Dredge, the latest fishing adventure game from developer Black Salt Games, is a harrowing and immersive experience that taps into our primal fear of the unknown depths of the ocean. From the outset, players are thrown into a world that is both serene and foreboding, as they embark on fishing expeditions that push them further and further from the safety of the shore.
The game’s atmosphere is expertly crafted, with each trip out to sea bringing a sense of both wonder and dread (get it… dread?). As players venture deeper into the waters, they encounter bizarre and twisted creatures that seem to defy explanation. The writing throughout is exceptional, with descriptions of these monstrous fish that are both grotesque and beautiful. The dialogue is sparse, but when it does occur, it conveys a sense of unease and mystery that lingers long after the words have faded away.
Life in Dredge is undeniably Lovecraftian, with an ominous and addictively captivating atmosphere. It all starts with your nameless fisherman, who crashes their vessel near the small island town of Greater Marrow. After being offered a replacement boat and a small debt for the pleasure, you’re quickly whisked away into the ocean to familiarize yourself with fishing.
From here, the gameplay loop is simple yet effective, as you’ll upgrade your boat, nets, and rods to venture further into the ocean in search of bigger and better catches. The fishing mini-games vary in complexity, ranging from a ball that goes round in circles to one that alternates swinging between two curved bars. I’ve never been one who excels at most fishing mini-games, but I thoroughly enjoyed the variety of options to make every fish feel different.
The real challenge, however, comes from what to do once you’ve successfully caught a fish. Fish in Dredge come in various shapes and sizes, requiring you to efficiently fit them into your vessel’s tiled inventory in a Tetris-like puzzle. I thoroughly enjoyed this aspect of Dredge’s gameplay loop, which forces you to strategize how many fish you’d catch at any given location before unloading your haul.
Dredge doesn’t hold back on the horrors that lurk beneath the surface of your boat as well, and will have you on edge of your seat the longer you play. During the bright daylight hours, you’ll engage in peaceful fishing sessions accompanied by gentle piano tracks, circling around the area for a good catch before selling them for money to upgrade my tools and equipment. However, as dusk sets in, my paranoia kicks in, and Dredge reveals its monstrous, mutated side.
The visuals in Dredge are stunning, with a distinctive art style that perfectly captures the haunting beauty of the ocean. The sound design is equally impressive, with haunting ambient noises and unsettling whispers that add to the game’s sense of dread and unease.
Dredge is a game that doesn’t say too much, and that’s what makes it such an effective thriller. It’s unsettling, but not overly grotesque, and it can also be peaceful and calming. Whether you choose to venture out into the darkness or stick to the safety of the shore during the day is mostly up to you. The way in which the game’s mood can shift so quickly and the mystery of its sparsely told story kept me fully engaged.
This game had me engrossed for hours on end. The promise of discovering a new island, upgrading your vessel or uncovering a new part of the story always felt tantalisingly close, and the act of fishing and sailing is so enjoyable that it carries the rest of the game with ease.
There’s always an underlying sense of danger, whether it be from underwater monsters or the impending darkness, but it’s usually at a safe distance. There’s a sense of threat without the frustration of inevitable failure. A few times, I returned to port with a damaged engine and holes in my hull, caught out by the setting sun and attacked by some night-time horror, but I was rarely sunk.
Overall, Dredge is a fantastic game that somehow manages to expertly combine fishing mechanics with horror elements to create a unique and immersive experience. With its exceptional writing, beautiful visuals, and challenging gameplay, it is sure to appeal to fans of both fishing games and horror games alike.