There’s something both beautiful and eerie about sailing on the sea. One has the calming lap of waves, the beauty of the open waters, and the knowledge that the water goes deep—and there’s much beneath the surface. It feels like more games should exploit this duality. But thankfully, Dredge takes up the gauntlet by making the most out of its seafaring premise. The game boasts wonder and horror along each step of its sinister fishing adventure Game.
Game Name: Dredge Platforms: PlayStation 4 (reviewed), PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X/S, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, PC Publisher: Team17
Developer: Black Salt Games
Release Date: March 30th, 2023
The story starts with a man and a lighthouse. Crashing your boat on the coast of Greater Marrow, the mayor grants you a loaner in exchange for you agreeing to sell part of your daily haul to the local fishmonger. The mayor also introduces you to the shipwright, who can repair any damage your boat incurs for a modest fee. She can also upgrade your trawler with new rods, engines, and the like.
It isn’t until long before various townsfolk introduce themselves with requests called pursuits. These send you looking for particular fish and on longer voyages to other islands, among other activities. Essentially side quests, they get more complex over time. But players can have a number going at once, accessible by a board in the cabin menu. The cabin also contains the map of the area, the encyclopedia of catches, and any messages found while at sea.
But first, you want to fish. Fishing occurs with a mini-game that varies depending on the type of sea life you wish to acquire. The activity is easy to fall into, bolstered by a relaxing yet somber soundtrack. Each main area of the game—there are five in total—has its own theme. Each piece is hauntingly beautiful in its own way. One can glide across the waves and get lost in the music. Time only advances when you’re moving, fishing, or doing an activity. This mechanic allows for leisurely play while encouraging strategy.
At a certain point early on, the Collector arrives. The mysterious man encourages you to keep up with your fishing career while looking out for any strange objects you may find in the water. And how do you haul aboard this flotsam and jetsam? By dredging, of course. And with the name of the game comes the main aim of the game.
The Collector tasks players with traversing each of the five main areas on the world map in search of these objects. Each region has its own intriguing story and history, from a sleepy whaling community to the ruins of an ancient civilization. And each area has some monstrosity guarding the means to acquiring the strange relics you seek. But with every relic comes a new eldritch ability you can use in your quest, from teleporting home to banishing beasties.
Fish make up a good part of the game, but the meat of the gameplay comes from pursuing these relics. Personally, I didn’t feel any need to acquire every fish in the game, especially since they go rotten after a couple of in-game days, and you can make money from any of them. But the relic quest had me, well, hooked.
These relic quests give the narrative an episodic nature. I enjoyed getting to know both the locales and the locals. Characters have a surrealist look in their design, while each location has a unique color palette, from tropical greens to volcanic reds. But in addition to beauty, these places also boast horror. Hearing the legend behind each monstrosity—or encountering them early on arrival—helps build suspense. Figuring out how to outmaneuver these eldritch creatures proves a fun challenge. One particularly eerie one gave me a fright when it uncharacteristically left the labyrinth it patrols to chase me. I don’t know if this happened because it was night or for any other reason, but the surprise of it cemented it as my favorite encounter.
Late in the game, I found some of the later monsters to be a bit too predictable in their arrivals and movements. The overarching narrative that returns towards the end didn’t reel me in like that of each area did, either. Dredge has two endings, one that players will likely get by default and a secret ending. Thankfully, players don’t have to start a new game to get both. But only the secret ending explains what’s really going on. Like my lanterned ship traversing the night, I found myself mostly in the dark, only able to infer some of the plot from messages and dialogue snippets.
That said, Dredge aims to provide atmosphere more than narrative. And in this quest, it succeeds. Frequently, especially towards the beginning, I felt as tense as my fishing line, exploring uncharted waters with local legends to guide me—and warn me. Dredge builds a sense of mystery, hiding both horror, such as seeing a sea serpent just below the depths, and wonder, when watching a whale suddenly crest behind my boat.
Overall, Dredge is a game that is sure to hook players from start to finish. With its addicting fishing mechanics, engaging episodic quests, and hauntingly beautiful atmosphere, this game is a must-play for anyone looking for a unique and immersive gaming experience. So set sail and see what lies beneath the surface – you won’t be disappointed.
Review Disclosure Statement: Dredge was provided to us by Team17 for review purposes. For more information on how we review video games and other media/technology, please review our Review Guideline/Scoring Policy for more info.
Mysteriousness proves tricky to sustain, but Dredge reels it in and mostly keeps it aboard through its run. Bolstered by beautiful music and visuals, the game features engaging episodic quests that promote exploration. With addicting fishing mechanics and the promise of something new on the horizon, the game sails full steam ahead with fish to catch and secrets to uncover. Dredge may have some dings in its hull, but this boat is more than seaworthy.
The lore and aesthetics of each region.
A time-cycle that offers safer travels during the day but risky rewards at night.
The unique abilities gained from upgrading the boat to acquiring relics.