Bite Sized Reviews: Aquarist

  • Author:
  • Date:

Bite Sized Reviews: Aquarist

I hope everyone is enjoying a pleasant April! I’ve been inactive for the past couple of weeks to give myself a break. My toes are healing nicely but I miss going for walks. The weather is slowly improving, so once my feet have sufficiently healed, I’ll be happy to get around again.

Back to the reviews! Today I feature Aquarist, a relaxing management sim that teaches players how to nurture their aquarium. We don’t get many games like this. One notable rival is the excellent Fish Game, a similar title that launched in Early Access last year. That is one game I have to get around to reviewing, so watch this space. Aquarist recently left Early Access in March, and you can pick it up by clicking on the link below:

Developed by FreeMind S.A., this is one of many simulation games they have either developed or published in recent years. Among them is the excellent Contraband Police, one of my favourite sleeper picks from 2023. Now I mention it, that’s another game I want to review at some point. While I’ve found many of their titles modestly enjoyable, Aquarist is one of their better games. It blends simulation and management into an engaging sandbox. One of my favourite places, when I was younger, was going to my local aquarium, so you can imagine how much games like Aquarist appeal to me.

The result is a fairly solid experience! While it does not offer too much in the way of challenge and narrative, the sandbox mechanics provided me with plenty of freedom to explore. Everything can be customized from the layout to the artwork, and being able to use my images added to the variety. This is built from the ground up for a more relaxed, zen game. While it contains missions for extra unlocks and those wonderful upgrades we’re addicted to in games, it’s up to the player to pace through. The amount of ‘content’ in the form of quests might be limited to a handful of hours, but the sandbox design allows endless time for crafting the aquarium of your dreams.

That’s the heart of Aquarist: how much does the idea of creating an aquarium and looking after the diverse range of marine life appeal to you? Each species of animal has their own needs and requirements, and the realism of the aquariums adds to the immersion. Learning what plants, substrates and temperatures work best is a learning curve, but the decent tutorials were enough to keep me invested without being overwhelming.

I also enjoyed the exploration mechanics. You’re not just confined to your little projects but can venture into the ocean to discover new species and unlock hidden treasures.

Performance was lacking in some areas. While my laptop is no spring chicken, I expected better framerates. Even with Aquarist’s modest system requirements, I struggled to run this for long periods. While I had no crashes or bugs, the framerate often dropped below 20FPS, usually when moving new animals into their homes. Naturally, as laptops go, it heats up like the desert when playing. While the interface is overall decent, it feels clunky at times.

I wish I got this to work on the Steam Deck, but after two hours of straight crashes and no controls working, I gave up. This is odd because on Steam, Aquarist is classed as Verified. By that definition, it should run out of the box. Not my experience, I’m afraid!

Despite these flaws, I’ve enjoyed my time with Aquarist. There just aren’t many games that allow people to make an aquarium, especially in the first person. For a full release after its development cycle in Early Access, it could use some polishing, and it needs Steam Deck compatibility fixed. With that in mind, Aquarist offers enough to entice players, although the performance might leave potential consumers waiting for fixes.

About the Author

TheThousandScarAuthor/Blogger/Cartographer/Streamer/Narrative Game Writer/I play far too many games. |

SassyGamers © 2019 - 2024