, where you equip tackle boxes and such, and again all the gear is level based. Face it, everything you can buy is level based, from the lowliest piece of bread to a dead frog. It's not that obnoxious, as you're quite capable of catching most things right away, and it doesn't take much time at all to get access to perfectly useful gear (although certainly you'll have better luck catching huge catfish with large cutbait than minnows). There are many quests; they aren't directly level based, although they can certainly require you to go to a lake you can't reach. The rewards are pretty good (such as unique lures better for catching trophy fish), but you can ignore them if you wish. There are two forms of money in the game, fishbucks (aka dollars) and baitcoin. The latter is harder to acquire, generally from quests or hooking unique fish, but is also the only way to get the best gear or baits---in the "free" version of the game you can purchase baitcoin, but there's plenty in the paid version. A minor annoyance is quests are done/followed only one at a time, so a "catch the big catfish" quest won't be automatically solved if you've already caught such a beast, you have to be actively on that quest to make progress with it.

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    It's so hard to do this game justice with a review because there’s so much depth here. You can enter fishing tournaments, competing against other players to land the largest/most fish in a fixed amount of time. All catches of fish species are tracked, so your name goes on a permanent leaderboard for specimens if you ever do catch something amazing. Even though you're fishing on the same lake, however, you're not in direct competition--the underlying software calculates your chances of hooking based on what you're using, not on any fish currently or previously hooked. You can't even tangle lines with the other players (it is, of course, very difficult to grief in this game, though I have seen a player try, to little effect). There are also seasonal events, such as the recent Halloween event, with pumpkins passing out candy/special bait and equipment. While it certainly helps to have levels for these events, it's not necessary for completing at least the easier parts (which have plenty of rewards).

    Despite all the great things about this game, there are some issues. Foremost, it does crash from time to time, and I've lost some great fish that way I'm sure. The emphasis on amazing graphics means many computers really can't handle the game (you can lower the settings quite a bit, however). A few quests are bugged, which is pretty annoying, and there are also a few typos, even if you’ll be happy your line is no longer “snaged.”

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    Bottom line, there's so much about this game which is so awesome that anyone remotely interested in fishing has no choice but to play it, and any designer looking to do better will have a very difficult time improving on the work already done here. Is it worth buying this game, rather than just trying the free version? I have some doubts, as spending $30 on the "free" game will net you some very nice gear, even if overall the purchased version will give a more accelerated experience. Bare minimum, check out the free game and see for yourself what an amazing fishing game this is.

    Overall Rating: 89 (a few bugs and being in direct competition with the free version keep it just barely out of the "must have" category)
    This article was originally published in forum thread: The Fisherman – Fishing Planet review by Rick Moscatello started by Doom View original post