I’ll be casting off in another Early Access fishing simulation project today; this time, it’s the turn of Dovetail Games Fishing, developed by a studio who has a penchant for putting their name in their game titles and producing simulations of pretty much anything.
Immediately, the level of expectation is raised in terms of quality and polish. There’s a rather impressive cut scene introduction, following a very impressively rendered dragonfly on its path from the reeds out over a lake. “Welcome to the great indoors” it says; it’s a very pleasant surprise from an Early Access title.
The game features character creation - at this stage, it’s a choice between a standard female or male avatar - but already the character models are really well made, and detailed. Animation is already smooth and polished. It’s all very promising for something that appears to be roughly half way to release.
The tutorial system is basic at the moment, but it does a good enough job of explaining how to get started, and deals with the most important part - casting off - in a competent manner. It would be nice if the instructions were given as a voice over as well as the subtitles, but this may well be something that’s added in time for release. Sadly, it currently doesn’t deal with the process of catching a fish and landing one, and this is something that needs to be worked into the tutorial for release.
Release Date: 04/11/2014
Available on: Windows, PC Download
Play the Game
Certainly one of Dovetail Games Fishing’s strengths is the environments. They already have two lakes in the game, both are lovingly crafted and authentically detailed. There’s lots of flora spread around, dense areas of reeds and water flowers in places that make sense. Both of the environments feel like they're based on real locations and have been created with an incredible attention to detail.
This same attention to detail applies to the water, too. The water effects are already sound, and the lakes are actually alive – I saw fish leaping out of the water regularly, as well as surface disturbances that indicate their presence. From a strictly simulation point of view, this is a little dramatized – they’d only really be jumping this often if they’re spawning - but it’s better than presenting a player with a dead looking lake.
True to simulation, I have to walk around and choose a peg where I’d like to set up my equipment. It doesn’t go the whole hog, though, as I don’t have to painstakingly skewer a worm onto a hook or unfold my chair.
Game vs Simulation
There’s a trap that developers can often fall into when it comes to making a simulation game - and that’s forgetting that it’s supposed to be a game, too. If there are issues with the activity that are being simulated, sometimes it may be better to alleviate them through gameplay mechanics.
Fishing has one major drawback - or advantage, to some - it’s time consuming, and it’s possible to spend many hours sitting around doing nothing. This clashes somewhat with the purpose of games, which is to provide entertainment in a relatively immediate fashion. So developers of fishing simulators are often between a rock and a hard place - how much do they want to create an authentic simulation, and how much do they want to appeal to people who play games to get away from having to sit around doing nothing?
Dovetail Games have addressed this in a number of ways. Firstly, they’ve incorporated challenges into the single player mode that reward the player with experience and Tp, an in game currency. Simple challenges are free to attempt from level one, however, more advanced ones are level restricted, so there’s already a feeling of progression and a “gamification” of the activity.
Not only do the challenges provide a quicker form of entertainment, but they also help to improve casting skill and become more familiar with how it’s been implemented.
Sadly though, the fishing itself still suffers a little from the initial obstacle - it’s possible to sit and wait for 20 minutes for a bite. There’s not much that the character can do in the meantime. Three rods can be set up at once, but again, once they’re all in the water I’m just left waiting. I can’t use a slingshot to spread bait around my hook, I can’t seem to throw any in by hand, either. I can bring up solitaire or a website on my second monitor - but then what’s the point of playing in the first place if I need something else open to provide entertainment while I’m waiting for the game to give me some?
Being an Early Access title, it would be wrong to expect it to be problem-free. It isn’t. Performance at the moment, even on the second highest setting, is choppy at best. Even on a relatively high-end machine, the game never seems to be smooth - in fact, it seems to be capped at something that looks lower than 30FPS. I couldn’t get a reading from FRAPS as it causes instability.
Sometimes loading a location or challenge got stuck, and I had to force-close the game.
Multiplayer mode has only recently been added and is very much an early work in progress. It’s pretty threadbare, and has its fair share of glitches. For anyone waiting for a multiplayer fishing game - don’t purchase it yet, it’s not going to be a very enjoyable experience in its current state. Wait a little longer.
There’s currently no way to rebind keys. I would expect this to be included at some stage of the development, as it’s a standard PC feature, but it’s not there yet. There’s also no control layout screen, so I was often left hoping the game would tell me what key to press to carry out an action I’m thinking about. It’s hit and miss. Controller support is included already, but it’s not fully functional yet.
Of the two fishing simulator games currently available on Early Access, the other being Carp Fishing Simulator, I would say that Dovetail Games Fishing has the most potential. It clearly has a higher production value and a larger studio working on it. The pricing policy is a bit suspect, however. The game started on Steam at €6, but the price increases frequently as the game gets further along in development. It’s already undergone 4 price increases this year. At launch, expect it cost AAA price - €40-50.
It’s got potential, it’s not quite there yet. Wait for multiplayer to be in a more complete and functional state, but be prepared to pay a little extra by the time it is
Play the Game
Dovetail Games Fishing is developed by Dovetail Games.