STAFF REVIEW of Deadliest Catch: The Game (Xbox One)

Monday, July 17, 2023.
by Adam Dileva

Deadliest Catch: The Game Box art There was a time where I would eagerly await the latest weekly episode of Deadliest Catch on Discovery Channel, a reality show following the lives of numerous captains who sail the Bering Sea in search for Alaskan king crab. Being an incredibly dangerous job and full of large personalities and drama, the show was a hit and is still going strong 19 seasons later. The show had some unique and memorable characters like Captain Sig Hansen, Wild Bill, Elliott Neese, Phil Harris, Jake Anderson and more. Even the ships themselves were iconic like the Northwestern, Maverick, Time Bandit, The Wizard and Cornelia Marie amongst others.

To say I’m a fan is an understatement, so of course I was excited to jump into the world of Alaskan king crab fishing that I’ve watched on TV since 2005. I was hoping I’d be competing against the legendary captains or starting as one of their greenhorns working my way up to captain for my own ship. Being a simulator title, you’ll certainly be in command of your own ship from the beginning, but don’t expect much direct tie-in from the beloved show at all, which was a disappointment.

While you are a greenhorn fisherman, you’ll also be your own crew and captain from the beginning. This won’t be easy, as manning a crabbing vessel requires a crew, which you won’t have right away. This in one way forces you to learn each step about crabbing and how to deal with the confusing controls, but as you earn money from successfully catching crab and selling, you’ll eventually be able to hire some crew to do all the menial tasks for you.

You start out with the bare minimum to go fishing, but any good captain will make sure they are fully prepared with proper supplies, fuel and knowledge. Even knowing where to crab takes some skill and judgement, knowing what type of ground crab like, the water temperature, other captains in the area and more. Your goal is to earn the most money possible at the end of each season with the captain with the biggest haul being the winner. That is, if the game decides to let you...

While Deadliest Catch: The Game does do a decent job at the simulation aspects of actually being on a crabbing ship and what these brave fishermen deal with day in and out, it’s held back by so many technical issue and bugs that the longer I played, the more frustration ensued. Even those that have never seen the show will certainly learn a lot about crabbing from the opening tutorial, so there is a minor educational component within.

While manning your own ship is possible, it’s incredibly tedious and monotonous, so you’re going to want to hire more crew as soon as you’re able. At the port is where you’ll purchase all your supplies, sell crab, buy upgrades and find crew looking for work. First you’ll need to spend a lot of cash upgrading the ability to have 2, 3 and then 4 crew, then you’ll head to the local pub to find fishermen looking for work, because where else would they be? Their salary price depends based on how long the season is it seems, but all the money you earn from each haul goes real quick. I do wish there were stats per fisherman based on their skill.

Once you have a crew of at least one, though I’d suggest two as soon as possible, you can focus on other things like steering the ship if you’re going to set multiple crab pots in an area. Each crew can have a bunch of different tasks to be done when it comes to prepping, launching and recovering pots, and you’ll choose the crew member you want, then the box the task it’s in to assign them to do so when possible. This is your first real introduction to how poor the menu system is and how confusing it can be at times.

To start catching crab you’ll need to prep the pots. These are essentially a giant netted box that’s filled with some fish gut bait and some buoys attached so you know where they’re at on the Sea’s surface. Once in the water it’ll soak on the Sea bed for a good few hours before you go to recover it and see how many crab it trapped. Capturing crab isn’t the hard part though, it’s finding the ones that are legal to keep and sell, as they need to be male and over a certain size. This is where a lot of your times is going to be spent before getting a crew to do it, as you have to inspect every single crab and decide to keep or toss back into the Sea. Each crab only takes a few seconds, but when you have hundreds, it can take some time to do.

Lives have been lost at Sea, as this is no easy or typical job. The Bering Sea is unforgiving, something the show reminds you of constantly. The game ties to replicate this with the harsh weather, but you don’t need to worry about greenhorns slamming 800 pound crab pots into you or losing your footing and being washed overboard, so it’s not quite as dangerous as the real thing.

