Fishing is a sport that is not under represented in the world of video games. From the straight up arcade pleasures of Sega’s Bass Fishing to the “pleasures” of Rapala Fishing Pro, the games have largely centred on the world of American lure fishing. With Dovetail Games Euro Fishing, the emphasis is placed squarely on fishing the way that I am used to; right down to the wind, the rain, the choices of bait and tactics.
Yes, I have to put my cards on the table. I have been a fisherman for over 30 years now, and as such I approached this game with high expectations, especially given that Euro Fishing promises to allow me to fish real lakes from Britain and Europe. I pulled on my waders and set off.
First released back in November 2014, Euro Fishing has seen a stream of DLC released, with new species of fish to target and new waters to hit them on. As the game originally launched, there were five lakes to fish on, ranging from the beginners Observatory Lake, to the real world Digger Lakes and St Johns Lake, part of the famous Linear Fisheries. In this, the Ultimate Edition, there are now a grand total of 13 fisheries to have a crack at, with additional lakes based on urban locations through to French lakes containing massive carp and catfish. In addition, all the new fish species, such as Koi Carp and Perch are present and correct, so based purely on a value for money basis, it seems that Dovetail Games may be on to a winner with this bundle.
The first thing to do is to create your virtual angler, and the character generation system is pretty good, allowing you to create something that physically resembles yourself, should that be important to you. I mean, the system isn’t going to give Fallout or Elder Scrolls nightmares, but it serves its purpose well enough.
Having created a monster, you’ll probably be best off stumbling onto the tutorial section of the game. I recommend that you complete the various sections of the tutorial, as it will enable you to learn the basics of the game, such as casting and playing a fish. It will also teach you how to feed the swim, change the bait that you are fishing and so on. Handily, completing each section will also allow you to gain XP and more importantly TP – Tackle Points – and with these you can visit the virtual tackle shop and unlock new rigs, rods and reels, as well as some things that don’t begin with R, like new types of bait.
The tackle shop is split into four sections – Coarse, Match, Carp and Stalking – so depending on how you choose to fish you can concentrate your points spend on more powerful rods for catching big fish, or maybe unlock maggots to use as bait for the smaller species. Once the kit is unlocked, you then have to choose to equip it into your tackle box, as only items that are in your box can be used when out on the lakes. You can have multiple boxes, so I tended to have one set up for big fish, one for smaller fish, and so on, depending on how the mood took me on the day. Of course, just because you are fishing for smaller fish doesn’t mean you’ll only catch tiddlers. Luckily, each fish you do catch also rewards you with XP and TP, so even a relatively unproductive session could earn you enough TP to unlock the next tier of baits, which then feeds into the next session. The whole progression system is nicely managed.
So, with gear sorted, bait ready and hopes high, you will be ready to hit the water. As you choose a lake, the first thing that the game does is show you a plan view of things ahead, with the locations of the pegs marked. You can then choose a section of the lake that you wish to teleport to, and from there stroll to the peg of your choice. Just like real fishing, the choice of peg can be influenced by a number of factors. You want to look for a swim that has some features to it, like reedbeds or overhanging trees, or even better, the fish will show themselves by jumping and splashing, or sending up bubbles to show you where they are feeding. So far and Euro Fishing is realistic enough, as this is the exact approach many will use in real life when trying to decide where to fish. As you can imagine, fishing where you know there are fish is usually a lot more productive than just chucking and chancing it!
Having selected a swim, holding the A button down will see you claim it and get your gear sorted. Once the rods are setup, a press of left or right on the D-pad selecta a rod, and then the Y button will allow you to choose the terminal tackle and bait that you want to use. Float fishing or legering? Size of hook or type of bait? These choices are down to you, given the species you are after. Matching hook size to bait is always a good idea, as different fish have different size mouths and tastes.
