What’s a JRPG without a fishing minigame? Wack, that’s what. No, I’m messing around. But what about JRPGs that go all-in on having whole gameplay systems and side stories built around fishing? Hell yeah.
There are just so many damn things to do in Final Fantasy XIV that even after putting in 600+ hours into the game, I’m still trying new content and discovering parts of a world I thought I knew well enough. Something that really hit the spot was fishing, one of the three gathering Jobs available (formally denoted as Disciples of Land or DoL). I spent the better part of a week learning the gameplay mechanics of fishing, doing the Job quests, and eagerly awaiting “fishing raids” that start every two hours — it’s been both pleasant and a valuable way to see FFXIV through a slightly different lens (and honestly, a very easy level 80 to reach).
The actual systems behind fishing come down to casting a line into a body of water (or sand or air) with the right lure or bait, using the right abilities to better your chances of catching what you want, then praying to the RNG gods that you reel big fish. There’s no minigame and it’s not so much skill-based as it is more about following a logic tree to reel in what you want.
It’s not terribly exciting in the early levels, as most quest objectives ask to go to a specific location to catch a number of certain fish and keep it moving. At best, it’s chill, but it slowly showcases the various aspects that go into the Fisher Job. Like every Job in FFXIV, there’s a questline tied to it with a new quest every couple levels with a story thread that contextualizes that particular Job in the game world. And like most aspects of the game, including the Fisher Job, things really pick up when you get to Heavensward.
(The following contains minor spoilers for the Fisher Job quests.)
Stories of Survival, Tradition, and Good Health
So, you’ve fetched all the tasty fish across Eorzea that the folks of Limsa Lominsa wanted by the time you reach level 50, cool. And you got to know the two feisty Lalafell friends Sisipu and Wawalago who are also your quest givers, cute. Then you get to Heavensward, and thwart a plot of family betrayal. You discover that a man who tries to take you under his wing wanted to escape from inheriting family responsibilities and just became a fisher. Then his brother sent an assassin to off him and retrieve a family heirloom that grants the right to be head of the family or some shit — and you help resolve this by fishing! Everyone wins at the end of the day and no one has to die thanks to the Warrior of Light’s foresight and fishing skills.
However, I started to feel a more intimate vibe to the role of fishing in the context of FFXIV’s world once I hit the Stormblood questline. Part of this has to do with a hard-to-describe personal connection I have with what the regions of Ala Mhigo and Doma represent, but also the way fishing is part of those cultures and a means of survival for the characters who live there.
Although FFXIV could be better about showing you the ropes for spearfishing (a subset of skills for the Fisher Job), it gives the vast underwater areas of The Ruby Sea and Yanxia a different purpose. Through spearfishing, you get a bit of insight into how the turtle-like Kojin population have thrived in these regions and learn their methods.
Towards the end of the expansion’s Fisher quests, you’re asked to catch Plesiosaurs, which are a sea mammal traditionally served for a celebration and feast in the village of Isari in The Ruby Sea. Since Doma’s occupation and colonization by the Garlean Empire, their culture had been decimated and they’ve been left without the means for catching these fish. By reeling in these rare creatures, you restore a local tradition and lift the spirits of a downtrodden people.
Shadowbringers switches it up a bit by moving away from traditional quest structure, but the storyline that ties fishing to Norvrandt maintains that distinct purpose to pull you through — to help restore a sense of normalcy to a struggling people. The folks of the Crystarium have been eating the same damn fish for years because that’s all their fishers care to catch. As a consequence, the lack of diversity and proper nutrients in their diet has led to health problems. So, as you go around The First reeling in all sorts of new seafood and delivering them to Frithrik, the gold-hearted Hrothgar who’s been working at the Crystalline Mean, you two see how serving better fish to the people boosts morale while improving their cuisine.
It’s a small thing, kind of like doing someone a simple favor. You get a few neat, short cutscenes that show the impact you make, and the world of FFXIV feels a bit more full. It’s nice to be appreciated, and I’ve always appreciated FFXIV’s ability to weave a little humanity into various aspects of its content.
(Okay, no more minor spoilers for Fisher Job quests.)
Raiding the Boundless Seas of Eorzea
You get to see the broader picture along your journey to level 80, but fret not about the grind because reaching the level cap is honestly a breeze (and quite enjoyable) thanks to Ocean Fishing! Or as I like to say, fishing raids! You just have to talk to the NPC named Dryskthota located at the west end of Limsa Lominsa Lower Decks, just past the Arcanist Guild, at the top of every odd hour. It doesn’t matter what level you are or what your item level is, fishing raids are for everybody.
These are 24-player instances you can queue into that take you through Eorzea’s oceans on a big boat — one trip is broken up into three separate sessions that take up about 25 minutes in total. The goal is to rack up as many points as possible from catching fish within the time limit, and use the right bait to catch specific fish if you want. Rarity and high-quality affects your point total, but really, points don’t mean too much except for calculating a little bonus EXP at the end.
There are strategies for getting the most out of a fishing trip, however. And even though you’re focused on reeling in the most fish for yourself, an element of teamwork is necessary. Mainly, it’s to activate what’s called a Spectral Current. You’ll have to determine which of the three ocean-specific baits is required to catch spectral fish and hopefully initiate the dazzling spectacle of color (and this handy Ocean Fishing guide can help you achieve this). It’s as if you’re fishing underneath aurora borealis and also your opportunity to rack up high-level spectral fish as they come out of the woodwork — and you’d better be prepared to fire off all your necessary fishing skills to make the most of this limited time phase. And damn is it satisfying to watch your numbers go up with each rare fish. You gain so much damn EXP from even the most basic catches during these instances that you’re guaranteed to gain at least three or four levels from just one trip.
That’s dope and all, but I honestly love how chill it is. In a game world constantly threatened by calamity, FFXIV gives you many avenues to just live a normal life in its world. Ocean Fishing in particular comes with that adventurous spirit of going out to sea, like going for a stretch, and getting some fresh air while also taking in just how vast Eorzea’s oceans are. And the music that plays as you reel in as much fish as possible fills you with the excitement of discovery. Maybe after the 50th trip, some of that feeling wears off, but I still love just hitting my fishing buttons, looking out to the horizon, and enjoying the whimsical tunes.
It’s All Fun and Game(s)
I’m at the point now where I put on my Fisher gear and cast a line to decompress and hopefully add to my fishing log in the process. I might be level 80 already, but I’m not exactly adamant about grinding to rack up scrips at the moment or completing my log as soon as possible; if anything, it’ll be steady progress as I relax between doing other high-level content.
At its heart, FFXIV is about making the world a better place. That comes in many forms, big and small. I don’t know, maybe I’m thinking a little too hard about the Fisher’s storyline. If I can see how a few tasty fishes can lift the spirits of the characters that embody the world of FFXIV, no matter how minor, I’ll be inclined to do so.
Perhaps I had this revelation later than others who’ve gone through the various crafting and gathering jobs, so I’m left impressed with the ways in which FFXIV uses every corner of its world yet again.