REVIEW – As always, to hell with the all-caps title of the game, so the name is written the way it should be; the adventures of a fishing boat in the product of Black Salt Games. Of course, if that was all it consisted of, perhaps the perpetrator of this bunch of characters could be concerned with something else, so instead, it’s up to us to get the relics for the Collector.
Dredge is a single-player fishing adventure with a sinister undercurrent. Sell your catch, upgrade your boat, and dredge the depths for long-buried secrets. Explore a mysterious archipelago and discover why some things are best left forgotten.
That’s the best way to describe Dredge, which starts with a perhaps overly boring cliché as we crash our fishing boat in the fog (someone’s taken too much inspiration from Silent Hill) and then find ourselves in a small town called Greater Marrow. Our boat is gone, but the mayor is happy to offer us a replacement in exchange for fish until our debt is paid. The win-win scenario changes as the task becomes increasingly problematic, and we find ourselves trying to get the Collector the relics, but in return, we gain superhuman abilities. It is coupled with an environment that could easily be described as unique, as it has two faces. You could say it’s Jekyll & Hyde because during the day, everything is calm (even the music and, to a large extent, the fish you catch), but it all turns upside down as the sun goes down. And there’s not much you can do about it at first because your boat will start as painfully slow and hopelessly useless for escape, creating tension. It will have a significant impact on the atmosphere and gameplay.
The stress-perpetum mobile will cause our character to panic, narrow our horizons, and cause some unusual audiovisual events. Add to this that it is not known what the best solution is. That’s why there’s an excellent ambiance in the game, in which you have to sail further and further from shore to get everything, so as you leave Greater Marrow behind you, you have to upgrade your boat, which requires fishing, because you can’t do it for free; if you don’t have any symbolic banknotes in your virtual hands, you’re stuck in one place. At least the fishing is simple (there are over 120 types of them, so there’s variety). It’s a bit unusual to have to complete different mini-games depending on the kind of fish, but (if you’re playing on a PlayStation console) the point is about hitting the Square button at the right time. The ‘trophy fish’ and mutants put a twist on it, and if you want to catch crabs, deep-water fish, or even sharks, you’ll need different equipment. Grinding, perhaps, is required to get off from the ground, as your default equipment will not get you far in the plot or the fishing job.
Money is the soul of everything
To get a wide variety, you need to use what you have efficiently to increase visibility in the fog, hook more fish with more fishing rods, or even upgrade your boat’s engine, which will be essential if you need to get out of danger quickly. To upgrade your ship, you’ll need to find parts (they’re scattered around the world, so you’ll have to… dredge). You can find these resources in the shipwrecks, but it’s also worth checking the side missions for them. However, it’s not just to keep your ship in tip-top shape, as you can also obtain essential resources (e.g., metal, wood) in this way and use them to upgrade the infrastructure. The more cargo space you have, the more loot you can store, and you’ll need it because the need for it will increase significantly later on (especially if you’re catching sharks… they take up a lot of space). That’s all there is to the gameplay loop.
It sounds small on paper, but it’s just as capable of keeping the player in front of the screen. Hence the rating of Dredge: it doesn’t make it overly complicated, but it keeps the player at bay during the trickier situations. It’s only during this time that it becomes noticeable that the times of day change not exactly dynamically but after specific actions, revealing that some fish can only be found during the day. So we have to decide whether to risk a night out for some big catches while what we’ve caught is rotting away. Or, you can be more cautious and accept that we haven’t caught as many as we should have this time. Pushing boundaries is not something the game will tolerate. As long as you respect the limitations (don’t stay out too much, don’t be so ballsy in face of danger), the game will treat you and your abilities accordingly.
The world awaits
Beyond the missions (called pursuits), additional puzzles and side missions in Dredge are worth exploring. It would have received an eight out of ten if it hadn’t ended too unexpectedly. That said, a seven-and-a-half out of ten rating is still quite good. Try it out, or at least take a look at it, because it’s atmospheric and can mostly keep the player figuratively hooked.
+ The mood
+ Significant difference between the two times of day
+ Capable of engaging the player
– It becomes predictable in a short time
– It starts out clichéd
– It ends too suddenly
Publisher: Black Salt Games
Style: supernatural fishing
Release: March 30, 2023.