Once the gear is sorted, it’ll be time to cast. Now here is one of the little annoyances, as if it feels that you aren’t close enough to the water, or are facing in slightly the wrong direction, then you won’t have the option to cast. However, when you are positioned correctly, a press of LT will allow you to cast, and once the bait is in the water, a symbol will show you what type of bottom you are fishing over – gravel, silt or weed. Again, different bottoms require different rigs to fish effectively, so the first couple of casts can be used to feel out the swim, seeing where the gravel bars are and so on. If you are float fishing, the bottom is immaterial, so it doesn’t show this, but instead displays an image of the float sitting in the water. When the float dips, you have to strike by pulling back sharply on the left stick. If you are too late, the fish will be missed, and it is here that Euro Fishing most closely resembles fishing in real life, given the need to strike and then play the fish. When fishing on the bottom by comparison, the fish seem to hook themselves, as when the alarm sounds you only have to pick up the rod and start reeling.
With so many lakes to go at now, ranging from the relatively small to over 12 acres in size, there are a number of fish species to grab; Roach, Perch, Rudd, Bream, Tench, Common Carp, Leather Carp, Leather Carp, Koi Carp, Ghost Carp and Catfish are all present. In addition to the normal, run of the mill fish, each lake also holds a number of “Boss” fish, which are bigger and craftier than the normal guys. Catching these boss fish can take a lot of planning, and before going to catch the bigger fish, like some of the catfish boss fish that can top 120lbs, you’re going to need to unlock some of the better gear and baits if you are to stand a chance. Luckily, in the menus there is plenty of information about each lake, including the boss fish that live there. Reading this can give you insights into how the boss fish could be caught, specifying a certain type of bait or particular areas that they like to hang out in. Obviously, it’s not quite as simple as that, as the random nature of fishing is represented very well here.
Once a fish is hooked, the playing of it is a reasonably simple thing to achieve. Winding the reel is done with the LT button, while the right stick moves the rod, allowing you to position it to put maximum side strain on a fish that is running right, for example. There is a line tension gauge, and letting the line get too loose or too tight for too long can cause the hook to fall out. Once the fish is tired, the icon in the water that represents where it is will turn blue, and a simple press of the A button will see your angler land the fish. After this, the fish will be displayed in all its glory, which can be a proud moment if it’s a new personal best for the species, or if it’s a really pretty fish, like some of the Koi carp are. From there it’s a case of releasing the fish, recasting and waiting for the next bite.
Graphically and Euro Fishing has a lot of nice touches. The water effects in particular are good, particularly when the wind has got up a bit. The ripples look very realistic, and the backgrounds are very nice indeed, conjuring up the atmosphere of sitting by the side of a lake on a lovely summer’s day. Of course, the Great British weather can stick its oar in, and it’s very possible to go from sunny to rainy in the space of minutes. The fish themselves are the stars of the show though, and the animation on their heads in particular is very nice, with realistic movements of their mouths. However, the textures of the fins – especially the tail fins – are completely wrong, and makes the fish look like it’s made of plastic.
And this isn’t the limit of strange graphical effects, either. Fishing on Foundry Dock and you will find that the lake is surrounded by wooden decking, and it’s very common for fish to swim under this decking. However, rather than being a disaster, it is all completely fine as the line can pass straight through solid wood, and the fish can even be landed through the decking with no problems. You can add to this that sometimes the rods on the bank are solid, requiring you to walk around them, and sometimes they aren’t, and can be passed straight through. The line on the rod looks like it’s thick enough to moor a supertanker, and if you put the game into first person mode then the rod and reel float in mid air in a most disconcerting way. Yes, the first person mode doesn’t include any arm graphics, so casting and playing a fish looks very weird indeed.
Sound wise though and things are adequate, with very nice ambient noises like bird calls or police sirens in the distance when playing on the urban map. The sounds of the rods and the tension are also well done, with the rod and line creaking in a very realistic way that will be instantly familiar to any fisherman.
All in all then and the Ultimate Edition of Dovetail Games’ Euro Fishing is good, despite the occasionally dodgy visuals. There is something relaxing about the game, with nothing to do apart from waiting for a bite, appreciating the countryside and keeping an eye out for fish movements. There is a lot of fun to had, and it accurately recreates the feel of fishing – at least for me. There are issues, especially with the graphics as outlined above, but the game is greater than the sum of its parts and with all the DLC included and 13 lakes to fish, I can confidently say that Euro Fishing Ultimate Edition is the best fishing game you can play on Xbox One.
If you have the slightest interest in fishing, then you owe it to yourself to get this game.