I grew up fishing almost every weekend and would go away on trips with my family just go fishing, to catch enough fish to fill the freezer for the next 6-12 months. Call of the Wild: The Angler is the latest game to take fishing to the next level. Developed by Expansive Worlds and a follow up to the Hunter: Call of the Wild, this new game is both amazingly detailed and interactive, but also as frustrating as fishing in real life. It captures the highs and lows of fishing well, with the occasional issue to disrupt the otherwise immersive wilderness exploration.
We start in Golden Ridge Reserve which is the only map available at release. The way we enter this through the menu makes it feel like there could be more locations in the future which would be great to see. The environment art looks amazing, with sunlight coming through the clouds and reflecting off the water. There’s a day/night cycle and fishing in the twilight of dusk is magical, then to see the moon and clouds reflecting off the water, as a fish jumps off in the distance, it’s a very calming game to play. The level of detail is fantastic, as is the attention given to the rods, reels, clothing and the fish we catch. We start with a voice guided tutorial, taking us through the basics of using a fishing rod to catch our first fish. We start with a simple spinning rod with egg-beater reel that has standard monofilament line.
Casting in Call of the Wild: The Angler the rod is done by holding the left mouse button, pulling back on the mouse, and then pushing forward fast to imitate the rod action. You can also do a short flick cast with right mouse button. Listening to the sound of the line spool off the reel before the float splashed into the water, and the click of the bail arm engaging as I wound in made me miss the real fishing. It’s been way too long since I’ve been fishing with my dad, and this really made me want to do that next chance we get.
Quite often when I’m beach or jetty fishing in real life, no matter how far I can cast the bait, there’s always fish jumping just out of my reach. The same was in this game. Sometimes I would be fishing and see bigger fish jumping way out. Other times I would see a splash closer in to shore or a fish jumping, reel my line in and then do a quick cast with the right mouse button to try land where the splash wash. Sometimes the fish would be seen swimming around that area, but they wouldn’t have a bar of the worm I was dangling in its face. It was likely I was using the wrong bait, but the fish tease factor in the game is just as in real life.
My Dad used to say that if you can see the fish, the fish can see you and often won’t bite. Sometimes the same happened here as no matter how many types of bait I tried to put in front of the fish close to shore, they wouldn’t bite. This is a good reason to purchase a variety of bait at the tackle shop so you can switch baits to try different tactics. Catching fish, exploring new locations and completing missions will net you experience and coins to spend at the tackle shop. There is so much variety in what you can buy, it’s a credit to the dedication from the developers to cater to all the various types of fishing tackle, and therefore appealing to a vast variety of fishing gamers. Pressing ‘Q’ allows you to swap out gear that you own, like change hooks, line, floats, lures and so on. When a fish does want to take your bait, you will see the fish approaching your bait/lure before you hear or feel the bite.
When a fish is nibbling at the line, you will see a splash and a little jingle sound plays. This will happen a couple of times and then a large yellow Strike will show on the screen. You need to press right mouse button to set the hooks and then the fish is on. In the lower right of the HUD is a tension meter and this will wind up and change from white to red when tension is getting close to breaking point. Just like in real life, you need to pump and wind to balance the tension on the line. You can adjust the drag by pressing Z and X which comes in very handy, especially when trying to catch larger fish.
The best fishing game experience in terms of feeling the rod and reel in your hands was on the Nintendo Wii. However, I can say that when you hook a decent fish in this game, it does feel good to have to pump and wind to manage the line tension, tweaking the drag if the fish is taking too much line and watching that you’re not jerking the rod around too much against the line strain.
Multiplayer is available in Call of the Wild: The Angler and is on by default. It can be toggled off if you want the solo experience. It was cool seeing the dots of real players on the map, of which you can have up to 12 players connected at once. You can walk or drive up to other players, and sometimes you’ll be quietly fishing then hear a boat engine approaching which is a neat experience the first couple of times. However, disappointingly you can’t interact with them at all.
There’s no voice chat nor text chat, so it’s a matter of jumping and nodding at them, waving your rod near their face, and that’s about it. Aside from playing with your mates, I don’t see the real point to have gone so far as to add multiplayer if we can’t communicate. I would have loved to have voice chat enabled, or at least to chat to players to ask them how their fishing is going, what bait they used to catch their fish, what rigs they are using, and so on. That’s what’s really missing from the game.
Moving around the game on foot, by car or by boat, the ambient sounds are terrific. The water lapping at the edge of the boat or against the shoreline sounds like the real thing. You can hear insects and birds chirping, however when I went to do a land-based mission to take photographs of a pest weed flower, I noticed there are no actual birds flying or animals grazing at all. Considering the developers made the fantastic Hunter: Call of the Wild, I would have thought they could have easily imported bears, deer or any other animals to add to the overall immersion.
The lookout towers spread through the land act sort of like the towers in Assassin’s Creed. Once you climb to the top and activate survey, you will see new points of interest added to the map for you to go off and explore. The fishing related missions are great and give you some direction if you’re wondering where to fish next. However, you also get other missions from the warden to look for flowers, or to investigate a cave and look for dinosaur bones. This is a fishing game, and I am here to go fishing, so I found those missions to be oddly placed within the game. Still, it gives you something to do to take a break from fishing.
Overall, Call of the Wild: The Angler is an authentic fishing experience with high attention to detail with the tackle used and the fish caught. The ambient sounds added to the immersion and being able to drive a boat down river or out on the lake and seeing other players doing the same was a great experience. It is disappointing we can’t interact with other players though, and there are other non-fishing missions in the game that detracted from the core offering, but if you’re looking for the latest modern take on the game of fishing, this is worth playing.
This review utilised a Steam key provided by Sandbox Strategies, and Call of the Wild: The Angler is out now on Steam and Epic Games Store, with consoles coming at a later date.
Written by: @ChrisJInglis