Casting Off with Carp Fishing Simulator
Carp Fishing Simulator, developed by Dangerous Derk Interactive, is one of those rare fishing simulator games that Early Access may theoretically be able to revive, as it's typically a genre that publishers will shun without thinking twice.
Before I get too far into this review, I'm going to make it absolutely clear - this is an Early Access title and it appears to be in the very early stages of development. As such, a lot of the criticisms pointed out will be issues that may yet be rectified. That being said, I want to make it clear from the start that this is not the greatest Early Access title I've ever seen.
So What Is It?
It's a white hole… Sorry. It's a hyper-realistic fishing simulator, with some inconsistencies. At the start of the game, I found myself standing, facing a lake. I actually had to walk over to a peg and set up my equipment - then I was free to cast off my 3 rods, use a remote controlled bait boat and lure the fish with the spud rod.
Bait mixes can be created and shared with other people, or chosen from the comprehensive options included from the start. Rods, reels and lines can all be customised in detail, allowing the player to get deep into complexities of freshwater fishing.
Release Date: 28/04/2015
Available on: Windows, PC Download
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What's Wrong with it?
Going for an authentic simulation in a first person title relies almost entirely on immersion and suspension of disbelief. Sadly, right from the start, Carp Fishing Simulator struggles with this approach.
As I said earlier I started the game dumped in a car park. Behind me were some very N64-looking sheds that, despite being open, are inaccessible. In front of me was a small “lake” (more like a pond) with green water (water colour can be fixed by selecting the alternative water setting at the main menu, although it doesn't work for everyone), one pretty tree that appeared to have been copied multiple times and some pretty dire foliage. So, right from the off there's problems with immersion.
And then I moved. By using the arrow keys, I was able to make my character shuffle around like a zombie. The footsteps just sound like digital noise. I wanted to set up my stuff. I found a spot and was suddenly catapulted into the air, where I remained floating until I quit the game. All of this stuff is par for the course with Early Access titles, and really a player should not purchase one without expecting issues of this type.
What may not be down to Early Access is the next part. Setting up my tent and equipment. Given that they've chosen to have me walk around and choose a spot, I expected that there'd be a similarly involved process here, too. There isn't. Pressing ‘y' is set up my equipment instantly. Already then there's an inconsistency when it comes to the realistic approach, and immersion once again suffers as a result.
Am I saying that I should have been asked to enter complicated button combinations to build a tent? No - I'm questioning the merit and the implications of starting the player off in such a manner. It's a confused message.
When it comes to casting off, there are issues with lacklustre animations and toilet-bowl sound effects - but again, these are things that can be improved over time - however more concerning are the design decisions. I could change my setup at any time, through the magic of a pop-up window. Handy, but hardly immersive or realistic. I also appeared to have an infinite amount of bate and hooks, too.
Now with lines in the water, I had to sit and wait. That, at least, is accurate - but I can't help but feel that the game is missing a hook. In real life, I'd be sat at a beautiful location, admiring the view (which I can't do here), possibly watching and listening for birds (again, at the moment there's only a single bird making the same call repeatedly), with a thermos of hot, refreshing tea. So waiting wouldn't be a problem.
This does not transfer to a game all that well. Especially if I have to wait for a long time for the game to decide that a fish should take my bait. As the developer worryingly stated on the Steam forums, “4 hours isn't a long time to wait for a fish.” - Well, actually when sat in front of a computer, it is a long time! Especially when there's very little to do once the lines in the water.
There are a couple of other worrying issues, too. Catching a fish should absolutely be the highlight of any fishing simulator. Sadly, it's dull in its current implementation. A hideous alarm sounds (one that would surely scare the entire lake away from the rods, if not cause sudden evolutionary growing of legs and feet). Reeling in has pretty much no animation to it and the fish themselves just swim casually around - I couldn't tell if it was swimming closer because it was curious or it was actually being pulled toward me. Positioning my landing net left it floating on the surface, and somehow the fish magically swam into it!
There was absolutely nothing immersive or realistic about landing that catch. There aren't any fish actually in the lake until the game decides that I'm due a nibble, either.
I then got the fish out of the water (well, it appeared on a table), and then “took a photograph” by pressing ‘P' - without flash, without a camera rising up in front of my view, just a message saying ‘photograph taken'. And then the fish disappeared.
Another issue I have is the way that the day/night cycle works. A fishing simulator should allow me to recreate daytime fishing when I'm at home on an evening in winter. Well, not here, as the day/night cycle reflects real-time. So playing at 2100 in November, it's going to be 2100 in the game. It's not going to give me the escape into summer that I'm looking for.
What's to Come
The developer has made mention of several improvements that they're looking to add to the game over time. Crafting - although I'm not sure how that fits into ‘simulation' - controller support, new locations, improved graphics and animations have all been mentioned. Version 2 of the game, which the developer wants to start testing imminently, looks graphically much better, although it will be temporary step back in terms of features and content.
I don't enjoy being harsh on Early Access games. It's an avenue for new developers to create games that would never otherwise see the light of the day. Nonetheless, they're still asking for money so there needs to be some accountability and expectation of critique on their behalf.
Carp Fishing Simulator is not something I would recommend purchasing at this point. I'm not sure if the changes that version 2 will bring can change my mind on that. It needs to be mechanically immersive and it isn't. Perhaps it should have been marketed at VR, where immersion is given a massive helping hand by the hardware.
A number of times I accidentally typed “Crap Fishing Simulator” when I was writing this review - my subconscious at work, no doubt.
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Carp Fishing Simulator is developed by Dangerous Derk Interactive.