Quick thoughts on Rule with an Iron Fish, an award-winning Fishing RPG about eccentric Pirates
After starting out on mobile, the game is now available on Steam.
After winning CNET's Best Mobile Games and Snappzilla's Games of the Year awards in 2016, Kestrel Games has released the PC version of Rule with an Iron Fish, hoping to cast a wider net of players as it were. The game comes with some added content and has been reworked to conform to Desktop and Tablet PC standards. You play as an Ironfish sibling of your choosing; either a brother or sister and you find yourself marooned on an island with an eccentric group of pirates.
After fishing up some food for the pirates, the game then launches a myriad of quests at you, expanding the island into something more akin to a home base as you fish your way to better gear, new game mechanics, and a larger pirate community on the isle. As more pirates join your home base, the more quests you unlock. These quests can range from catching designated numbers of fish to growing different vegetables to help a chef keep your pirate restaurant’s menu fresh.
Quests serve as the backbone of in-game progress, pushing you forward towards goals that mainly revolve around unlocking more stuff. It fits in very well with what we usually would attribute to a mobile game, but fortunately, there aren’t any microtransactions that get in the way. Everything is earned in-game by fishing, selling your catch, and even battling.
Yes, there is even a battle system; though it’s more akin to being a nuisance to your opponent, who’s just trying to fish like you. You throw things from the safety of your boat, breaking the line of your opponent’s fishing pole, preventing them from reeling in their catch, although this seems to come with a mild existential crisis inadvertently. Are we actually the villains in this story? Misunderstood bullies? Raging hypocrites?
It’s one of those I’m sure (kidding), although the story doesn’t seem overly concerned about establishing your role within the world outside of needing to rescue your sibling who's been whisked away by a giant Kraken. Pirates are usually in it for themselves anyhow, which many of the characters seem to project.
The main gameplay does involve actual fishing and features many of the activity’s established game mechanics. You toss your lure into a pond amidst a crowd of shadowy marine life of varying sizes. Once a fish closes in on your lure, a Quick Time Event ensues where the player must time a button press to get them on the hook. You may have to press a few alternate keys that represent pulling the line in one direction or another, but it’s not overly complicated to reel in a catch.
The real challenge of Rule with an Iron Fish is patience, as the fish, you reel in are randomly generated. There are times when you may catch a bunch of fish that you’ve already found in a row, without seeing a single new one. But fortunately, you can still sell these for added gold to put towards the game’s many unlockables, namely the lures which, as you might surmise, give you greater opportunities to catch fish you haven’t caught. Given its roots as a mobile game, Rule with an Iron Fish doesn’t waste your time with excessive grinding just to unlock the next tier of items.
There is always a quest to accomplish, a fish to catch, or a Viking (yes, Vikings!) to battle and even though the game’s goals can stray a bit into the repetitive realm, the speed at which they shuffle in and out keeps things cathartic rather than the opposite.