A large part about being a successful crabber is the captain knowing where to actually find the crab. They have particular grounds they tend to congregate in, so you need to be aware of the temperature and more. Unlike in real life, feel free to constantly fish the same spot, as there doesn’t seem to be much impact from overfishing once you find a decent area, which is odd when this is trying to be a simulator.

Nearly every task you need to do from using the crane to move pots, opening the pots, putting bait in and more, require precision, something that’s not easy to do. You seemingly need to aim your cursor at an expect spot or angle to get some of the interactions to complete or even prompt. Some controls are done with the Left and Right Stick, whereas others are with the D-Pad, causing a confusing mess that had me pressing wrong inputs even hours in. It’s clear that the game was designed for PC with a mouse and keyboard, and doesn’t translate to a controller very well. More than once I accidently dumped the good crabs over the side of the ship instead of the bad ones as I wasn’t paying enough attention.

Over time your gear and equipment will degrade, so you need to be on top of fixing it and keeping it in working order. Unfortunately this is not one of the tasks you can set your deck hands to do, so you need to grab your trusty WD-40 to repair your equipment. That’s right, WD-40 will fix anything. The nets on your pots also deteriorate with use, so you’ll need to repair these now and then as well. You simply have to hold ‘A’ for a few moments to do so, so it’s not difficult by any means.

Once you return to dock you can sell your haul, earning some good cash for doing so. Resupply but make sure to check out the ship and skill upgrade buildings. This is where a lot of your money will go to early on, as it costs money to make money. There’s actually a healthy amount of upgrades to purchase, so it will take quite some time to earn them all.

Deadliest Catch: The Game falls into the typical low budget simulator title where it’s not impressive to look at by any means. I was hoping that there’d be some recognizable people or ships from the show, or maybe at least having the Sea appear realistic. While you can tell what equipment is what, expect a lot of pop-in textures, low draw distance and some terrible animations. The Sea and weather isn’t impressive either, which was a letdown. I’m not a graphic snob by any means, but it sure isn’t pretty to look at. The audio is about the same, being quite dull with some subtle background music now and then and overmixed weather sounds to indicate a harsh storm.

Then there’s the bugs, a laundry list I had to write down. More than once I had a game breaking bug and had to start over from scratch numerous times before I gave up for good. My first career I was about seven or eight seasons in, feeling confident with my full crew and finally making some decent cash and a good handful of important upgrades unlocked. Then I noticed that when my pots were on deck it was allowing me to pre-bait them, so I did. Well, doing this was a massive mistake as my crew weren’t able to use the crane to pick them up into position to prep for some reason. No big deal, I’ll operate the crane. Nope. This pot was essentially useless now and couldn’t be used because the bait was in it, yet I couldn’t take it out. I found a work around by using the crane to grab a different pot then letting the crew take over, but it was tedious.

Then I found my first game breaking bug. For whatever reason, when you need to latch the hook onto the pot to haul it out of the water and back on the table, it showed that it was physically attached, but the game thought otherwise. This meant I couldn’t pull up my crab pots any more. I couldn’t even dump it to get rid of it completely. I tried everything I could but realized I was going to have to start over again. Sigh, fine, but at least this time it’ll go quicker because I know the best upgrade paths and what to do. Not even a single season in I had the same hook bug. Unable to progress I restarted once again. Three seasons in, again, and that’s when I gave up.

Even without the game breaking bugs, Deadliest Catch: The Game will test your patience with its monotony and repetitiveness. I’m actually a fan of ‘boring’ simulator titles like these, but when the game is constantly a frustration and requires you to restart through no fault of your own, it’s difficult to recommend until hopefully fixed. With a big name endorsement I was hoping to be competing against some of the great Captains and iconic ships, but with the lack of any multiplayer and more bugs than crabs, it might be best to wait until next season to go crabbing.

**Deadliest Catch: The Game was provided by the publisher and reviewed on an Xbox Series X**

Overall: 2.7 / 10
Gameplay: 2.0 / 10
Visuals: 3.0 / 10
Sound: 3.0 / 10


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