Developer: Square Enix
Publisher: Square Enix
Format(s): Playstation VR
When you think of Final Fantasy XV, you might think of a grand adventure that completely changes the formula of the series with its introduction of a fast-paced action battle system. It’s full to the brim with epic encounters against huge beasts, but also tranquil moments that really exemplify the group dynamic shared between the four heroes.
Alternatively, you might think back to the fishing mini-game, which became an addiction that I personally found difficult to give up.
I get to feed that addiction further now, with the release of Monster of the Deep: Final Fantasy XV – a new virtual reality title set in the Final Fantasy XV universe that is based solely around fishing. A fishing adventure might not sound that fitting giving the series as a whole, but anyone who has played Final Fantasy XV will be able to appreciate it. They’ll also be able to appreciate all of the nods to the game, as well as the surprisingly deep and enjoyable experience that’s on offer throughout.
Monster of the Deep puts you in the shoes of your own created character, who finds themself washed up ashore but rescued by Final Fantasy XV hero Cindy after facing off against a giant monstrous fish during a storm. This sets you off on a journey that sees you tackling all of the underwater beasts of Eos as you look to vanquish the ‘monster of the deep’ that got you into all this trouble to begin with.
Final Fantasy XV was known to be stunning and it comes through in Monster of the Deep too; you’ll be re-visiting some of the locations you visited in the game and they still manage to look impressive, even in the somewhat limited Playstation VR headset. In fact, at times they seem even better – whilst you don’t have the same visual fidelity from the main game, being able to see everything so closely and feel like it is actually surrounding is magnificent. I forgot how stunning of a world Eos is, but seeing it all again in VR was a reminder that it’s an absolute treat on the eyes.
The magical world around you is brought to life by the many NPCs and monsters that inhabit it; whether it be Final Fantasy XV’s protagonist Noctis challenging your fishing skills, the countless Chocobos who are lingering around the ponds, or the giant Catoblepas that has inhabited one of the lakes. Everything just looks so impressive and it’s clear that Square Enix didn’t make too many sacrifices in the visual department by bringing it to VR. Just wait until you see the fish up close too – the attention to detail there is just unbelievable.
Monster of the Deep allows players to either use the Move controllers or a Dual-Shock controller. They both work really well in their own little ways, with the Dual-Shock in particular nailing the natural feel of a reel, whilst the Move controller feels better to make the motions when casting your line. They both have perks to them so it comes down to preference, but they’re both viable options that make the game feel incredibly accessible.
The fishing mechanics of the game are simple enough: you cast your line (you’ll literally be swinging your arm back and then reaching out), wait patiently whilst a fish takes a bite, flick up the controller to grab hold of them, and then reel it in all whilst moving your rod to make sure that the line doesn’t snap.
It’s generally an easy enough process. Once the fish in reach, you flick up the controller and you’ve got your catch in your hand to admire in front of you (which is great in VR). You’ll certainly feel very involved in the process and it demands movement on the player’s part, but it’s never too strenuous and is certainly very addictive. It can take a little getting used to mastering the length of your cast, but that starts to come naturally with time. The only thing that felt a little awkward was when you had to cast to the side of you with the Playstation camera not always picking up your diagonal casting accurately, but again, it’s something you get used to and figure out on your own terms.
Don’t worry too much about locating fish in each location – you don’t have to have some natural instinct or a streak of good luck. A quick press of a button will activate your sonar, which marks specific parts of each lake that are home to a larger selection of fish. A clear circle is marked off for you, so as long as you cast your rod into that area it shouldn’t take you too long to get a bite. Besides the sonar, you can also unlock new fishing gear to make your life easier, as well as all-new costumes for those who like to fish in style. My personal favourite outfit was the Moogle costume, but hey, each to their own.
When working through the story, you’ll have to clear each location of the Daemon fish than inhabit it. They’re always hidden though, which means you’ve got to catch as many fish as possible until it makes its presence known, with a huge purple mist lingering around the lake to let you know that it’s go time.
Of course, this is a Daemon fish and you can’t just ‘catch it’; you have to battle it first, which means pulling out a crossbow and shooting it until it’s weakened. You’ll have to monitor how the fish attacks and then pick your moments to shoot out at it before it harms you. There are plenty of different ways in which each Daemon fish will attack you too, so you’ll have to be wary of your surroundings, their movement patterns, or even incoming projectile attacks if you’re going to survive.
It’s a neat little part of the game, though admittedly it’s not the best example of shooting you’ll play in a VR title; other games have handled it better, with it all feeling a little too simplified here. Still, it’s a fun little addition to Monster of the Deep’s experience and ensures that the Daemon fish aren’t simply reeled in – that’d be a bit too anti-climactic.
Of course, those who just enjoy the tranquillity of fishing can do that too, with free-fishing modes in place. There’re also tournaments you can compete it, as well as the Hunts where you’re tasked with catching specific fish. This is where some of the customisation options play a bigger role too; you’ll need better rods and bait if you’re going to get some of the rarer fish out there, so you’ll have to invest some cash and time if you’re going to succeed. The fish come in different weights and sizes too, so you can always keep aiming to just catch the biggest and make sure you’re the greatest fisherman that Eos has ever seen – seriously, there’s just plenty to do.
So the idea of a fishing game might not really appeal to everyone, but the way in which it is handled in Monster of the Deep is superb. It’s carefully tied to a narrative and fans of Final Fantasy XV will feel right at home with the characters, the setting, and the music that’s playing alongside it all. I suppose it could work against it too – I mean, anyone who hasn’t actually played Final Fantasy XV might not be able to appreciate the fan service – but for someone who has sunk in the hours like myself, it was hard not to feel totally engrossed in it.
Whilst I really enjoyed playing Monster of the Deep though, there were a few flaws to be found. Some of the loading times could last a while, especially when switching between missions or hunts. The cinematic presentation was a little off too, with the game transitioning to a fixed screen for cutscenes – it took me out of the experience a bit and just felt a little lazy. There was the occasional awkward moment of body tracking too, though that was always easily fixed with a quick re-calibration. At least none of these issues ruin the game in any way, but they were noticeable.
Despite the virtual reality gimmick, I could easily see myself quickly growing bored of a ‘normal’ fishing game, but I simply found it hard to put Monster of the Deep: Final Fantasy XV down. I was ‘hooked in’ from the start (excuse the pun) thanks to the intriguing narrative, the stunning world, the customisation options, and the sheer attention to detail the game offers in representing Final Fantasy XV’s world of Eos.
It has a couple of flaws here and there, but in all I had a lot of fun with Monster of the Deep: Final Fantasy XV. Here’s hoping we’ll be having more VR adventures in the world of Final Fantasy soon – maybe a bit of Chocobo Racing or breeding would be fun…