Monster Of The Deep isn’t quite the Final Fantasy XV VR experience fans were expecting. During E3 2016, Sony and Square Enix were met with rapturous applause as a battle scene played out on stage in VR, a player-controlled Prompto shooting away at huge beasties one minute and oggling at Cindy the next. Sadly, this Final Fantasy offshoot was officially canned, so what we have instead is fairly meaty fishing game set in the XV universe.
Exactly how we ended up here is anyone’s guess but, as NieR director Yoko Taro will tell you, every JRPG needs fishing and that’s exactly what you get with Monster of the Deep.
Something else you may have assumed about this spin-off is that you’d be playing as princely posterboy, Noctis. Although he does make an appearance, you’ll actually get to create your own in-game character with a surprisingly wealth of options to choose from. It no doubt mirrors the tools used when editing an avatar for XV’s recent multiplayer expansions, Comrades.
Despite being a fishing game, Monster has a classic JRPG trope up its sleeve. After putting you through a brief tutorial, it then throws a gigantic boss straight at you. Woefully ill-equipped, it wipes the floor with you. Left for dead, you’re saved by Cindy who nurses you back to health inside a cosy woodland cabin.
From here you can venture out on fishing trips, complete story missions, enter tourneys, take on hunts, or let your hair down in “Free Mode”. A stash of unlockable tackle is also there to loosely gauge your in-game progression, though there’s never a pressing sense of urgency.
Playing with the DualShock 4 is a viable option for those who are struggling to find a pair of Move controllers without breaking the bank. Each environments can be navigated in first person as you hop between fishing points. Once set up, you’ll cast your line with the flick of a wrist, aiming for one of the highlighted areas. If a fishing comes biting, you’ll need to yank the gamepad, rotating the left stick to reel her in.
Of course, using PlayStation Move is the preferred option. With one hand casting and the other reeling, it’s a far more natural fit that avoids a couple of the DualShock’s pitfalls in VR. Swinging the gamepad back and forth, I was a bit concerned that it would slip from my hands and bury itself in my 4K telly and I was equally wary of spoiling the left stick on my DualShock from the constant reeling motion.
In truth, the fishing doesn’t get any more complicated than that. Some of the exotic fish you’ll be hunt may require different lines, lures, and rods, but catching them is always the same. There are some boss creatures scattered in there too, each with their own shooting mini-game before you can attempt to reel them in.
It’s fun starting out and fairly surprising, too. This isn’t one of those throwaway VR “experiences” that lasts just a few minutes, it’s a fully fledged fishing game with plenty of bells and whistles to keep you going. Those who find themselves truly immersed could definitely wring a dozen or so hours from it, or double that if they’re particularly keen on trophy-hunting.
However, repetition quickly sets in as you perform the same string of actions over and over. It becomes even harder to care if you’re not particularly interested in the story or the types of different types of fish.
Regardless, Monster of the Deep looks absolutely stunning. You don’t need to be an angler to soak in the majesty of its richly detailed environments. The fact that you don’t move around much only adds to the tranquil beauty of each vista, each one populated with various creatures and wildlife from Final Fantasy XV.
Monster of the Deep definitely succeeds in immersing players, though fans of Final Fantasy may be left sorely wanting. It comes with a hefty price tag and, gameplay-wise, there’s so very little tying Monster of the Deep to Final Fantasy XV even if it does feel like part of the universe.
Version Tested: PS4 Pro