Monster of the Deep: Final Fantasy XV Preview
Fishing plays a somewhat prominent role in Final Fantasy XV, being protagonist Noctis’ leisure activity of choice. However, to be perfectly frank, it was my least favorite part of the game. To build an entire experience out of it, in virtual reality no less, seemed an odd choice. On the other hand, I’m a huge fan of Final Fantasy XV and its world, and I’m rooting for it, so my trepidation was tempered somewhat by my hope that Monster of the Deep would turn out to be great. Or, at least, not actively horrible.
In Monster of the Deep, you create an avatar, male or female, and there is a decent amount of customization available. I’m never one to spend a lot of time making a character, particularly in a game played primarily in first person, so I went with a lot of the defaults, pausing only to give my guy a sick tattoo on his right arm. After a brief tutorial, you’re dropped into the story. Yes, there is a story, though from what I could tell, it is pretty sparse and mostly exists to move you from one fishing hole to the next. You are a hunter, like one of the many you encountered in the main game, but your specialty is aquatic daemons. In order to draw them out of their water holes, you have to catch a certain number of fish. (I’ve yet to be given an explanation as to why that’s effective). Once the daemon is revealed, you must blast it with your crossbow until it’s weakened, at which point you can switch to your rod, hook it, and reel it in.
So, first things first in this fishing game: the fishing. Motion controls are a big part of the experience, as you might imagine. Hold a button, throw your arm back, then forward and release. It’s simple in theory, but in execution, I find it incredibly difficult to get my lure to land anywhere near the spot I’m aiming for. The way the game calculates distance is baffling to me, and sometimes, though my rod is clearly pointing straight ahead, my line careens off to the right or left. I’m hoping for a bit more refinement here before the game releases.
“In the story mode, the whole point of fishing is to draw out that particular fishing hole’s daemon.”
Your character has a sonar to pinpoint the locations of fish, which is crucial. Annoyingly, I wasn’t able to use it after I’d cast my line, so when uncertain I was in the right spot, I had to reel in, check the sonar, and recast. If you aren’t getting any bites in one location, there are others you can walk to – though I should mention the game uses the “teleportation” method of VR locomotion, which I’m not a fan of. I know it helps some people with nausea, so I absolutely think it should be included as an option, but I’d love the ability to walk freely around the world, too.
In the story mode, the whole point of fishing is to draw out that particular fishing hole’s daemon. Most of the daemon battles I’ve seen so far are fairly simple. I never really felt at risk during battles – it could be that I have hit points, unseen and that if I was a terrible shot, battles could potentially be lost. It’s not clear. The second battle was a bit more interesting, with a daemon fish capable of creating multiple doppelgangers to confuse me. My first “aha!” moment came when battling a daemon that fired projectiles, which I had to shoot down before I could continue attacking it. If future battles can be as engaging as that one, I’m optimistic about the daemon fighting, at least.
In between fishing and daemon fighting, you’ll watch cutscenes featuring familiar characters. Getting to see some of your favorites, like Cindy or Noctis or Prompto, up close in VR is pretty cool, though they feel like cameos at best. Cool cameos, sure, but nothing that contributes in any meaningful way to the plot. That could change as the story progresses.
There are also Hunts you can go on in Monster of the Deep, though these seem oddly named. In the main game, a hunt is a battle against a specific daemon or daemons; here, it’s a request to catch a particular kind of fish. The story “hunts” I went on didn’t net me any sort of reward beyond the advancement of the story, so if you want to upgrade your lure, rod, or anything else, you’ll have to hit the fishing hole for relative small fry with some frequency.
Then there’s the Tournament mode. The fisher with the highest cumulative weight of fish caught when time runs out wins. Hopefully, there’s a bit more competition in the final game to make tournaments feel worthwhile because right now, they don’t seem to add much to the experience.
My biggest issue with Monster of the Deep is that the main gameplay loop doesn’t feel very fun yet. Actually reeling in a fish isn’t difficult, but casting your line to the right spot, then waiting, and waiting, reeling in, recasting, it’s all tedious. Yeah, I’m not much of a fisher in real life, either, but I expected and hoped for a bit more here.
Even though I’m walking away from this preview build relatively unimpressed, I still have a bit of optimism in my Final Fantasy-loving heart. If the full game can deliver a somewhat compelling narrative and provide a decent amount of variety in its daemon battles, this might be worth recommending to PSVR fans. We’ll just have to wait and see. And if you like fishing, then you’re already well-versed in waiting.