I’m about to do a review based on a fishing game. I’m warning you all before we get into this, and before I get a lot of messages asking whether I’m feeling alright, no I haven’t gone completely off my nut, there is a method to my madness. Today’s title is Dredge and, as I’ve just said it’s a fishing game. It’s a lot of other things too though and it’s those elements that really help make this brand new adventure appealing. Appealing and really bloody creepy. You shall learn more as we go.
So, in Dredge you play a fisherman who gets run aground after hitting some pretty jagged rocks. Thanks to a very skilled lighthouse owner you are saved and brought ashore. The locals need someone to fish the waves for them and you need a new boat, so your story pretty much begins here. There’s a lot more going on though than the need to catch a few fish. There’s some very dark sorcery afoot and the waves are not anywhere near as safe as they may first appear.
During the day you’ll have to go out and fill your ship’s hold with fish. At the beginning of the game. you’ll then sell these to the local fishmonger in an effort to pay the mayor for your new boat. After this is where things start to get interesting. When you have a more permanent means of transport you can go pretty much anywhere. Believe me, in this instance, there’s a fairly big difference between can and should. This is a game of two halves and very bad things happen at night. If you’re not prepared you’re not going to survive for very long.
Dredge has a very Lovecraftian feel to it. When you aren’t completing day-to-day tasks for the townsfolk of the various fishing villages you’ll go to, (you start in a small collection of three islands and branch out,) you’ll have to dredge the depths for certain key items. This is about as much as I’m telling you because I’m bound to drop some spoilers on account of these items being intrinsic to the story. Finding these items will help a certain character fulfill his own quest and grant you some supernatural abilities in the process. As a hint, you’ll want to find the first item on the list before exploring too far from home. The first ability you get grants your boat supernatural speed and believe me you’ll need it if you want to get to more distant areas without spending too much time in the dark. The great thing about these abilities is that they come at a cost if you aren’t careful. Moving quickly is great, just don’t set fire to your engines in the process or you’ll be limping to shore.
Adding to the gothic-horror vibe Dredge has is that some of the fish you catch aren’t … normal. You’ll have a great big book that you’ll fill as you find new species and there’s a section in this that covers aberrations. You might have a few questions to ask when you realize the cod you’ve just hauled onto your boat is more of a collection of eyes and teeth than it is fish. To put it politely the aberrant fish you find are … gross. This is all part of the fun though and you’ll have to catch them to complete your journal and to complete some of the quests you’ll be presented with. The other useful thing about this book is that it’ll tell you where certain fish can be found and the gear you’ll need to use to catch them. Making sure your boat is capable of fishing in all environments is really important and this is where the research proportion of the game comes in.
Initially, your boat is as basic as it gets but still capable of picking up what you need at the beginning of the game. To catch larger species that might be deeper underwater or live in different environments you’ll need different rods and nets. Your initial fishing gear won’t allow for picking up species that live in volcanic waters, for instance, you’ll be needing these though, so research is paramount. This goes for your engines too, and lights which are critical for fishing at night and avoiding some of the hostile occurrences that come with that period. You’ll research your crab pots so you can catch bigger hauls of the various different species of crab you’ll find on your journeys. Your winching equipment will need to be kept in top-notch shape. There’s more than just fish beneath the waves that you’ll need to acquire and it’s this gear that will help you haul miscellaneous items and treasure from beneath the water. Lastly, you’ll be able to upgrade your ship’s hold, enabling you to collect more fish and therefore earn more money. You’ll need a good bit of currency to buy the items you’ve researched. Upgrades don’t come free, which is good or trading fish would have less of an impact.
So what happens at night then? Well, a multitude of nefarious situations can befoul your vessel. The most common one appears to be jagged rocks appearing out of the water from nowhere. If you have a powerful lamp you can see these before they hit you. Being hit by anything in Dredge is a really bad time. Damage will decrease the amount of cargo space you have and can obviously damage your fishing gear and engines too. Something else you might notice while fishing or exploring at night is another fishing vessel not too far from yours. I won’t elaborate on this but let’s just say that curiosity isn’t necessarily a good thing. Aside from the very real occurrences that are going to turn your boat into a large pile of splinters, there are various messages you don’t want to be seeing either. Something slithering onto your boat, for example, is a really bad thing. If you don’t get back to port quickly you’ll lose your entire haul. So why not avoid nighttime fishing entirely? Well, put simply, you can’t. Some species of fish only appear at night and you’ll need to catch them to complete missions. You also need to make longer trips and go exploring for treasure and other things and if you’re going a distance you’re going to end up traveling at night. All you can do is be well-prepared and hope for the best.
The act of catching fish involves a certain mini-game where you’ll have to hit a target in a moving bar. If you miss your target the fish won’t get away but it’ll take more time to catch it and that means the night is drawing in on you. Dredging for larger items involves a similar puzzle but these puzzles are more of a vehicle for the game, they aren’t anything special but they do what they’re designed for. After you catch fish you’ll have to manage your hold effectively because they are all different sizes and shapes and need storing away carefully to maximize your haul on any given run.
Dredge is a brilliant game with beautifully painted graphics. Every journey you make holds weight because you’re counting the time. You’ll want to get the most out of each day you possibly can without placing yourself in danger. Aside from the real creepiness that seems to be haunting you, you’ll also learn quite quickly that sailing while tired isn’t good either. I have to say that I’m loving my time with Dredge and that I’ll definitely keep coming back until I’ve completed it. I think that some players will have less fun but this is more down to the gameplay loop. The story evolves and you’ll find yourself completing an ever-growing array of missions but the core gameplay doesn’t change a great amount. At the end of the day, Dredge is still a fishing game, just one with some really awesome twists. If you don’t like fishing or the repetitive nature of this task you probably won’t have as much fun here. I’d advise anyone to give Dredge a fair chance though, the parts that make up the whole in terms of a brilliantly written story and the haunting atmosphere that this title is thick with add enough to the core gameplay in my opinion to make this title something really special. In addition to this, this title isn’t a horror game as such, so if you’re looking for a new horror experience you probably won’t find it here. This being said the story is dark and the atmosphere is foreboding enough to make Dredge truly unsettling; It’s just not pee in your pants scary, which is absolutely fine by me. If you love a tale that would make Lovecraft proud this is a really good call.
Fishing with a twist.
A fantastic haul
Dredge is a fishing game on the surface but so much more when you get into it. Horror fans looking for their next fix probably won’t find it here. If you’re looking for something eerie and foreboding without being outright scary this is a brilliant choice, though. I think it goes without saying that if you don’t like fishing mechanics and the loop that’s going to come with a fishing game Dredge probably won’t be your jam. If you don’t mind a bit of repetition this is a really good addition to your collection.