Dredge is undoubtedly one of my favourite games of the year, so of course I jumped at the opportunity to experience some new content. The Pale Reach introduces a new section of the map – an icy region that somehow feels even more unsettling than the base game. A new region, of course, means new species of fish, new mysteries to unravel, and even some new pieces of equipment.
You can access The Pale Reach at any time: a mysterious question mark appears in the southern region of your map. Simply head there when you’re ready, and you’ll find a new area waiting for you to explore. There’s a dock, where you’ll find the travelling merchant ready to buy your fish and repair your boat as and when you need to. Venture further, and you’ll find abandoned outposts waiting for you to investigate.
There’s one problem in this new, icy region, however: the ice! Navigating is tough as you’re frequently up against small pieces of ice that are going to cause damage to your hull. Thankfully, a solution awaits – something called the Icebreaker, which will let you smash through smaller sections of ice. You’ll first need to find three pieces of the Icebreaker dotted around the region and take them to the merchant who can fix it to your boat for you. Once you have it, sailing through ice unhindered is seriously satisfying.
The new area introduced in The Pale Reach is rather small: it’ll only take you five or ten minutes to make your way around the entirety of it, although some areas are cordoned off until you’ve got the Icebreaker. Despite its compactness, though, it oozes atmosphere: one of my favourite things about Dredge is its otherworldly, unsettling vibe. Here, it’s been turned up to 11. There’s a heightened sense of unease, and you’re never sure what’s waiting for you beneath the ice. There are new threats pursuing you, too. Along with the same madness that can come if you’re out at night, you’ll occasionally find yourself being pursued by an evil narwhal. As always, you can never fully relax when navigating the waters of Dredge.
Dredge: The Pale Reach introduces 11 new species of fish and crab, plus their freakish, aberrated versions to be discovered. For completionists, then, finding these new creatures to add to the encyclopedia will provide a satisfying challenge in itself. There’s of course an extension to the game’s narrative, too, with a short but satisfyingly Lovecraftian mystery to unravel. Explore The Pale Reach and you’ll find figures frozen in blocks of ice: you’ll need to find pickaxes in order to free them. Elsewhere, you’ll find mysterious stones to interact with and a strange, hooded figure who needs your help.
It’s a short expansion overall, but The Pale Reach is a welcome addition to Dredge. And for its asking price of less than £6, it’s hard to complain. If this will be your first time returning to the game since launch, like me, you’ll also find a wealth of new (free) updates: there are new characters to find in the Painter and the Photographer, both adding new elements to the gameplay. There are also more creatures, more aberrations and new shipwrecks, along with plenty of quality of life enhancements – including a ‘Passive’ gameplay mode that disables any threat from sea beasts.
It’s simple: if you enjoyed Dredge, you’ll enjoy The Pale Reach. While this DLC doesn’t reinvent the wheel, it offers a solid reason to return to one of this year’s best indie games. It’s a fairly small expansion, but for a budget price you’re getting new mysteries to unravel, new fish to catch and a new area to explore – what more could you want?