Many people giggled when Square Enix first announced that their long promised VR instalment to Final Fantasy 15 was to be a VR fishing game, yet it received a warm, while not sweltering, reception on release. So is it worth the purchase? Or is it just another AAA title spin off, cash grab? Well, as promised a month ago, I’ve spent some time playing it to find out.

I’ll start by saying that it’s pretty obvious fairly early on in the game that enjoyment of this title is strongly linked to enjoyment of the main game, Final Fantasy 15. If you haven’t played the main game or didn’t like it then this VR fishing game, spin off isn’t likely to win you over. If you’re a fishing enthusiast wanting to fish in the warm this winter then it’s worth noting that while this is an enjoyable little fishing sim, there’s not much depth to the game mechanics. So, if you’re after the Dirt Rally of the fishing game world then this really isn’t it. However, there is beauty in simplicity. If you just want to chill with Noctis and the gang while catching a few fish and fighting a few aquatic demons then this is the game for you.

The preview images above look great don’t they? Well… Don’t expect it to look like this in game, not on the PSVR, anyway.  Current gen VR headsets just won’t be able to handle graphics like that. Below is how it actually looks in VR, but, let’s face it, all gamers know not to take preview images at face value:

It is worth noting that I’m playing on an original PS4 not a pro, so graphics will be slightly improved on the pro.  Despite how bad it looks in such a clear comparison, it’s not so different to other VR games. Focusing all the processing power on the centre of the screen is how it’s done in VR as unlike on a flat screen, the player will never look directly at the edges. In VR you turn to look at points of interest. In terms of VR, the graphics are actually quite impressive. They may only have converted small areas of the main game into VR, but the draw distance maintained is impressive and the areas are also well populated with objects and creatures.

In Monster of the Deep you play a customisable hunter, who is tasked with hunting down and killing a demonic beast, terrorising the fishing spots in the kingdom. The avatar creation system is the same one used for the main game’s multiplayer expansion, Comrades, which allows an extraordinary level of customisation for a VR game, matched only by Skyrim. Also similar to the expansion, you start with only a few clothing options but can purchase more as you go through the game with the money you earn by completing monster hunts or winning tournaments. In terms of gameplay, there are a number of extra game modes that will unlock as you advance through the main story mode. These are as follows:

Free Fishing – which allows you to just kick back and fish without a time limit, competition or the danger of suddenly being attacked by a giant demon fish.

Hunts – which allow you to undertake paid hunts to seek out and kill monsters, in the various fishing spots in the kingdom. These work slightly differently to the story mode, having a heavier reliance on having and equipping the right gear.

Tournament – This allows you to partake in fishing tournament against AI opponents. The aim of this mode is to earn more points in landing fish than your opponents within a given time.

The main story mode follows a set storyline which allows you to get up close and personal with many of the favourites of Final Fantasy 15’s cast. Including the main four Noctis, Ignis, Gladio and Prompto and, let’s face it, anyone who tells you that this isn’t the main allure of the game is lying. This game is mainly fan service, as it takes the characters and environments from the main games that you just wished you could visit in real life and drops you right in. However, it doesn’t follow that this is just a cash grab.

It’s clear that a lot of effort was put in to convert the fun little mini game from the main feature and grow it into a standalone experience, even if it does mainly have fans in mind. The UI has been well designed. I love how the radar device sits in the player’s pocket where it can be intuitively plucked and activated without even looking down. The game also has a great selfie option, which when you catch a fish, allows you to take a picture of yourself with your prize. A number of fishing spots are dotted around each location which you can move between, via teleportation, allowing you to explore at least little of Final Fantasy 15’s stunning environments. There’s also a chocobo that you can stand right in front of which is sure win over most Final Fantasy fans.

The fishing itself is, unfortunately, not quite as smooth and intuitive as most of the other features. Casting takes a bit of getting used to. It isn’t based on how hard you flick the move controller but how far and when you time the release. The window is also very tight which means that just a small difference can have the hook either drop at your feet or soar over the horizon, getting anything in between feels more like blind luck than skill. This does lead to more than a little frustration, early on. While the game does have good tutorials, in most areas, it doesn’t seem to do a good job with explaining the mechanics of casting. It tells you which buttons to use but then doesn’t explain how to direct or time your cast, or if it did then I missed it. However, the storyline mode is quite easy and doesn’t overly tax you with tight accuracy requirements, so the fiddly controls don’t ruin the game.

While this may not be a deep and engaging fishing experience, the setting, characters and lore it shares with the main game do make it a pleasant Final Fantasy experience with a bit of fishing thrown in. I’ve enjoyed my time playing this game and considering a lot of the other VR titles currently available, with its many game modes, it does prove good value for money. However, if you’re not a fan of Final Fantasy 15 then you may find yourself left disappointed because, as a fishing sim, the mechanics are pretty bare boned, and the wishy washy controls are likely to frustrate at times. All in all, while not a cash grab, it is mainly a fan service game and not really likely to interest the Final Fantasy 15 uninitiated.