Ever since Square Enix first showcased its Final Fantasy virtual reality (VR) experience during the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) 2016, everyone was hoping for an immersive adventure that would appeal to both VR enthusiasts and Final Fantasy fans alike. Unfortunately that’s not come to pass, as the studio unveiled Monster of the Deep: Final Fantasy XV during E3 2017. So can a fishing videogame based on the hit franchise be enough, from this early look, no not really.
That’s right, if you didn’t know already Monster of the Deep: Final Fantasy XV arms you with a rod and reel to go on the hunt for fish. Rest assured these aren’t any normal aquatic creatures, such as pike or carp in the murky waters.
After a brief introduction to the basic controls – the left PlayStation Move controller has a sonar device and winds the reel, while the right holds the rod – it was then time to catch some fish. This entailed activating the sonar which highlighted several locations with blue rings. It was then a case of casting into one of these areas and hoping for a bite – which usually occurred fairly quickly. As with any fishing videogame, getting the casting just right requires a little bit of practice, but it’s not that difficult to pick up after a few swings.
Once caught it’s then time to reel in the catch. This was temperamental at points, never really feeling like the winding motion was truly 1:1, but this is mainly due to PlayStation VR’s tracking technology which isn’t as accurate as rivals. Naturally the fish do fight back with indicators at the top of the rod showing which way to pull it. Once fully reeled in the fish is dropped into a net and it’s on to the next one. There’s an indicator bar at the top which slowly fills after every catch, the bigger the fish the more the bar will increase. Once it’s been filled then it’s time for the next section.
Up until now Monster of the Deep: Final Fantasy XV hasn’t actually featured any monsters – some big fish but nothing dangerous. This next part fixes that, suddenly the videogame switches into a mini boss battle with a giant, razor finned creature emerging from the depths. Now instead of a rod and reel there’s a crossbow in your hand. The boss has a health bar and once this is depleted with enough bolts it’s time to fish it out of the water. Same fishing rules apply although this beast takes a bit more work.
And that was the end of the demo. At no point was there an opportunity to move to another fishing spot on the side of the lake, or take a boat out – although screenshots do seem to indicate this latter feature – making for a static gameplay experience. Plus for a studio of Square Enix’s calibre the graphics weren’t exactly amazing. When compared to titles like Lone Echo or EVE: Valkyrie it still looked grainy and lacked detail.
At present Monster of the Deep: Final Fantasy XV seems like a cash in experience. Make something to do with the franchise and fans will still lap it up. But that’s not what VR gamers want or deserve, as there was so much Square Enix could have done to make a killer Final Fantasy VR experience. Maybe at launch the title will reveal some hidden qualities that’ll make it shine, because at the moment it’s not got a lot to recommend it over PlayStation VR’s top end content.