Never did we imagine we’d get completely hooked on a fishing game, but here we are.
Actually, that’s not entirely fair. Because while Dredge is a game about fishing, it’s a little dismissive to categorise it as a “fishing game”. This gorgeous, moody adventure has you catching fish, sure. But it’s also about exploration, uncovering dark secrets of the mysterious world you find yourself in and, uh, avoiding the Lovecraftian beasts that lurk in the depths.
You take on the role of a fisherman who finds themselves in the seemingly calm waters of The Marrows. Docking at the closest town, most of the residents are friendly enough – but there’s certainly something strange about them. They allude to terrible things out at sea, but you pay no heed. Fishing is what you do, and nothing is going to stop you getting out on the open water.
Your journey starts out rather simply: you’ll be fishing for various sea creatures, which you can then take to the fishmonger to sell for profit. Money makes the world go round in Dredge, and by selling fish you can raise the funds needed to buy yourself new rods and equipment. Different rods are needed to fish in different parts of the ocean: you can only get fish from shallow and coastal waters to begin with. As you progress, you’ll be able to purchase rods to catch ocean, hadal and abyssal fish.
Your rods aren’t the only thing you can upgrade, either. You’ll be able to purchase crab boxes, allowing you to catch crabs and other crustaceans, and a net to allow you to passively catch fish as your boat moves through the water. Your boat itself can be upgraded too, with more powerful engines, more storage space, better lights and more space for additional rods. For many upgrades, you’ll need to find parts along with having money. Fish aren’t the only thing you can pull out of the water: you’ll find wood, scrap metal, material and more, all of which can be used to improve your boat. You’ll want to gather as much as you can, too, because adding additional storage space to your boat is hugely beneficial.
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We particularly got a kick out of Dredge‘s inventory management, which requires a Diablo 2 level of sorting. Fish come in various shapes and sizes, and to optimise the space you have on board, you’ll need to spend a fair bit of time rotating and shuffling things around. Once your storage is full, you’ll want to make your way back to a port where you can sell your fish and offload other items into your on-shore storage box.
While simply exploring the world of Dredge and catching as many fish as you can is engaging enough by itself, there are missions to complete. The main quest line will see you gathering mysterious items from every corner of the world. Other missions will pop up as you explore, tasking you with finding certain kinds of fish, ferrying people (or animals) from one place to another, and solving the odd puzzle.
These are the best moments of the game, in fact, because developer Black Salt Games has done such an incredible job of creating a mysterious and alluring world that simply begs to be explored. You’ll love poking around random little islands, uncovering boat wrecks and abandoned camps. Finding new characters to speak to is always enlightening, too, with everyone adding to the shrouded mystery of the world around you. Things may be mostly peaceful in the daytime, but when the sun sets – which it does, regularly, thanks to a day-night cycle – you’ll leave yourself open to danger.
There are huge beasts crawling the seas, and every area of the world introduces new threats. A tropical ring of islands has a huge Kraken-like beast living in the middle of them, for example. While elsewhere, hungry piranha fish will nibble away at your boat. These dangerous fish can’t be taken out in any way, and so you’ll need to do your best to avoid them. Take damage, and you could end up losing items or being without an engine – making returning to a point of safety that much more difficult.
There’s an element of risk versus reward to Dredge, then. Some fish only come out at night, and so if you’re looking for a particular species, you’ll have to face the darkness. Make sure you’ve got your lights on and have your path to safety mapped out if you need to flee. Your own sanity can become your enemy too: spend too much time out at sea without resting and your madness will increase, making you extra paranoid about what’s around you, throwing some hallucinations into the fray.
Dredge is one of those rare treasures: a game unlike anything else that completely captures your attention with its intriguing world and simple yet captivating gameplay. We could keep hunting for rare fish forever, and we only wish there were more secrets for us to uncover; new parts of the world for us to explore. But when our only complaint is “we want more of it”, it’s clear we have something rather special on our hands.