By Jaime Skelton (MissyS), Editor-in-Chief
I have a deep, dark gaming secret: I love fishing. Fishing games, fishing minigames, fishing mechanics – if you tell me a game has fishing, you’ve hooked my interest. From researched and realistic to cute and silly, I’ll take the bait of video game fishing almost every time. Unfortunately, many fishing games end up floating belly-up, proving to be nothing more than a slow grind into nothingness. Rule with an Iron Fish, by Kestrel Games, manages to keep sail by offering RPG mechanics, a story, and more puns than you can shake a rod at.
The story begins with you and your twin becoming lost at sea after a kraken attacks your ship. Separated and in uncharted waters, you make your way to Buccaneer Bay, a small pirate villa, to seek assistance. Before you know it, you’re tangled in quests to fish at the local islands, all while working toward hunting down the wicked Kraken and rescuing your twin.
While this would make for a cute backdrop to an otherwise dull fishing game, Rule with an Iron Fish takes the story further. Every character you meet has personality, their own stories to tell and goals to achieve. You’ll even see letters from each character as they send messages to you and to each other. There are dozens of main quests and side quests to complete to aid your new fellow pirates, who slowly become more family to you than the twin you have lost. The world is also filled with groan-worthy jokes and puns.
The fishing mechanic in Rule with an Iron Fish is relatively simple. You bait your line with worms, and cast it into the water where you target with your mouse. When a fish becomes interested, a colored circle will appear around the hook, colored red to green depending on how close the fish is. Once the circle grows small and green, you can click again to hook the fish and instantly reel it in. Rare fish also require you to play a small mini-game, in which you must press the arrow keys (or WASD) in the same direction shown on screen. Thankfully, this mini-game is generous on its time limit, so you don’t have to be a QTE champion to succeed. Every fish you catch grants you gold instantly (no need to sell them to an NPC), along with experience.
Like most fishing games, there are multiple types of bait, hooks, and lines to help you succeed. Unlike other games, these are cumulative bonuses, and you are free to choose the equipment that you visually like the most without having your fishing performance suffer. Rule with an Iron Fish adds onto this with more crafting in the form of ships and food.
As you play through the story, you will unlock plans for additional ships which usually grant access to new fishing areas. These plans must be completed by collecting the necessary crafting materials while fishing. These appear in floating chests or floating bubbles in different areas, which can be clicked on to be collected and saved for future use in an infinite, “store all” inventory.
Food comes in the form of five different recipes, each with a different benefit. To take this food with you, you must craft it from its components – which come from farming. You are given a small plot of land that can grow 12 plants (or worms) at once, which take ten minutes real time to grow. Thankfully, there’s no punishing mechanic that makes your crops rot if you forget about them.
Oh, and there’s a bunch of hats and pets too, because why not?
In addition to your standard fish and collect, there are also fishing battles, duels with NPCs. Rather than racing them to catch more fish, however, you bring out your pirate side and try to prevent them from catching fish. This includes throwing bombs at their fishing line to break it, using a net to scoop up the fish they dynamite out of the water, and destroying attack drones that try to interfere with you. Winning these duels also nets you experience and crafting materials.
Where does this experience go? Like any RPG, your character can progress through levels, growing stronger and gaining improved fishing skills. This includes additional fish in the pond, improved hook sink speed and catch speed, and bait attraction radius.
Overall, Rule with an Iron Fish is charming, funny, and keeps you wanting to continue just a little longer. While the game becomes increasingly more of a grind as you get into the last part of the game, side quests give you objectives to work toward that take away the feeling that you’re just pushing for those last bits of completion. If you love fishing video games, puns, and casual but engaging gameplay, Rule with an Iron Fish is worth picking up on Steam.
Final Verdict: Great (4/5)
Rule with an Iron Fish Screenshots:
Note: A game key was provided for review purposes.