The Fisherman – Fishing Planet PS4 Review
If The Fisherman – Fishing Planet looks familiar to you, you aren’t imagining things. In fact, if you have played Fishing Planet, the Free to Play game created by the same developer, The Fisherman – Fishing Planet is practically identical to its free to play counterpart.
Typically when a game decides to go free to play, it is a last-ditch effort to increase the player base in hopes of keeping the game alive. Rarely does the opposite happen, where a free to play game decides to put out a paid product that is largely the same.
In the case of The Fisherman – Fishing Planet, that is exactly what happened.
Although this new paid version has a slightly different name, the differences between the paid version and free version are leaving fans of the free to play game, Fishing Planet, scratching their heads.
This pay to play version comes with a $39.99 price tag, the “inclusion” of DLC (more on that later), a few more fish, a better-balanced economy, less grinding, and the new map, Creuse in France.
The differences, however, mostly end there.
As someone who has very limited experience and knowledge of fishing games or fishing in general outside of mini-games like in Fire Emblem, playing through this was an uphill battle.
Understanding the intricacies between different lines, bait, and reeling techniques were some of the biggest hurdles, despite the games best efforts to teach me on the fly.
The game begins with a lengthy tutorial that attempts to teach you the basics of the game such as movement, menu navigation, and most importantly, fishing. Although these seem like basic tasks, some of them are unfortunately far more complicated than others.
Menu navigation quickly becomes an exercise in patience as you scramble to remember which button operates the various sections of the screen.
The controls in the menu feel unintuitive and overly complex for something that could have been solved by just emulating a mouse, similar to games like Destiny.
For instance, when searching the shop (which is displayed in a website style view), you must first use R1 or L1 to select it from the main menu directory. Using the Left Stick moves the submenu that lets you choose which part of the shop you would like to view, such as Rods, Baits, or Licenses.
Then, to purchase anything, you use the Right Stick to select it, while the D-Pad is sectioned off to operate the left side of the screen to navigate filters, and finally, the triggers are used to change pages.
If that sounds like a convoluted mess to you, you aren’t wrong. Playing on a controller feels like the developers were shoving a square peg into a round hole.
The PC version operates exactly as you would want, moving the cursor to the appropriate spot and clicking on what you want to buy or select, however, using a controller turns that simple operation into a mind-bending circus that can frustrate players that just want to get back to what the game excels at: authentic simulated fishing.
What makes it all more frustrating is that the game does not follow the same control scheme for every menu. Navigating the shop uses slightly different controls than the world map or the sub-map does, causing even more confusion.
After hours of playing, learning how to navigate the menus becomes less of a hassle, but it still feels overwhelming out of the gate, especially for newcomers to the series.
For a game that already has several learning curves, making menu navigation one of them is a frustrating experience.
The gameplay itself, on the other hand, is far easier to handle and is a proper simulation of real-life fishing. The Fisherman: Fishing Planet is a full-blown sim, with accurate weather forecasts, baiting requirements, real-life locations, and even licensing restrictions.
Speaking of licensing, this is one of the biggest changes coming from the free to play title. Licenses are no longer time-gated, this means that purchasing a license allows you to keep it for the rest of the game, a welcomed change from Fishing Planet, where unlimited licenses were bought via paid currency or by grinding out for bait coins.
Rather than having to maximize your time in one area before your license expires, you can change locations at your own pace and leisure, allowing more freedom and less anxiety when it comes to choosing where to fish.
Another fantastic aspect of this simulation inspired game is the weather forecast. Each of the 19 different maps have different weather conditions, all of which affect what type of fish you can catch and how likely they are to be caught.
Using the line graph displayed in the main menu, you can easily see when the best time to fish in the area is. By tapping square, you can fast-forward time to what you desire in order to get the best results.
The game is broken up into missions and by completing each of these missions, you get rewarded with the two types of in-game currency, money and Bait Coins.
These missions also act as a way to teach the player the several nuances between reeling techniques that are required to catch the 143 different types of species available.
For instance, one of the missions has you performing a straight retrieve, a reeling technique that emulates the motions of an injured fish, which helps attract prey to your bait much easier.
Another mission has you testing out the Stop & Go retrieve, which imitates the movements of a small fish that drives predators crazy.
Using these different methods brings authenticity and realism to the game that other fishing games seem to lack. The Fisherman leans heavily into the sport of fishing, allowing players of all skill levels to enjoy the game.
The missions then expand into having you catch the various types of fish found in those areas. Each of which requires different types of rods and bait in order to land you a bite.
On its surface, you can simply just fish. However, for those that are looking for something more nuanced and deeper, the game allows for that as well. That hidden layer of skill is available to those that want it, but it’s not necessarily a must out of the gate.
One of the biggest surprises to me was how zen the game is to play.
Simply casting out into open waters and kicking back in my chair waiting for a bite was far more relaxing than I anticipated. The ability for the game to suck you in for hours as you perfect your technique and dive deeper into the mechanics had me engaged in a way that I did not expect.
It wasn’t long before I was obsessing over the type of bait I wanted to use, which one yielded the best results, chasing after leaderboard scores and entering the daily competitions to try my hand at the more competitive aspects that the game has to offer.
