I love this commercial fishing simulator, and not just because it has a fish-gutting minigame

Maybe it's because after playing the Sea of Thieves beta I just wanted to spend time on a boat again. Maybe it's because since Zelda N64 I will play any game that lets you go fishing. Maybe it's my general curiosity about weird sim games. Or maybe, deep down, I've always wanting to play a fish-gutting minigame. Whatever the reason, I've spent the morning playing Fishing: Barents Sea, a commercial fishing simulator, and despite plenty of gripes (they'll be listed below) I'm sort of in love with it.

I begin my game at the lowest rung of the commercial fishing profession. My boat is small and slow, and can only carry a few long fishing lines (longlines, they're called) that I can barely afford to bait with shrimp and crab. Checking the map, I'm shown the most likely areas to catch fish, chug over to them, and drop my buoys and lines in. Then it's just the small matter of waiting for about twelve or fourteen hours for fish to become hooked, at which point I return to haul them into the boat.

Thing is, there's not a whole lot to do while waiting. I entertain myself by sprinting around my boat, and while I'm somewhat amused by my character's almost sarcastic jogging animation on the very small ship, it just doesn't eat up much time.

Thankfully there's fast-travel, which is accomplished by setting waypoints on the map. That eats up time, but also eats up fuel. So I mostly spend my free time fast-traveling in circles around my lines and returning to port for more fuel when I'm low. It's not the most exciting activity, but it sure passes the time.

Once the lines are as full as they'll probably get, I return to haul in my catch, which require two incredibly simple but oddly engrossing minigames. The first, when you haul in your line, allows you to hook the fish, one by one, and chuck them onto the boat. It's simple: just click when the circle closes, but I'm massively entertained by it, perhaps because you actually get to see the hooked fish get dumped into the fish-holding box (I assume this is the correct fishing term for it).

The other minigame is the fish-gutting one you can see at the top. I absolutely hate it—you have to slice from head to tail in a straight line while the game tugs and yanks your mouse around. I am really terrible at it, and rarely do I do it well, but again, I am way into it while at the same time thinking it is kind of a terrible activity.

Oh yeah! There's also the act of actually driving around in the boat, which I should probably show some of since the game is more than just brutalizing fish, it's also about getting to and from the fish you're brutalizing. You've got a number of tools to work with, like fish-spotting sonar, GPS, and a weather app. There are ports to sell your hauls and upgrade your boat and fishing gear, plus the local pub where you can acquire specific jobs besides just catching as many fish as you can and selling them.

I'd love to buy a bigger ship, but in addition to (probably) not being able to afford one, they're also locked by the game until you've traveled a certain amount of distance in your ship. For all my aimless fast-traveling, I've barely covered any real distance, so bigger ships aren't available to me yet.

Instead, I buy additional longlines, and though my ship can only hold four at a time, I can always have four out there in the sea catching new fish while I return with the current haul I caught with the other four lines. Again, it's repetitive as hell, just going from port to sell and buy fresh bait for my lines, then back to the sea to set the new lines and haul in the old ones. But I'm still digging it.

Finally, a mission pops up at the pub. 4,000 kilograms of a specific fish, the Redfish (it's red), are needed within one week. My little boat doesn't have nearly enough cargo space to hold that much fish—apparently, you can't deliver the fish a little at a time, only all at once—so I spend every penny I've got upgrading my hold. Then I head out on the high seas, searching for Redfish.

My first few days don't go so well: my hauls always include a few hundred kilos of Redfish, but at this rate it will take ages to catch 4,000 kilos, and the week is already half-over. Eventually, I figure out that I can check the game's internal wiki and discover that Redfish love krill—and I've been baiting my hooks with shrimp. Whoops! I buy as much krill as my hooks can hold, and my boat begins filling up with Redfish.

The problem is, like I said, I can't deliver the Redfish in dribs and drabs, so it all has to remain on my boat, meaning less room for other fish, which means less money when I dock. It also means my boat gets slower and slower with all that added Redfish weight that I can't unload. As I approach the 4,000 kilo goal, my ship can barely achieve a speed of two knots, whereas with an empty hold I'm usually up around 10 or 11. Docking and getting my lines out of the water is excruciatingly slow. This is me trying to reach the dock with my hold full and my throttle maxed, and I'm barely moving:

The real problem presents itself when I reach my Redfish goal with only one day left. I had assumed the job, which originated in the pub, could be completed at the pub. But the fish need to be delivered to another port called Forstal, which is 5.5km away (I guess I should have realized the pub itself didn't need 4,000 kilos of fish). That distance wouldn't be a problem with fast-travel, but you can't fast-travel to a location you've never been before. So I just have to legitimately travel there in a boat so full of fish it can barely move.

Almost broke from not being able to sell anything all week, I sell my longlines so I can afford to upgrade my engine, but it's still an hour of travel. Like, a full hour, real-time, of me just sitting here at my desk watching my boat inch slowly across the map to Forsol. There's nothing to do except occasionally make slight course corrections, look at a couple whale fins, and chug along at a snail's pace.

I do it, though, every damn boring minute of it, because I really want to deliver all that Redfish. At just past noon on the due date, I dock at Forsol and sell my haul for about 80,000 bucks. I'm rich! Except I need to buy new lines since I sold my old ones. Plus, I need to buy more bait. And I forgot to refuel before leaving Forsol, so I run out of gas while I'm fast-traveling home, requiring me to pay a tugboat to bring me back to port.

So, after all that, I'm back to nearly nothing again, still the smallest boat at the bottom rung of the commercial fishing ladder. But despite it all, I still love this damn game. I don't know why, but I'm hooked.

Christopher Livingston
Senior Editor

Chris started playing PC games in the 1980s, started writing about them in the early 2000s, and (finally) started getting paid to write about them in the late 2000s. Following a few years as a regular freelancer, PC Gamer hired him in 2014, probably so he'd stop emailing them asking for more work. Chris has a love-hate relationship with survival games and an unhealthy fascination with the inner lives of NPCs. He's also a fan of offbeat simulation games, mods, and ignoring storylines in RPGs so he can make up his own.