It’s not really a game until it has fishing in it.
RDR2 has horrible controls, built out of molasses, tar, and the 1980s. What it hides behind those controls is spectacular. It’s about as close to West World as anything that’s ever been released. Staggering the depth of retention here…people live their entire lives in the background, for that single random event to meet you, then go back to their lives. It’s not so much a game, as a simulation.
And it has fishing.
Fishing unlocks in act 2, but only partially. You need to be in act 3 to get all the lures opened, and the option for legendary fish. Time is meaningless in RDR2, when comparing players. What may take me 10 minutes may take someone else an hour, and vice versa. Still, it’s one of the much later unlocks as compared to the other game mechanics.
You get access to a pole and some simple bobbing bait to start. Eventually you upgrade to more complex bait for different fish. Then you unlock lures, which you drag through the water (retrieve is the technical term) and hope a fish bites. You can fish from land, or get into a boat and fish the water. Time of day matters, where dusk/dawn have a positive impact… as does fishing in the rain.
Fish meat can be used as food sources, and is generally a whole lot easier to acquire than game – so it fills you up a fair bit less.
Rod + bait/lure + cast = fishing.
The easy part is getting the line into the water. The hard part is getting that fish back to you. You need to turn the stick in a clockwise direction, but only when the fish isn’t struggling. Otherwise you can lose the line and the fish. Bigger fish will pull the line out when they are fighting, which you can try to stop, but again at risk of losing the line. Fish can swim in obstacles, cutting your line. There’s a line cutting theme here.
The very large fish can take a few minutes to pull in. Or, you can follow the poorly written instructions and bring them in quicker with a tug down on the left joystick. This only works if your rod is in a neutral position. It will tug the fish closer, and you will real up the slack. Typically can get this done twice while a fish is tired, before they get fighting again. Cuts reel time by more than half.
They have different habitats (lake, swamp, river, cold, warm, etc..) and can usually be seen at the surface splashing around. Pike, gar, sturgeon, bass, bluegill, salmon, pickerel… there are a bunch others.
At some point you get a Stranger quest to fish up 13 legendary fish, and you need special lures to do so. The bait shop in Lagras (SE of the map) has what you need. These lures only attract legendary fish. And these fish are monster size. You then need to mail them (really) to get the associated rewards.
Frankly, fishing is its own reward. Sure, you get a couple bucks, some food and a neat quest. But the fun is in the act. It’s a lot like just riding through the country side to see the way the world looks. Fishing gives a sense of serenity and calm, lets you appreciate the world built around you. The people walking by, the gators tanning along, squirrels fighting over food…you get a real sense of scale.
So yeah, I’m spending way too much time fishing and not much time shootin’. Going to be here a while.