Developed by Black Salt Games and published by Team17, Dredge is a deceivingly scary horror fishing game because when you initially jump into the beautiful world of the game, you cannot even think of how this colorful and beautiful game would completely change once the sun goes down. If you have been playing fishing games, you would be used to the calm ocean sounds and just chilling back while your in-game gear does most of the work for you but this is not the case in Dredge. Dredge combines Lovecraftian horror with the calm gameplay of a fishing game and it ends up delivering a rather unique gaming experience. This is our review of Dredge in which we catch some mutilated fish and try to outrun horrors out in the sea.
The story of Dredge follows the journey of a new fisherman who arrives at the port city of Greater Marrow. Greater Marrow is one of the islands in the much bigger archipelago where a lot of different islands are located, each with its own people, facilities, horrors, and sea fauna for you to catch and sell. Each island in the game comes with its own secrets and challenges as well for example, the Greater Marrow only gets foggy during the night and you can explore it freely during the daytime but if you head down to the Twisted Strand, it is always foggy even during the daytime and you will encounter different horrors in the seas all the time. I like how Dredge gives you the entire map of the game right at the start of the game and you can explore as much as you want but there are a lot of restrictions that do not allow this and this gives you a sense of progression.
Each island has its own unique NPCs like when you arrive at the Greater Marrow for the very first time, you crash your boat and end up washed on the shore. Greater Marrow’s mayor then tends to you and gets you settled in by offering you a loaner boat and introducing you to the local people which include the fishmonger who purchases your catch or the shipwright who can repair and upgrade your ship. As you progress in the game, you will unlock additional facilities as well such as the ability to research new engine types, new net types, and better equipment. Apart from this, you can also visit the Dry Port to submit raw materials and then use them later for purchasing different upgrades for your ship. These upgrades are vital for in-game progression and your survival so it is always important to invest in your ship.
Like any other fishing game, you start the game with a basic fishing setup and as you catch and sell fish for profits, you can upgrade your ship to venture further into the seas and catch even better fish. Dredge follows a strong narrative and there are a lot of NPCs that will allow you to dive deep into the game’s world. Apart from the main quest, there are plenty of side quests in the game as well. As you explore new ports and islands, you will come across various people who will ask small favors such as looking for loved ones in a sunken ship or getting some resources shipped to an island. These are marked as Pursuits in Dredge and there is no time limit to them and you can complete them at your own pace. Even the fishing missions that you get from the fishmonger have no time limits and you can even complete these missions in parts. The game saves your progress and you can complete these pursuits at your own pace.
One important thing to note here is that since there is no manual saving, you have to be extremely careful with your choices in the game because they will have repercussions and these are not forced choices on you but rather simply gameplay decisions. For example, for one of the pursuits a builder asked me to deliver some resources to an abandoned island where she wanted to settle. After delivering the resources to the island, I went back to the builder and she asked me to ferry her to the island as well. Instead of waiting until the morning, I decided to take her right then at the nighttime and I was attacked by some monstrosity out in the fog which damaged the ship and the builder was lost at the sea. This instantly failed by side quest and I was left with no choice but to head back and get my ship repaired and forever see that failed quest in my pursuits tab. The decision to ferry her at night was completely on me and I now live with the consequences of her death. Even with all of the freedom, the game does hold you accountable for certain actions.
Coming to the sinister bit of Dredge, you spend your days fishing out in the sea at specific fishing points. You cannot fish just everywhere rather you have to travel to certain fishing spots and fish there. Each fishing spot has one type of fish and you will need to have the right type of gear to catch that particular fish. There are different types of fishing spots such as Mangrove, Oceanic, Coastal, and Shallow and each one requires the right type of fishing gear. When you arrive at a fishing spot, you have to complete a fairly simple mini-game to catch the fish and store them in your inventory. Since your inventory is limited, you have to carefully manage it and return back and sell your catch while it is still fresh to gain maximum profits. Stale fish will only give you a small amount of money. While you can fish forever in Dredge, you have to return back to safety before the night falls.
This is because as soon as it gets dark, the whole map of the game is engulfed in a thick fog and the sinister forces come out to play. Depending on your ship’s upgrades, you can buy yourself some time if you have bright lights installed to keep the fog away and this keeps your sanity high as well for a longer amount of time. If you linger too long out in the dark, weird things will start to happen such as something will crawl over your deck and your catch of the day might become infected. Sometimes you will literally get attacked by unknown monstrosities and your ship will get damaged. The damage directly affects your ship like if your engine gets damaged, you might get stranded in the ocean if you only have one engine installed, or if your hull is damaged, your catch might be lost. During the nighttime, the game really becomes atmospheric as you try to reach back to a safe dock with your faint lights on, blowing up foghorns to see if there are any obstacles in your way and such.
The gameplay of Dredge is extremely addictive and you get instantly hooked on the game thanks to its brilliant art style and the unique take on the fishing genre. Every day is a race against time and this keeps you on your toes. For collecting resources, you will also go dredging which will allow you to search for sunken ships and try to collect useful resources like metal scrap, wooden planks, and cotton clothes to craft new upgrades for your ship. As you invest time, collect resources, and upgrade your ship, you instantly feel good as your ship gets a massive speed boost, more fishing options, more storage space, and a lot more. Completing side quests and even the main quest will also reward you with different resources and research points which are vital for getting some of the best upgrades in the game.
When it comes to content, Dredge is loaded with things to do. There is a decent amount of side quests that you can complete in the game and apart from that, there are around 128 unique types of fish and crustaceans that you can catch and sell in the game. All of this is tracked in a really cool Encyclopedia where you can read more about each specie that you catch. Apart from normal versions, you can also catch trophy versions if you are lucky, and also aberrations which are mutated versions of normal fish. Some fish can only be caught during the nighttime which forces you to put your big boy pants on and explore the haunting seas at night looking for these species. Apart from this, the whole map of the game is filled with cool things to find and explore. The islands are beautifully designed and there are different NPCs to interact with. The sinister world of Dredge never fully shows itself but as you progress more and more into the game, you start to realize that something is very wrong with the world and I just love this haunting feeling that the game gives you.
Apart from this, you can also find bottled messages, which tell you about the seafaring journeys of other people who got lost at sea, lost their vital cargo, and more. You can use them for finding some cool loot for yourself as well. Certain NPCs will give you different books that you can read in your free time to unlock Different challenges will also test your mettle as you try to explore certain islands like the Gale Cliffs where a deadly worm roams around or the Twisted Strand where different horrors will chase you out. The overall presentation of the game is just brilliant and coupled with a dynamic soundtrack and different on-screen cues that further add to the game’s atmosphere. Dredge has brought horror to a genre that is not previously known to be associated with horror and it goes to show that Black Salt Games really had something up their sleeves when they started working on the game. Dredge plays great, looks great, and is an excellent addition to anyone’s library who enjoys unique titles.
Dredge brings a unique take on the fishing games by adding a horror element into the mix. It surely delivers a unique experience because normally, fishing is rather a calm and soothing experience but not in Dredge where you must keep a sharp eye on the time and return to safety before the sinister forces take over your mind and body. I love the visual art style of Dredge along with its gameplay and the whole atmospheric narrative. The game manages to perfectly bring horror to a genre that I never thought would spook me. Kudos to Team17 and Black Salt Games for creating and delivering such as astounding and haunting experience in the form of a fishing game. If you love spooky games and would like to see them take over your fishing experience, I would highly suggest that you give Dredge a shot. Even if you just love great fun little games, Dredge is certainly at the top of the best 2023 releases so far and you must experience it.
Final Score: 9.5/10