The competitions were also an unexpected gem that I did not foresee myself being so enamored with.
Each competition, or sport, is limited in terms of how long they take place and what the scoring requirements are. For instance, in Midnight Salmon Galore, you are limited to catching all forms and types of Salmon while night fishing for only 30 minutes, with the goal being to get the maximum weight difference between the smallest and biggest salmon you catch.
Each one of these competitions is unique and forces players to think outside of the box, rather than just aiming for the biggest fish they can find.
Often times these restrictions force the player to use different equipment than they normally would to catch the required fish, giving purpose to the several different rods, baits, hooks, and more that the game has to offer (and boy, are there a lot of tools to choose from).
These competitions payout quite extensively as well, rewarding the top 10 placements anywhere from in-game currency such as money and bait coins, or even equipment like new rods, reels, and spoons.
Another restriction put in the game is level caps. Unfortunately, in order to fish where you want, it takes quite a bit of grinding. Although the grind isn’t nearly as severe is it is in Fishing Planet, the free to play version, there is still an uphill battle when it comes to unlocking new maps, equipment, and more.
Each fish you catch and each mission you complete will earn you XP, making the process much faster than it once was, but some of the progression blocks from the free to play version are still present.
Speaking of progression blocks, Bait Coins still remain a hindrance that feel like they are leftover from the free to play model that the developers have recently steered away from.
Although you can earn these coins at a much more rapid pace than you can in the free to play version, the overabundance of shop items and DLC that require coins to purchase feels a little scummy at times.
This game isn’t without its technical issues either. There are random moments of hitching, frame rate drops, and long load times that have you holding your breath as to whether or not the game might crash.
Although these issues do not directly affect moment to moment gameplay, they become an annoyance over time that take you out of what is overall a very immersive experience.
When it comes to the differences between the free to play and pay to play versions, the bigger issue is the fracture that is causing the small but committed community of Fishing Planet players to split off into two separate directions.
Unfortunately, for those that spent time, money, and countless hours of effort into the free to play model can not carry over their progress into The Fisherman – Fishing Planet.
This move has left many longtime players scratching their heads as to why the change to a full-priced product was made without some sort of transition in mind.
On top of that, the messaging from the developers and publisher Bigben has been confusing at best.
Long-time players aren’t sure where the direction of the free to play game is going and if they should make the jump to the paid model in fear that they may lose their progress due to server shutdowns or lack of updates.
This lack of clear messaging has also crept into the selling points for The Fisherman – Fishing Planet.
Although the developers are claiming that it includes 30+ DLC, the DLC is not actually “included” as you would imagine. The DLC still requires the player to purchase it using Bait Coins, and although coins are more easily obtainable in the paid model, the fact that the marketing does not make that clear leaves a bad taste in the mouths of many long-time fans.
Loyal customers of the f2p game love the franchise for its authenticity to the real-life sport of fishing, but without the developers willing to meet those players halfway by either offering account transfers or a discount voucher, they feel like they are forced to choose between the new game, or stick with one that may not get many more updates down the line.
Overall, The Fisherman – Fishing Planet is an impressive recreation of real-life fishing. The simulation aspects of the game are second to none and the amount of love that the developers have for the sport is abundantly clear from the get-go.
This isn’t a half-assed idea of what fishing might be, this is as real as it gets.
Although my experience with the fishing genre was limited heading into this review, I came out of it learning a whole new appreciation and respect for the amount of skill and effort it takes to be at the top of the sport.
However, due to the mixed messaging, confusing controls, and lack of help outside of the tutorials, newcomers are going to be in for an uphill battle that requires them to do research outside of what is offered in-game.
Although the game tries its best to teach new players the ropes, it falls short due to the overwhelming amount of techniques and options the player is disposed to out of the gate.
Score: 3/5 Fair
- Truly authentic recreation of the sport of fishing. Second to none in realism and likeness to real life.
- Competitions and Tournaments always give players something to do and help the endgame experience.
- Relaxing experience that will have you asking where the time went when you finally put down the controller.
- 19 different maps to explore, 143 different species of fish to catch, and a shop that contains a wide variety of options for every type of player.
- Confusing menu system and frustrating controls that takes quite a bit of time to get used to.
- Random technical issues that don’t break the game, but get in the way just enough to break immersion.
- Splitting up the community between the free to play and the paid model, leaving long-time players feeling abandoned.
- Lack of information for new players and the requirement of research outside of the game can make it feel more like a study session rather than a game at times.
Should You Buy The Fisherman – Fishing Planet?
The Fisherman – Fishing Planet is a tough sell for anyone who has poured time and money into their previously released free to play game, Fishing Planet. However, for newcomers to the series that want to jump in, The Fisherman – Fishing Planet is a good place to start with a reasonable asking price that offers some of the most authentic fishing experiences you can find.
If you played the free to play version and do not mind starting over at level zero, then The Fisherman – Fishing Planet may offer just enough to warrant a purchase.
The Fisherman – Fishing Planet Platforms and Release Date
The Fisherman – Fishing Planet is now out for PS4, Xbox One, and PC.
The Fisherman – Fishing Planet Developers
The Fisherman – Fishing Planet is developed by FishingPlanet LLC, and published by new publisher Bigben Interactive.