Fishing: Barents Sea

Fishing: Barents Sea

Written by Dave Gamble on 4/13/2018 for PC  
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I was always intrigued by my grandfather’s tales of the stunning beauty and the tumultuous strength of the sea. He often told me of the different and distinct personalities of the various areas on which he worked. What seemed to my naive outlook to be nothing but a vast horizon-to-horizon of nothingness came alive in my imagination as he told me of storms that had nearly swallowed him and his boat whole, only to bless him with spectacular beauty only a short time later. Only as I grew older did I realize that he was telling me about the love of his life. It was not just a body of water to him; no, in his eyes he had a deep and abiding love with the most complex, inconsistent, deadly dangerous, and astonishingly beautiful thing in the world.

I learned of his passing from an attorney. Apparently the old guy had taken my deep and abiding interest in his stories as a desire to actually follow in his footsteps. Why else would he have bequeathed his small, rickety old fishing boat to me? I, who had never so much as set foot off of dry land, going out on that huge, mean ocean all by myself? To catch fish?? I, a man just barely out of his teens who had only ever caught a case of the sniffles by going too near the surf, was expected to be able to make a living by fishing? Impossible!

Well, it was not impossible as it turns out, and if I am totally honest, it was something of a call to adventure. I was young and had yet to choose a direction for myself in life. Who was I to turn away an opportunity to find out for myself what grandpa saw in the ocean? Maybe he knew my calling before I ever thought to look for it myself. What, really, did I have to lose? Well, other than my life if the ocean took a malignant view of my intrusion, that is. And yes, it did cross my mind as I was having those thoughts that I, just as grandpa had, was anthropomorphising the ocean. And we all know how much it hates that.

I’ll never forget that first day out on the boat. Grandpa had left me a little seed money for fuel and bait, but it wasn’t much. He also left me the notes he had taken as he learned more and more about the sea around our small port, the fish that were in it and what times of the year they were biting, and he left me a map of the local area that included spots where he had had good success catching one type of fish or another.

I read none of it, of course. Teenagers are nothing if not impetuous. After all, I thought to myself, the ocean is full of fish. How hard could it be to find them? Well…. remember that movie about a guy named Gump? Remember when he first started shrimping? Came back with empty holds day after day after day…? Yeah. It was like that.

I didn’t have much to eat, which made it much, much easier to swallow my pride. I read the notes. I looked at the map. I realized how many mistakes I had made.

I had just enough bait money for one more chance. I would like to say that I was an overnight success after having put forth the effort to learn from grandfathers experience. I would like to say that I came back from that one last chance with fish overflowing from my holds. I can’t say that. I can’t honestly claim either of those things. But!! I did catch enough fish to refill the fuel tank, buy another full load of bait, and still had enough left over for a small lunch. It was a start.

When you look at me now, the owner/Captain of a multi-million krone factory fishing vessel that carries a crew of seven, you would find it hard to believe that I earned every bit of it what it took to get there by not only learning how to fish as well as my grandfather had, but also by embracing the newer technologies that allowed that old boat of his to go faster, catch more fish, carry more cargo, and earn enough money to buy a bigger boat. Eventually the boats got so big that I needed to hire crew members. I even left the relative safety of the fjords behind and worked the open ocean.

Although there are often times when I wish I had just stayed in that old boat where all of the successes were mine, as were all of the minor catastrophes. I recognize nostalgia for what it is, though, and recover my sense as soon as whichever crewman has drawn my ire is sufficiently scolded and/or punished. I know that I owe my success to two things. First, and most obvious, I owe a tremendous debt to my grandfather, who knew me better than I knew myself. Second, I owe every bit of this experience to Fishing: Barents Sea.

In Fishing: Barents Sea, you start out in your grandfather’s old single-person fishing boat. It’s old, it’s slow, it can’t carry very many fish in its holds, and it hasn’t seen a new coat of paint since Michelangelo painted a mural in the Sistine Chapel. The “notes” that grandfather left are encapsulated in a in-game Wiki-esque set of pages that describe the fish to be caught and the baits to use. There is also a tutorial to introduce you to moving around the boat and how to retrieve fish as they come in on the long-line in first-person mode, and how to approach the long-line buoys for fish retrieval in third-person mode. You need both, really, in order to best perform the actions required to work the boat.

Once done with the tutorial, you’re free to go fishing. Very early in my career, II made a habit of buying bait as the very first step of a fishing expedition. It only took one of motoring all the way out to the fishing area only to find that I had failed to bring bait to convince me that I should do that first thing, every time. Buying bait is simply a matter of going to the fish market near a dock, choosing the number of lines you want to bait, how many hooks you want on the line (250, 500, 1000) and what kind of bait to use.

