While virtual reality is still in its infancy, it’s managed to excel in two key areas: allowing players to experience the absurd and allowing players to mimic real actions. Monster of the Deep: Final Fantasy XV combines these two key experiences perfectly, as the mundane act of fishing is paired with fantastical monsters in a highly entertaining fantasy world. In those aspects, this strange FFXV spin-off is a perfect fit in the current VR landscape.
As far as fishing goes, Monster of the Deep mirrors its real-life counterpart rather faithfully (besides having to wait forever for a bite). Due to that, I won’t go deep into how it plays mechanically much here (it’s detailed in my preview, though). However, I will say that I found casting to be more difficult than expected, as I often found myself casting short when I was going for a far target, and vice-versa. At first, I thought there was just a learning curve, but I never really got much better at it. Eventually, I settled on doing large motions to go short, and short flicks to go long, despite the motions not making much sense. It’s a slight annoyance, but players can always reel in long casts, so it’s not much of an issue.
The actual fishing winds up being one of the true stars of Monster of the Deep, as it feels really satisfying to reel in a huge fish. VR also has the extra icing on top of the cake of getting to hold up your catch, and admiring its fishy glory afterwards. Players have to pay close attention while reeling in fish, as they’ll come off the line if the player doesn’t match their motions, so the actual process of catching fish never grew dull despite the several hours I put in.
Capturing the most dastardly of daemonfish is going to take more than a fishing rod, though. Boss fights turn the game into a first-person shooter, as players have to survey the water for the deadly monsters, and fire away at them when seen. While it’s not much more than a glorified shooting gallery, there are a few fun patterns that the bosses have (such as having to shoot down projectile attacks), and the whole spectacle of the affair is unmatched. Monster of the Deep still manages to be a Final Fantasy title at its core, and that’s one of the reasons why it’s so compelling.
There’s one area where it’s a departure, though, and those expecting a great story might be disappointed that Monster of the Deep is largely built around fan-service. Sure, you get to see a bunch of familiar faces while you take down some daemonfish, but there’s no overarching narrative that’ll really wow you. That being said, I was totally down to be photographed by Prompto, took joy in developing a fishing rivalry with Noctis, and it was a good time just getting to see all of these great characters in a 3D space. This isn’t an essential part of Final Fantasy XV, but then again, it’d be a bit silly if fishing somehow factored in larger than it does here.
While the emphasis in Monster of the Deep is on fishing, it’s also just really cool getting to explore the world of Final Fantasy XV in virtual reality. Players can teleport around the fishing areas, and Square Enix filled the areas with various monsters and sights to see. It’s a truly gorgeous world (aside from some issues with text not appearing properly on paper), and there’s something surreal about actually standing next to a gorgeous, fluffy chocobo in a 3D space. Despite there not being any real interaction, simply getting to pet the fantastic creature wound up being one of my personal highlights. Like so many others, the idea of a chocobo captured my imagination as a child, so it was especially cool getting to see one like this. Similarly, getting to stand next to a hunk like Ignis was equally as thrilling.
Around the Pond
While it’ll only take a handful of hours to see the credits, there’s no reason to be worried about the relatively short runtime of Monster of the Deep‘s story. In fact, most of the content is spread between its other modes, and the story feels more like a tutorial that preps the player for more serious play. Those looking for additional structured challenges will find just that by taking on Hunting challenges. These missions task players with catching specific fish, and while this can be annoying at times when the specific creatures just aren’t biting, it’s all worth it for the sweet rewards that players get for unlocking them. Money can then be used to buy new lures, rods, and even a sweet chocobo outfit to wear.
If you’re more of a competitive angler, then there’s plenty of tournaments to partake in. These timed-affairs are introduced early on in the story—where the player goes head-to-head against Noctis—and are then unlocked for online play. These time-sensitive competitions are won by catching the most fish (in terms of combined weight), so players will have to find the right balance between finding the spots with big fish, and getting consistent bites. Just like real fishing, simply getting one whopper of a fish isn’t going to win you a tournament if it took nearly your entire time to reel it in.
It’s undeniably a weird package, but Monster of the Deep: Final Fantasy XV manages to make its eccentricities work for it, rather than against it. Not only is it the best fishing game I’ve played in virtual reality, but it’s also a true delight for Final Fantasy fans. Getting to see these iconic characters and creatures in a new way is simply fascinating, and it has me delighted at the prospect of future Final Fantasy virtual reality titles.
Monster of the Deep review code provided by publisher. Version 1.00 reviewed on PlayStation 4 Pro. For more information on scoring, please read our Review Policy here.