Freshwater Frenzy is the first Deluxe Expansion for Megaquarium. Take a deep dive into the deep blue world of aquatic wonders. Read on..
Genre: Simulation, Strategy
Developer: Twice Circled
Publisher: Twice Circled
Release date: 4 Jun, 2020
From the prehistoric Arapaima to the infamous Piranha, Freshwater Frenzy is packed full of new species to discover. There are new care requirements to learn and demanding new aquascaping requirements to fulfil. From floating cover to bogwood, providing everything your inhabitants need will challenge even the seasoned curator!
For the first time in Megaquarium history, you will be able to rear baby animals in your aquarium. But make no mistake, fulfilling the unique breeding requirements of each animal is no easy task. Then there’s raising the young themselves, a job fraught with difficulties and requiring your constant attention.
A lot has changed since I wrote my original review back in 2018. The game has been updated numerous times. A whole raft of new features and quality of life improvements have been implemented. If you are new to the game then I would highly recommend you first check out my review before getting into the weeds of what’s on offer in this brand new DLC package.
Along with the Freshwater environments this new content includes 5 brand new levels to master. These gradually introduce all the updated systems via a series of mission challenges. The first level is called Hitama and requires the player to convert a small saltwater based aquarium into an attraction that features both aquascapes. Each mission milestone gracefully unlocks more fish with more exacting care regimes. Getting the right water quality and the correct habitat demands methodical attention to small details. The new fish stock has some interesting characteristics that can change the ecosystem of the tank they are housed in. For example, some species such as the Tinfoil Barb like to nibble on plants and can destroy them if left unchecked. If you set your tank to use plants as a natural filtration system this will lower the water quality over time and cause stress. Not a good outcome as worried fish will reduce your prestige score from customers viewing the exhibit.
You’re not going to burn through the extra missions in one sitting, even if you attempt to speed run the game, which is highly unlikely. Each new level can take several hours to complete all the winning conditions. The third mission is set inside the hull of an old steamboat. The actual shape of the ship is a hard locked space constraint for the whole level which adds a certain amount of difficulty into the proceedings. You have to be very selective with your floor plan. Lack of wiggle room means that a poorly designed facility will restrict foot traffic to certain tanks. Making their ability to produce prestige, science and ecology points. These are vital. By not accruing these units your business will stagnate as they all unlock new items such as fish, tank ornaments and merchandise.
I have enjoyed the new challenges this content has delivered. The design of each mission creatively utilises all these new enhancements and gameplay systems. There’s plenty to dig into regardless of your expertise as a marine biologist. You can also tailor the experience by selecting any of the four skill levels ranging from absolute noob to rock hard mode. These settings tweak the prestige points and other factors to the appropriate levels.
Refinements to the Base Game
One of my primary nick-picks has been sorted. This concerned the placement of staff doors into layout walls. You can now directly overlay these vital access points into the existing partition without having to first remove the original walls. A great time-saver, which streamlines the design process.
Another bugbear from my initial playtesting of the original release was a lack of an all-encompassing inventory for all your tanks and fish stocks. This was a shortfall, especially as you progressed in the campaign and had to manage a sprawling facility with multiple tanks. Knowing what fish inhabited a particular tank was a tad time-consuming. Thankfully this had been addressed by the new Ledger. This new screen displays all the information in a clear concise fashion. Not only does it show what fish are where, but also includes filters to further drill down the information. This a lifesaver and such a good quality of life addition.
After playing through the new freshwater campaign scenarios I found one extra feature that really deserves highlighting. Special praise goes to the developer for adding this killer filter to the Ledger. What is this filter I hear you ask? Tucked away on the main inventory screen is the problems tab. This spotlights any current issues from any of the tanks in your emporium. This cuts out heavy lifting of manually surveying all your exhibits and beautifully displays any issues your fish stocks may have. You can then click on the offending tank and the main game view screen automatically shifts focus to the relevant area, so you can further investigate the dilemma and apply some tweaks. Zooming into trouble spots is a breeze and this is a simple but elegant solution, to turning your failing water world into a lean money-making machine.
The staff management screen has also seen a major overhaul. You can now select individual staff to use certain items such as broom stations and also filter what task to allocate to their work roster. This gives you a great deal of scope when assigning duties to fit their unique skills sets. The zoning tool has also been given a makeover. You can assign and create new zones directly from the staff management screen. This is a great asset for making sure your high-status tanks are serviced by the appropriately skilled employees. This is an essential tool if you want to smash some of the harder challenges in the campaign.
