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Review by: Adam Swiderski
Published: July 10, 1999
I’ve always enjoyed fishing. Having grown up in a region peppered with small- to medium-sized lakes, my friends and I would often grab the opportunity to take up our rods and spend a day on the water in pursuit of ”the big one.” For us, of course, this process mostly consisted of renting a small boat, stocking up on the cold beverage of our choice and sitting out on the lake shooting the bull. From time to time, we’d end up with a fish if one of them just happened to leap into our boat, but the experience was more about hanging out with good friends, enjoying the great outdoors and relaxing. A lot of fun, to be sure, but hardly grounds for a compelling gaming experience. That’s why I could not, for the life of me, understand the motivation behind the release of fishing simulations when they began to appear.
Well, it turns out that there’s this whole other segment of the fishing community out there. These people go out on the lakes and waterways with the express intent of actually catching as many fish as possible. They make an effort to equip themselves with a wide variety of tools and implements to further that end, and go about achieving it with a scientific zeal that would put participants in many other outdoor sports to shame. There are even massive tournaments that take place, during which prize-winning competitors take in more seafood over a couple short hours than my friends and I did in five years of recreational fishing. It is for these, more active anglers that games like Sierra’s Trophy Bass 3D (TB3D) exist.
TB3D is a sequel to Trophy Bass 2, and the latest incarnation in a series combining the digital aptitude of Dynamix with the expertise of leading outdoors magazine Field & Stream. To be sure, the previous titles in the Trophy Bass franchise have been impressive efforts, with TB 2 being hailed as one of the definitive fishing sims available. The follow-up is entirely worthy of the legacy established by its predecessors, offering a feature-rich, option-intensive fishing experience that pretty much has no parallel on the market today. Oh, and there’s also that little 3D thing: the addition of hardware acceleration that gives TB3D its name. Unlike many of the cookie-cutter outdoors sports products that are seemingly shoveled onto store shelves on a monthly basis, this game actually takes the sport it is trying to represent very seriously, and it shows in the depth and complexity that is TB3D’s hallmark. Sure, the 3D graphics are nice, but they would amount to nothing if not coupled with a comprehensive simulation.
The amount of options presented to the player upon loading up the game is indeed staggering. The first choice to be made is what type of fishing is to be done. Virtual anglers can take a simple, open-ended fishing trip, compete in tournaments, or embark on a career that runs a course of four or five contests. Once that’s decided, it’s time to choose a lake and adjust the level of difficulty. TB3D ships with an amazing 15 lakes from all over the country, including Lake Meade in Nevada and Florida’s Lake Okeechobee (there’s nothing noteworthy about that — I just like writing ”Okeechobee”), and all of them are rendered to scale. Difficulty can be altered through the adjustment of a series of factors ranging from the probability of a line snag to the propensity of the fish to take your bait. This division of difficulty factors is extremely useful, as it allows players to tweak whatever aspects of the game they’d like without killing the overall challenge. Finally, it is necessary to determine lake conditions, such as the clarity of the water, time of day and temperature. Most of these have an effect on the aesthetic appearance of the lake, but they also directly impact the method that one must use to make a respectable catch.
All that preparation, however, is only a precursor to the true game itself: the hunting and snaring of really big freshwater fish. This is a lot more involved than it sounds. First, you’re presented with a map of the lake, from which you can choose fishing locations and even set waypoints. This is especially important in tournaments, in which proximity to the checkout point can be crucial as the time limit runs down. TB3D offers assistance in deciding on your spot with a Global Positioning System and depth sounder, both of which can help keep you from fishing in empty waters. Finally, you’re taken to the boat itself and can start fishing, which is where the actual meat of the game takes place. But first (whew!), you’ve got to select a lure, which is perhaps the single most important factor in determining whether fish actually pay any attention to you or not. When that’s done, you make your cast, play your line and hope for a strike. There is actually skill involved in this, as inappropriate manipulation of your lure may lead fish to ignore you completely. Hopefully, you’ll eventually land a strike and have to fight the fish in order to reel it in. As in real fishing, this part of the simulation is the most fun, as many of these babies will put up one hell of a struggle.
To be honest, TB3D will not appeal to everyone. In fact, its target audience is actually pretty narrow. There are a lot of helpful pointers and tutorial video clips peppering the game, but you’ve really got to know something about fishing in order to get any enjoyment out of it. What’s more, I’m sure that some gamers will be turned off by the amount of pre-trip preparation required. There is a ”Quick-Fish” option, but in order to get the most out of the simulation, it is necessary to embrace all of its features. Some people will simply not have the patience to do so. There are also a couple of small omissions that purists may find annoying. Still, anyone looking for a totally comprehensive, immersive fishing experience on their computer should look no further. TB3D is the real deal of fishing sims, and should be a success with anyone who wants to enjoy the thrill of fishing without actually leaving the house.
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