Monster of the Deep: Final Fantasy XV Review
It’s hard for me to parse my expectations for Monster of the Deep: Final Fantasy XV. On the one hand, I love Final Fantasy XV more than most people I know, and I’ll fervently defend it whenever friends bring up its weaknesses. On the other hand, I hate fishing, both in games and in real life. A VR experience that purported to take Final Fantasy XV’s fishing and make it more “realistic” did not sound like a winning formula to me. And yet, I was pulling for it. All things considered, I came away generally impressed.
Monster of the Deep follows you, a Hunter, as you try to rid Eos’ lakes and waterways of aquatic daemons. When you first dive in, you’re asked to create a character. The character creator is fairly robust, and you can personalize to your heart’s content. Your newly created character is tasked with fishing at various spots around the continent, with the intention of luring out the daemons hiding therein. Along the way, you’ll interact with many characters from Final Fantasy XV, including the fab four themselves. Being up close and personal with these characters is a pretty cool experience – the sense of presence that VR brings really gives weight to what you’re seeing. While the interactions don’t amount to much more than one-sided conversations (you’re basically mute and can only answer yes-or-no questions), it’s a cool bit of fan service.
Beyond the plot, which is very basic, the focus is on the fishing. You’re best served using the PlayStation Move controllers if you have them. Casting, reeling, everything feels much more natural with separate, handheld controllers. If you’re stuck with the old-fashioned DualShock 4, though, you’ll still be able to play just fine. Casting is more or less like I remember it from the handful of times I exposed my pale flesh to the out-of-doors and waded into a river with my dad. Hold the Move button to ready your cast, swing your arm back, flick forward and release.
“When a daemonfish appears, the fishing game is put aside for a bit in favor of a crossbow shooting sim.”
From beginning to end, I struggled with hitting the sweet spot between too hard and too soft. Casting far away and close by is easy; hitting somewhere in the middle is more of a challenge than it should be. In addition to your fishing pole, you’re equipped with a handheld sonar that shows you where the fish are biting. Casting into an area with a lot of fish – highlighted by a blue circle – greatly increases your chances of getting a bite. When you do feel that familiar tug, a quick yank of the rod and you can begin reeling in using your other hand. One thing I will say, as frustrating and finicky as I occasionally found the casting, the game does a great job of simulating the feel of fishing. If you’ve ever hit the river with rod and reel, you’ll know what to do.
Boss battles with daemonfish run the gamut from simple to chaotic. The first daemonfish you fight is pretty straightforward, but eventually, you’ll be battling monsters that split into multiple parts and fire projectiles. When a daemonfish appears, the fishing game is put aside for a bit in favor of a crossbow shooting sim. The controls are simple: aim and fire. Once you’ve depleted its health, you’ll switch back to your rod and reel the sucker in. At which point it explodes. (Don’t ask, I have no idea why.)
The developers managed to nail a good, solid feel in the daemonfish battles. I only wish there were more of them. You’ll blow through the main story in three hours – less if you’re a better fisher than me. Minor quibbles aside (does the boss’ health meter need to block my view of the boss and its projectiles so often?), the daemon battles are terrific.
With the brevity of the plot, there are a few other things to spend your time on in Monster of the Deep, as you might expect. You can of course just fish freely if you’d like, but there are also Hunts, which, confusingly, are less about killing daemons and more about catching specific types of fish. Completing hunts earns you gil, which you can spend at the shop you can access via your legally-distinct-from-an-iPad tablet computer.
If you’re feeling a bit more competitive, you can join a tournament. The idea here is to catch as many fish as possible in a short time. The winner is determined by total weight caught. It’s nice that there are other ways to kill time in the game aside from the main story, but none of them really kept my attention for long.
“While far from a meaty experience, what’s there is all good stuff.”
What did catch my eye, however, were the graphics. Monster of the Deep is a good-looking game. The fidelity isn’t on the level of Final Fantasy XV itself, of course, but for a VR title, the scenery is surprisingly rich, character models are detailed, and only when you’re looking at objects far away does the PSVR nearsighted blur come into play. And the water effects… Beautiful.
Complementing the nice visuals are a selection of songs that are suitable but not particularly memorable. Some tunes are recycled from the main Final Fantasy XV, and I can’t blame them for that. Performances by the voice actors – the original cast is back reprising their roles – are generally good, though Cindy is still sort of out there compared to the rest of the characters. It’s not the actress’ fault that the character is so weird, though; she does an admirable job getting through some cringy colloquialisms.
Monster of the Deep: Final Fantasy XV is not what I wanted from a Final Fantasy VR game. It wasn’t anything close to what I expected. But in the end, I wound up being pleasantly surprised. While far from a meaty experience, what’s there is all good stuff. If this is Square Enix testing the water – so to speak – with VR, then I hope there’s much more to come from them on this platform.
***PSVR code provided by the publisher***
- Immersive take on FFXV’s world
- Daemon battles are fun
- Campaign is short
- Awkward controls