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Monster of the Deep: Final Fantasy XV (PlayStation 4) Review

By Albert Lichi 07.12.2017

Review for Monster of the Deep: Final Fantasy XV on PlayStation 4

When Sony first revealed its PSVR headset to the world, Square Enix was among one of the first major publishers to support the device. At the time, the Japanese game publisher showed a trailer that was tentatively titled Final Fantasy XV: VR Experience, which showcased everyone's favourite photographic enthusiast gunslinger Prompto, as he donned a PSVR headset. The trailer suggested that this VR side game would focus a lot on first-person shooting and possibly some form of a photo mode. Monster of the Deep: Final Fantasy XV is not exactly anything seen in that first reveal trailer, but some remnants of it can be found within. Since Final Fantasy XV is a game that can be somewhat divisive due to its gameplay and incoherent storytelling, Square Enix has a unique opportunity to do a light-hearted spin-off by expanding on the fishing side activity and make it a much more cohesive game. Is Monster of the Deep: Final Fantasy XV a prized catch, or should it be thrown back in the lake?

Much like its parent game, Monster of the Deep: Final Fantasy XV was also a victim of a troubled production. In its earliest trailers, there is almost nothing in them that made it to the final game. Even when Monster of the Deep was re-revealed to be a VR fishing RPG, everyone was confused and let out a collective, "Huh?" Little did they know that this bizarre fishing VR game would turn out to be an extremely enjoyable title that turns out to be more fun than the actual Final Fantasy XV.

Yes, it is true; Monster of the Deep is a shockingly engrossing fishing game that manages to use RPG mechanics effectively. This is a careful melding of some of the mechanics from Noctis' fishing minigame in the proper Final Fantasy XV, with many of its assets recycled, but with some emphasis on character customization that was another feature from the Comrades multiplayer expansion.

Monster of the Deep is full of surprises. The in-depth character customisation is the least surprising aspect, which in itself is shocking; where this game really surprises is the presentation and production values. This is probably the most impressive looking fishing sim ever developed, and being in VR only enhances the immersion. If there was anything where Square Enix miscalculated, it was their overreliance on cutscenes that are presented in cinema mode, which is akin to watching a flat virtual movie screen. There are a lot of cutscenes in this story, which is unexpected for a light narrative about a player-created silent fisherman who is tasked with exorcizing bodies of water with their unmatched fishing prowess.

Screenshot for Monster of the Deep: Final Fantasy XV on PlayStation 4

Users will even be able to explore locations in first-person to a limited degree, like some kind of leisurely hike at a fantasy park. The amount of effort on display is undoubtedly due to PSVR's massive success in Japan and Square Enix wanting to put their best efforts to make the most out of the Final Fantasy XV branding. These efforts have not gone by unnoticed because Monster of the Deep is gorgeous.

Much of the basics of the original fishing mechanics are the same as before, but now in a first-person VR setting. What really makes this stand out is how the motion controls are implemented to simulate the experience of casting a line and reeling it back in. With a DualShock 4, holding down the Cross button is akin to applying pressure on the line, and the gesture of physically casting with the controller and releasing the button will send the lure flying into the big blue. The one-to-one motion controls feel natural, and the buzz of the feedback in the controller does a close approximation of the spool unleashing the thread; even waving the rod around quickly sets off some feedback to give the impression of tension.

It is not all perfect, though; a very common visual bug is that the protagonist's arms will contort in agonizing poses, and sometimes even stretch out like Mr. Fantastic on their own. A quick resynchronization will fix this, but it is worth mentioning because it does happen very frequently.

Screenshot for Monster of the Deep: Final Fantasy XV on PlayStation 4

During the main story missions where the protagonist is tasked with fishing out a massive daemon fish, Monster of the Deep will sometimes have seated first-person shooting with a bow gun. This is likely the remnants of the Prompto VR experience that was promised years ago. It is out of place to suddenly be in a situation of precision shooting, but the change of pace and the extra variety is welcomed if only because the actual shooting feels very fluid and responsive.

This is how Monster of the Deep handles boss battles: first the daemon must be weakened with the bow gun, and when it is stunned, the user must quickly cast their line and reel it in. The shooting portion is always exciting thanks to how unique each daemon behaves. Most of the time, these boss fish have magical abilities and have otherworldly speed, which makes perfect sense in a fantasy setting like Eos. There is a great sense of innovation here that is not seen often in the fishing game genre.

The developers went all out with the features and modes with this one. Not only does this fishing RPG have a story mode, but it also has side quests in the form of hunts, where players are tasked with catching a specific fish in a certain level. This means having the right tackle for the right catch. Fulfilling hunts nets money, which can be spent on upgrading the rod or getting better lures. There is also free fishing, which is great for grinding to get that piece of clothing to make a more appealing character.

Screenshot for Monster of the Deep: Final Fantasy XV on PlayStation 4

Early on, a competitive mode gets unlocked, where people from all over the world can compete in fishing. This is way more exciting than it sounds, since people generally tend to make real freak shows for their avatar. Additionally, Monster of the Deep gets bonus points for having musical tracks from Nier: Automata for the music selection.

Aside from the typical VR glitches that come with having full body awareness, Monster of the Deep has some frequent and lengthy load times. They are not too bad, but they are noticeable when undertaking side hunts that last a couple of minutes. The need for Square Enix to overly rely on recycled assets from Final Fantasy XV is understandable, but there are many instances where it just seems like a waste for them to bother. As an example, stages are populated with regular monsters featured in Final Fantasy XV and they do nothing but act as set dressing. It can become very distracting when exploring these locales that are populated with what are normally very threatening creatures like Tonberries or Goblins and there is no means to interact with them at all. It would have been preferable if Square Enix approached the set dressing with a modicum of restraint instead of arbitrarily shoving all these pointless monsters into the levels.

Screenshot for Monster of the Deep: Final Fantasy XV on PlayStation 4

Cubed3 Rating

8/10
Rated 8 out of 10

Great - Silver Award

Rated 8 out of 10

Monster of the Deep: Final Fantasy XV has a few technical flaws, but at its core it is a very fun and lengthy fishing RPG. This VR game comes highly recommended to even those who did not like the original Final Fantasy XV thanks to its ease of play and in-depth character customization. Fans of the original titles will find much to appreciate here, like the frequent cameos of the cast and the ridiculous unlockable outfits. This is one for the few PSVR games that feels like a full game and not a tech demo with dumbed down gameplay. Even if this was not a VR game, on its own merits there is nothing like Monster of the Deep thanks to its delightfully weird hodgepodge of game ideas. This was a game nobody expected to be good, yet in spite of the odds, Square Enix really did deliver one of the more enjoyable VR games on the market.

Developer

Square Enix

Publisher

Square Enix

Genre

Sport

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  8/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

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