Fishing is a divisive sport. Hell, some people wouldn’t even call it a sport! Yet, I think it is, so let’s move on. It is divisive because people don’t understand it. You can spend hours on a boat, by a lake, or on a bridge, with your lure in the water. For this whole time, nothing happens, no bites, no action, no luck! But you know the fish are there and this is what makes it so appealing. It is the challenge and the reward that have you hooked (pun intended). Call of the Wild: The Angler picks at this desire and drags you into its massive and beautiful open-world experience.
Developed and published by Expansive Worlds, this is a relaxing fishing simulation title. What’s more, there are masses of exploration mechanics, a stunning world to see, and an ever-evolving itinerary of content to enjoy. Designed by the same team that made The Hunter: Call of the Wild, this title focuses heavily on slow and realistic hunting experiences. As such, fishing fans that love competitive bass fishing may not enjoy the much more relaxed pace found here.
Call of the Wild: The Angler has a loose story.
Now, I normally enjoy a story-rich title. However, simulation games are so enthralling that a great plot isn’t necessary. Call of the Wild: The Angler sets the scene nicely with family history and an overview of the monstrous park. Yet, once you exhaust the stunning cinematic, you are free to do as you please. Now, this may seem strange, but there are quests and tasks to complete, or you can simply purchase some bait and start fishing.
Whatever you choose is up to you, and this is the beauty of this game. What was also fantastic was the focus on the “fish-and-release” techniques. Now, I’m not some super vegan, or any kind of vegan, but I don’t like unnecessary death. Thankfully, the fish-and-release approach reduces the need for gore and violence and is a much more environmentally and animal-friendly experience.
Though you are free to do as you wish, every task is punctuated by an in-depth tutorial. This may seem like overkill, but I enjoyed mastering each technique before I ran to the hills. You’ll learn a selection of fishing techniques, how to change your equipment, how to operate the boat, and finally the fundamentals of driving. This may seem pointless, but when the map is so humongous, walking isn’t advised. Instead, using a selection of vehicles will get you to some interesting lakes, rivers, and mountaintops.
Fishing plays second fiddle.
This may seem like an odd statement, but fishing occasionally plays second fiddle. If you wish, you can assist the park warden with a range of tasks. You’ll highlight invasive species, mark infested trees, and help to maintain each acre of this gloriously large park. However, if this doesn’t take your fancy, you can explore the vast surroundings and find outposts or special locations to relax in. Of course, you are then free to fish to your heart’s content.
If you complete any of these jobs, you are awarded money and XP. Both these elements are essential to progressing your character while buying better gear. With 12 different species of fish to hunt, and different lures, rods, reels, and techniques to learn, this is essential if you wish to catch the biggest and toughest fish around.
It’s not perfect.
One of Expansive Worlds big selling points is that Call of the Wild: The Angler has multiplayer gameplay. Accordingly, this should be amazing when played with like-minded individuals. However, the online element is laggy, complex, and just a mess. This was truly disappointing, as I’d have loved exploring with friends while comparing each catch and fishing method. Thankfully, though, the developers are actively working on the game and this should be improved.
Other complaints focus on bugs and glitches that range from annoying to game-breaking! Occasionally, float fishing doesn’t work and the lure simply sinks, or you can’t adjust the tension and your line breaks. Alongside this, you become stuck in one spot, the car will stop moving, or the river/lake appears lifeless and you never get a bite. On top of this, you cannot play this on a Steam Deck at the moment. I don’t mean that it is poorly optimised, I mean that it simply won’t load. Consequently, this is something the developers need to address as this platform is expanding and gamers will demand Steam Deck access.
Call of the Wild: The Angler looks amazing.
With such a vast area to explore, the developers could have focused on a simple environment with little variety. However, instead, they created a lush world to dive into. There are masses of lakes, tree-lined paths, wildflower meadows, plenty of structures to visit, and overbearing mountains to climb. In short, it is a spectacular landscape to witness. But there are a few issues here and there to contend with. On close inspection, the water doesn’t appear as fluid as it should and the light doesn’t move as you’d expect. Furthermore, the animations don’t always match the actions and this was annoying. On top of this, walking through flowers or muddy areas leaves no traces of human interaction. This was disappointing, as it reduces the realism considerably.
What I can’t complain about is the atmospheric and immersive audio. With stunning environmental sounds and the joyous noise of the line spinning in the air, it captures the magic of fishing. On top of this, I loved the splash of the fish in the water, the rumbling sounds of the engines, and the rush of the wind. Subsequently, it was easy to lose yourself in this wild and immersive title.
Excellent controls when it works.
Simulation games are renowned for being unfairly complex. Fortunately, Call of the Wild: The Angler bucks this trend. Thanks to its incredibly in-depth tutorials and simple button layout, you’ll easily master the fundamentals. Sadly, though, I’ve read reports of issues when using a controller. Hopefully, like the other issues, the developers will work on a solution, sooner rather than later.
12 fish species doesn’t sound like a lot, and frankly, it isn’t. In the grand scheme of things, I expected many more species of fish than were offered. Yet, the developers have promised new content as the community grows and evolves. Consequently, I can see this side of things improving pretty quickly. This to one side, the rest of the gameplay is fulfilling, enjoyable, and challenging. As such, there is plenty of replay value and longevity to be had. Moreover, this will improve vastly once the online elements are fixed.
Call of the Wild: The Angler will be phenomenal.
In its current state, Call of the Wild: The Angler is a very good open-world fishing simulation title. However, once the problems are ironed out, and the content is expanded, this will be a phenomenal game. My prediction is that this will be the most in-depth and realistic fishing title to hit the market if it evolves and expands as intended. As such, I recommend you get ahead of the pack and buy your copy here! Can you find each monster fish hiding in the depths? Grab your rod, pick your lure and bait, and hope that luck is on your side.