Dig the New Breed
Breeding is one of the major new components that Freshwater Frenzy brings to Megaquarium. If you thought that servicing your fish collections on a daily basis was a tough gig, then making the blighters reproduce is a whole ‘nother level of complexity. The second level of the new content based in Paskovka, drops you into a research lab where your primary goal is to breed a specific number of fish species. The first task is getting their environment suitable to their requirements. This involves getting the pH scale of the water correct using mechanical filtration systems in conjunction with aquatic plants which naturally alter the balance of the liquid.
Once you have the right conditions, you have to create a safe habitat for the eggs and spawn to survive. Some species require a flat surface to lay their eggs on, others just need a spawning shoal of the appropriate number of adult fish. If all the parameters are met, then mother nature takes over and with a fair current, you will have several new additions to your tank. This is not the end of the matter, far from it. Getting your fish from tiny spawn to adulthood is a very rocky road. Natural mortality kills off a percentage of any new batch day by day. Increasing water quality above the required specification adds a small boost to your young fish’s chances. There’s an element of luck and sheer perseverance to this endeavour but the payoff is palpable. After a few miss-steps, I managed to get all the required fish to produce healthy young adults. There’s a really satisfying learning curve to this new exercise. Every species has different criteria in order to multiply but many of the core skills are transferable. It’s a great new feature to the game and adds an extra layer of depth to the simulation.
You can take your breeding program further if you have the right skills. Only a select few species have an extra hybrid capability. This allows you to mate adults with different scale colour and pattern mutations to produce a new genus hybrid with unique markings. To actually achieve these, takes some doing. It requires both chance and the right pairings. Couples with different patterns are more likely to produce a new variant rather than ones which only have different basic scale colour attributes. It’s a fascinating part of marine biology. You can actually see Darwin’s theory of evolution in action, before your very eyes. Pokemon but in fish form.
Steam Workshop Support
Steam workshop support was added to the game back in July of last year. Considering the game is a bit of niche management simulation I was surprised at the sheer number and quality of the mods currently on offer. There are loads of custom tank shapes, scenery props and cavalcade of new fish to add to your collection. The standouts for me are the bundled collection made by the Ze Fush Company. These are beautifully model fish packs that hugely expand the scope of the original game. A lot of these species are new to me So it’s great fun to read up on their unique habitat requirements and introduce them to your showpiece aquarium exhibits.
Once downloaded you can select what user content you want to enable from the mod screen. I did a quick trial with the sandbox mode and was amazed at the expanded fish stock inventory. Literally hundreds of species to choose from. The possible tank combinations are mind-bending. For any budding amateur marine biologist, this would be a great starting point and huge academic resource. After I have completed the main content I plan on going hog wild and creating my very own dream attraction that would rival real-world aquariums such as Blue Planet, based not far from me, in Cheshire, England.
Obviously, as more layers of features are added to the game, it becomes harder to filter or display the most pertinent information to the player. I’m all for a clean interface and a multitude of pop windows would only lead to confusion and frustration. But there is one vital status change event that is currently buried deep in the message log screen. That is the Staff skill level up prompt. I only found this whilst perusing the log screen and was unaware that three of my rookie employees had gained enough experience to level up their stats. An easy solution to solve this would be an optional pop up in the main game view. A simple tick box to enable this feature could be added to the options menu so folks choose whether they want this to happen or not.
Another feature I’d like to see in a future patch is the ability to double click on items such as feed stations and be able to move them without having to use the grab icon on the popup item window. This would help streamline the process of making changes to your aquarium quickly with one less mouse click.
One final suggestion would be some kind of template system for tank designs. This would be very handy for the more demanding campaign levels. Currently, you can edit and move tanks but this is a bit unwieldy. I’ve also found that when you move a deep tank, it does not include the associated feeding platform and stairs. All the pumps and filters are tied to the tank but these key attachments do not. When space is tight, this can cause major headaches when rearranging your aquarium floor plan, where space is at a premium and there is not much wiggle room.
MegaAquarium hits the sweet spot in terms of micromanagement and creative design. For folk who like to focus on a well-run facility, you can tweak an enormous array of options and items, in order to squeeze as much cash out of your patrons as possible. Planning and designing a good floor layout with efficient flow of customers is key. On the other hand, if you just want to fashion a truly spectacular attraction with curved tanks and impressive creatures from the deep then you can do that too. All the tools are here to help you create the aquarium of your dreams.
Take a deep dive into the world of aquatic wonders. Fresh or salty, the water’s lovely.