Almost as important as remembering to buy bait is remembering to gas up the boat. If you run out of gas out away from the dock, you have to call emergency services to come tow you back. It’s not outrageously expensive, but you do have a reputation to worry about. Once the boat is ready to go, you can consult the map to find the fishing hotspots. Once you’ve decided where to drop your fishing lines, you boogie on out there and drop them over the side. At that point it’s waiting game. It will take twelve or more hours for the fish to get caught on the hooks in any meaningful quantity. You probably won’t want to sit there waiting, so you will typically motor on back to the docks to use the time acceleration feature. If you time everything just right, and if you chose a good spot to fish, and if you selected the proper bait, you will likely find that you have caught more fish than you can carry on your boat. It is at this point that you will be tempted to start upgrading Gramp’s boat.

Upgrades include critical things such as storage space, stronger engines (the base engine can barely move the boat when it’s fully loaded), and less critical things like a better radar or brighter lights.The updates typically pay for themselves on the very next trip, assuming you have become a good enough fisherman to actually need the upgrades. In my case, it took four or five trips to get fully up to speed on the subject of maximizing my catch. By the time I sold Gramp’s boat for a better one, I was making money so fast that I didn’t even need to take out a loan. That’s a good thing, considering that the vig on a substantial loan was an unconscionable and borderline usurious 20%!

You also start out with a largely discovered piece of ocean. Being “discovered” means you can use the accelerated time. This turned out to be overly generous. With the accelerated time, it took only seconds to get out to the fishing area and back. Very little time was invested in driving the boat.

This brings up the only real criticism I have of the game: it’s too easy. No tragedies befell me or my boat. No competitors started working my fishing areas or sabotaged my boat. As long as I kept my timing consistent, I filled my holds on every trip. For every 3,000 krone I spent on fuel and bait, I returned with tens of thousands worth of fish. In a word, I ended up doing nothing but routine (and very profitable) grinding. The mix of fish changed with the season, and there were other forms of fishing besides the long-line to learn, and managing crew members took a little paying attention to, but for the most part it seemed utterly impossible to fail.

Part of the “too easy” is attributable to the accelerated time feature, but I do not consider this to be a flaw in the game. In fact, I am thankful to have been given the choice to play the game the way I want to. Far too many games try to make that decision for you, and I resent it. In this case, more often than not I chose a methodology of driving the boat out of the bay, using fast-time to burn through the hour or two it would take to motor out to the fishing area, driving the boat while collecting fish, then fast-time back to the harbor where I would take the helm again. Driving the boat is fun, clubbing the fish is fun, but gutting the fish required a movement with the mouse that I never did get right. The fish markets offer a higher price for gutted fish, but I found it best to simply absorb the loss. I was making pretty good bonuses from the fish clubbing, though, so I kept doing that even after I hired my first crewman.

I actually learned a lot about fishing from Fishing: Barents Sea, but I’m not sure the game fully conveys what a difficult and dangerous job it is. Nor does it need to. Mike Rowe has taken care of that. Instead, the relaxation factor is strong with this one. Adding in additional gratuitous challenges might spice it up a bit, but for me it was challenging enough to deal with situations of my own making, such as the day I got my timing wrong and ended up driving the boat around on a black ocean trying to find the buoys marking my line locations. Similarly, it pays to check the weather forecast; those buoys are even harder to find in the fog. There are other ways to make it a bit more challenging if the player chooses to, such as forgoing the use of the preternaturally accurate fish location heat map and using the far less helpful fish-finder. Really, this is one of those games that gives back what you put into it, and I find that to be laudable. This game, just as with life itself, is all about the choices you make.

If you're looking to build a fishing industry empire, this is not for you. On the other hand, if you find yourself daydreaming of making your living by farming the oceans, you might enjoy Fishing: Barents Sea. It offers a fairly easy learning curve and an almost completely stress-free playing style that allows you to play the game the way you want to.

Rating: 8 Good

* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company.

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About Author

I've been fascinated with video games and computers for as long as I can remember. It was always a treat to get dragged to the mall with my parents because I'd get to play for a few minutes on the Atari 2600. I partially blame Asteroids, the crack cocaine of arcade games, for my low GPA in college which eventually led me to temporarily ditch academics and join the USAF to "see the world." The rest of the blame goes to my passion for all things aviation, and the opportunity to work on work on the truly awesome SR-71 Blackbird sealed the deal.

My first computer was a TRS-80 Model 1 that I bought in 1977 when they first came out. At that time you had to order them through a Radio Shack store - Tandy didn't think they'd sell enough to justify stocking them in the retail stores. My favorite game then was the SubLogic Flight Simulator, which was the great Grandaddy of the Microsoft flight sims.

While I was in the military, I bought a Commodore 64. From there I moved on up through the PC line, always buying just enough machine to support the latest version of the flight sims. I never really paid much attention to consoles until the Dreamcast came out. I now have an Xbox for my console games, and a 1ghz Celeron with a GeForce4 for graphics. Being married and having a very expensive toy (my airplane) means I don't get to spend a lot of money on the lastest/greatest PC and console hardware.

My interests these days are primarily auto racing and flying sims on the PC. I'm too old and slow to do well at the FPS twitchers or fighting games, but I do enjoy online Rainbow 6 or the like now and then, although I had to give up Americas Army due to my complete inability to discern friend from foe. I have the Xbox mostly to play games with my daughter and for the sports games.
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