| Tags: Reviews
| Author Paul Goño
Dredge Review: A Terrifying Fishing Sim
Dredge adds eldritch horror into a seemingly picturesque fishing sim; find out more in our Dredge Review.
Imagine you're out in the middle of the sea on a creaking fishing vessel. The workday's over, and the sun's just set. And as you're coasting your way back to the docks, you see something heading your way. Squinting, you make out the shape of another boat in a mysterious fog. As you get closer, you sound your horn, which the other ship promptly repeats back at you, eerily matching the beat. It closes the distance and makes a beeline toward you in the dark.
From your slowly flickering lamp, you realize that the ship looks exactly like yours. Your panic slowly builds as it approaches at full speed. But as you brace for impact, the ship disappears in the mist. Glancing into the water, you look down at something with a giant maw filled with sharp teeth that have you right where it wants you.
Dredge is an indie game made by Black Salt Games that lets you play as an angler as you explore islands haunted by otherworldly powers. In your playthrough, you take on both definitions of the word “angler” as you discover bountiful species of fish (all of them look totally normal) and creatively fulfill quests that slowly peel away at the mysteries surrounding Dredge's islands.
Dredge dares to sail through uncharted waters by introducing a new and odd mix of genres; horror and fishing. This sinister fusion takes full advantage of its simplistic aesthetic to lull you into a false sense of security before drowning you in terrifyingly unexpected ways. This game is another great demonstration of how the indie genre can be a cornucopia of out-of-the-box ideas, and it surprisingly works! If accessible, low-poly adventure games are your niche, and you'll find something to enjoy in Black Salt Game's debut. Here's our full review for Dredge.
Hook, Line and Sinker
Marked by the beautifully somber instrumental and a lone lighthouse standing above a serene landscape, Dredge's start screen immediately pulls you in by the whiskers to partake in its supernatural mystery.
The story's beginning thrusts you into the quaint harbor town of Greater Marrow after you crash your boat on its rocky shore. Before you know it, you start making a living here as an angler with a barely held-together vessel. Later, you're given instructions by the town mayor to come back before sundown and to be wary of a strange and ominous fog that creeps along the waters at night. Consequences await for those who ignore his advice.
When you end the day, you meet more of the town's residents, and you slowly learn that the life of a fisherman here is not for the typical boatman.
In the world of Dredge, time flies as the time of day accelerates the more you move and fish along the game's many islands. The day only moves when you're moving, fishing, or taking essential actions like installing ship improvements and resting. This system emphasizes the importance of daylight, as it is the only time you will feel safe playing this game.
As the nightly fog rolls in, Dredge's landscape shifts to go against the player. When the sun goes down, rocks mysteriously appear out of nowhere. Explosive jellyfish, maddening wisps of red and plenty more horrors stalk you when you wander away from home. The developers have made every environment experiences its own fog effect, giving a good amount of variation.
When you gain more experience and wander past the bay, the world opens up beyond the marrows and gives you 4 more island groups to explore. Each of these small archipelagos presents a unique feel to each of them, as well as new challenges. A mangrove forest, an abandoned research bay full of luminescent fauna and more all combine to make Dredge refreshingly scary the more you explore.
The World Is Indeed Comic
Sailing along Dredge's lifelike waters feels smoother than expected for a low-poly game. Especially in the latter parts of the playthrough, when you have enough improvements and power-ups to dart between islands in mere seconds swiftly. Its dynamic weather adds even more to the experience as you explore the vast ocean that encompasses the game.
Your encyclopedia, which tracks where and how to catch Dredge's impressive 128 fauna, grows as you capture more of the sea's bounties. You may happen upon more unusual catches that threaten to spoil the rest of your peculiar catch. On top of that, the depths can also bring dark surprises. As you play, you occasionally reel in highly-mutated fauna, bringing an even more disturbing sense of paranoia to the game. Scouring the high seas for unique aberrations can lose its luster, however, especially in areas with more trouble than they're worth.
Intermingled with the fishing aspect of Dredge is its inventory management. As you upgrade your stores, the game gives you plenty of space to collect and store as you brave its murky waters. Be careful not to crash against the rocks, though, as ship repairs can be costly.
The folks at Black Salt Games have made the process of advancing in the game very straightforward. Fish for larger/exotic fishes and sell them for cash, which you can use to buy gear, do repairs and upgrade your boat. Dredge up important materials like metal scraps and research points for boat improvements. And finally, use research points to unlock better gear which you can buy in the Shipwright's shop with cash. So on and so forth.
While this simple system is straightforward to learn, finding spots to harvest important materials can feel like a chore. There were plenty of instances where I spent a full hour looking for wooden planks because the farming spots I was familiar with took a long time to refresh. This led to me making a mental map of where everything was. Moreover, this prolonged meandering demanded much attention since I needed a certain rod to complete a quest. The problem was that I couldn't use it unless I made a specific upgrade to my ship.
But what really steals the show is the unbelievably good sound design that immerses you in the moment. Limiting field of vision and presenting ambiguous dangers in a low-poly environment can only get you so far. That said, Dredge's soundtrack significantly contributed to a fantastic horror gaming experience from start to finish. Incomprehensible horrors beyond imagination never sounded so good!
7.5/10 Thalassophobic Fun
Where Dredge succeeds in making you anxiously hyperaware of its Lovecraftian horrors, the pacing suffers from constant fetch quests and material farming that ultimately gets drowned in the sea of prominent upsides.
Rounding out at just under 15 hours, Dredge provides a fantastic game experience that dares to innovate by fusing horror, fishing and intrigue; and doing it well. Black Salt Games proves once again that you don't need fancy graphics to build a good horror game (ahem, The Callisto Protocol, ahem).
Dredge's foggy nighttime never fails to make you feel frighteningly isolated at sea. All in all, the intrigue and horror more than makes up for the farming mechanics, which bog down the story progression sometimes. Dredge combines two unlikely genres well, with the game presenting unique challenges to the tune of a haunting soundtrack that shifts depending on where you are. Dredge never feels too easy or too challenging, and does an excellent job of crafting a fun nautical horror experience for a broad audience.
Dredge is available on March 31 on PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, Nintendo Switch, Linux and PC.
For more reviews and the latest in games and esports, follow ESTNN.