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Dredge review: Gonna need a bigger boat

It looks like a relaxing day at sea, but there's more to Dredge than meets the eye.

Team17
1

Sometimes, trying to wake up before dawn for a fishing trip can be therapeutic. It can be relaxing. It can act as an escape. That's normally the case when Geiger-esque monstrosities aren't trying to take a bite of you. Dredge presents itself as a relaxing fishing game, but there's a darker story that awaits and it has an engaging layer of horror underneath that turns it into one of the most unique indie titles to come along in some time.

Come on and get in the boat, fish fish

Fishing and inventory management in Dredge

Source: Team17

Dredge begins with players being introduced to a sleepy village with some troubled denizens. After loaning out a fishing vessel, the town's mayor fully encourages players to go out and catch whatever awaits them. It's a vast open sea and many different types of sea life can be picked up, so long as the player's fishing boat has enough space. Players can pick up minnows, bass, squids, and bubbling one-eyed cyclops fish. That last one is probably a hint that all isn't well in these waters.

However, there's a completely different and unsettling aspect to Dredge that comes out when night falls. When the sun sets, the player's surroundings will be obstructed by fog. Clumsily stumble along and the player is likely to hit a rock and damage their boat. That's scary in itself, but there are also massive beasts that look like they're straight out of the mind of H.P. Lovecraft. Worse yet, they're hostile and will attack on sight. That means that on top of catching fish, making money, and upgrading the fishing boat, the main objective of Dredge is to find out exactly what's going on with the seabound horrors and what made them this way.

These are two ideas that shouldn't mix well together and, honestly, they don't always gel. Sometimes, a person just wants to engage in some relaxing fishing activities without the prospect of mutated sea life coming around threatening gruesome murder. However, most times, it's a creative mixture of ideas that makes the overall game more interesting.

Adjusting your sleep cycle

Exploring shipwrecks in Dredge

Source: Team17

While Dredge is going to require confrontations with its monsters eventually, the first several hours of the game can be spent simply fishing by day. It's a necessity, because the small boat at the start of the game ultimately won't work before long. Players can catch different fish, return to the local fishmonger, sell off their findings, and earn money in order to pay for upgrades. These can include better lights, improved motors, or more effective fishing lines and nets for catching larger sealife.

Dredge's biggest downside is the speed of the day/night cycle. Much like in real life, days go by way too fast and, at least in the early portions of the game, it's not advised to be out in the middle of the ocean when night falls. As noted earlier, sea monsters will come out at night and if the player's vessel is underdeveloped and can't escape or see too far ahead, it can mean certain doom. It doesn't help that the map is stuck in the player's inventory, so it's easy to just plow ahead and get lost. On top of that, if players stay awake for too long, they'll be prone to insanity.

However, once the boat gets even the most marginal upgrades, Dredge starts to kick more into gear. Sure, nights are still incredibly dangerous, but one gradually gains more confidence in stepping out of their comfort zone and exploring the farther reaches of the world, discovering new towns, and meeting odd people. In addition to finding new species of fish, players can pull up the remains of various shipwrecks, finding upgrade materials and trinkets to sell off for a few extra bucks. Dredge makes exploration feel rewarding, not just because of what players find, but also because of the initial anxiety that they have to overcome to even take that first step forward.

Deep blue sea

What I especially like about Dredge is that it can best be explained with a fishing metaphor. It's a game that gets its hook into you and reels you in with easy-to-learn systems and interesting ideas. Fishing is an engaging mini-game. Dredging objects from the sea's depths is a different mini-game. Finding space on your vessel through an intricate puzzle structure is more exciting than it sounds. Then comes the central mystery, which reveals itself more and more over time, especially as you continue to randomly dig up grotesque creatures, and that's the essence of Dredge.

Dredge is both relaxing and unnerving in the best ways. While the day/night cycle could be handled better, it's still an exciting seafaring voyage and one that's worth checking out.


This review is based on a Steam digital code provided by the publisher. Dredge will be available Thursday, March 30 on PC, PlayStation, Xbox, and Nintendo Switch for $24.99 USD. The game is rated E10+.

Senior Editor

Ozzie has been playing video games since picking up his first NES controller at age 5. He has been into games ever since, only briefly stepping away during his college years. But he was pulled back in after spending years in QA circles for both THQ and Activision, mostly spending time helping to push forward the Guitar Hero series at its peak. Ozzie has become a big fan of platformers, puzzle games, shooters, and RPGs, just to name a few genres, but he’s also a huge sucker for anything with a good, compelling narrative behind it. Because what are video games if you can't enjoy a good story with a fresh Cherry Coke?

Review for
Dredge
8
Pros
  • Easy-to-understand fishing mechanics
  • Relaxing, yet tense atmosphere
  • Intriguing story
Cons
  • Day/night cycle runs too fast
  • Map would work better as part of the HUD
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