There was a time I considered myself a hobby fisherman. I wasn’t crazy about it, but it was something I liked to do throughout my 20s. Eventually life caught up to me and I’ve found myself with less time to head out to the water to fish. Not only that, but new equipment is expensive and some of the more fun types of fishing adventures were walled off without expensive charters or owning a boat. That’s where something like Ultimate Fishing Simulator comes in—it gives you the simple pleasure of fishing without the hassle or overhead.
Fishing in Ultimate Fishing Simulator is the main attraction, and there are a few different ways you can go about it. You can fish with a traditional rod and reel, fly fish, even ice fish. You can use bobbers, add weights, or set up your equipment in any way you see fit. Different types of fish, of course, will be more attracted to different types of baits or lures, or even bite at different times of day. There is a day and night cycle, and even different weather effects to change up your experience and strategies. If you want an underwater view of the action, Ultimate Fishing Simulator has a magical underwater camera view that feels a little like cheating–at first. But once I realized that there was no tactile feedback to feel fish nipping at my bait, I started to rely on it.
The underwater camera is both simultaneously great, and a little problematic. It helps you fish, and is perhaps a little more interesting than watching a lake or bobber, but it also shows off the stiff feeding animation that fish have. They don’t really nip at bait, or take it in one go, like a real fish would. They grab it and sort of hold in in their mouth as they slowly float to the surface. Of course, that’s the time to set the hook, which seems to be something that never fails once you wait a few seconds. I wish there was a little bit more skill involved at that point in the endeavor, but most of the gameplay after hooking a fish relies on wrestling it to shore, or your boat. If you catch a fish that’s too large to reel in completely, you’ll need a net. The net mechanic is strange, and though it feels like it’s able to be failed, it always worked for me despite my early ineptitude.
If you find yourself without a net for larger fish, or an auger to drill through the ice after you buy the license to the first ice fishing level, you can always purchase those through the inventory shop. Conveniently, this shop can be used at any point—in a level, in the main menus, etc. It’s nice to be able to top off your bait while on a boat in the middle of a lake, but it really takes away the simulation part of the title. There are even lots of pieces of licensed gear to buy. The shop has everything you would hope to take fishing. There’s a selection of hooks, floats, etc. with a ton of different lures to choose from.
As you catch more fish, you will accumulate more money and experience. The higher your level, the more fishing locations are available to you. As you unlock levels, you accumulate skill points to spend on skills that you can unlock, like the ability to use boats, or an auger. There are other abilities that actually help you catch fish, like Hunter Vision, which allows you to see fish easily in the water. Increasing strength helps you cast further, and so on with other skills. Surprisingly, most of these skills, despite their augmentations, didn’t really do too much to change the way I caught fish. The most important ones, and truly the only skills that felt like they needed to be unlocked to experience the entire game, were the abilities to use the auger and drive boats.
There are nine total locations, with all but the starting location locked when you start. Two of the locations you can unlock are just ice fishing variations on regular levels. Each location has different fish, and ways to fish. From high mountain fishing to fishing in swampy Louisiana, the locales are varied and interesting. Some locations have boats that can be used if you have the proper skill. Driving boats in different locations is fun, but you don’t have to worry about fuel, hitting objects, etc. This is all about fishing. Each boat has a fish finder on it, too.
There is multiplayer, which turns Ultimate Fishing Simulator into more of a social experience. I did try it out for a bit, but most of the random people I was fishing with seemed content to keep to themselves. Player avatars look like board game pieces that are transparent, so any sense of fellow humans is sort of lost, with the whole thing giving you the feeling of hanging out in a virtual reality chat room with the occasionally “so and so caught a fish” message. You can fish with friends, though, which is always fun. If you want to try your skills against other fishermen online, you can join a tournament or set one up to compete. You can even set up a private tournament to test yourself against your friends.
If you aren’t having luck catching a specific type of fish, you can check out the fish encyclopedia, which not only shows you a 3D model of every fish type, but gives detailed information about them as well. It also tells you how to catch them, best luring methods, and best weather conditions to be fishing for any specific fish. It’s really quite handy, and will help you check the boxes for those particularly elusive fish.
In addition, the fish encyclopedia is the trophy room, which is a small lodge that allows you to check out your greatest catches as trophies mounted on the wall. It doesn’t do much for gameplay, but it’s neat to be able to walk around and see your accomplishments.
While there isn’t much of a soundtrack to Ultimate Fishing Simulator, there is an in-game internet radio player that allows you to listen to music directly from the game. It’s a small but welcome touch.
Ultimate Fishing Simulator doesn’t exactly live up to its simulator name, but it does provide an amusing fishing experience. There is something relaxing about sitting on a dock and just waiting for the fish to bite, and Ultimate Fishing Simulator recreates that experience. Ultimate Fishing Simulator seems like it’s striving to be the one-stop fishing simulator, and it offers lots of different options. If I pop a beer, turn on the radio, and squint, it almost feels like the real thing.
Ultimate Fishing Simulator has left Early Access and is available now on Steam.
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