I’ve never really understood the pastime of fishing. I understand it from a food supply perspective. Hey, I love a fishfinger sandwich as much as the next man. But the idea of sitting next to a body of water, dipping your rod in and getting a bite. Pulling a fish out, looking at it and then throwing it back in? No idea.
Fishing is just not something that interests me in any way So then, developed by Black Salt Games and from publisher Team17 comes Dredge a game about fishing.
“Captain your fishing trawler to explore a collection of remote isles, and their surrounding depths, to see what lies below. Sell your catch to the locals and complete quests to learn more about each area’s troubled past. Outfit your boat with better equipment to trawl deep-sea trenches and navigate to far-off lands, but keep an eye on the time. You might not like what finds you in the dark…”
You play as an unnamed fisherman whose boat gets wrecked after entering some mysterious fog. You find yourself on the islet of Greater Marrow and the mayor has given you a new boat. Only, you need to pay for the new boat and you have no money. So you do what any fisherman does best, you fish, sell your catch and pay off the debt that is your new boat. However, there is something out on the waters at night and that mysterious fog that caused you to crash has a history. Time to learn just what is going on.
Dredge is most definitely a fishing game at heart, but it has a dark and bizarre horror slant to it too. The basic mechanics are very simple to get to grips with. Take your boat out to a fishing spot, catch fish and sell them at a fishmonger. Make money and buy upgrades for your boat that will allow you to venture further and catch bigger fish. Meet locals, find new islets and help out where you can. Eventually, you’ll learn why being out at night is so dangerous.
Oh yeah, I forgot to mention. Fishing and exploring during the day is all fine and dandy, nothing much to worry about. But when the night draws in, there’s something out there. You can stay out and fish at night in fact, you can only catch certain fish at night. But, the longer you stay out, the more you put yourself at risk. You have a sanity/panic meter and that will drop the more you stay out at night. When your sanity meter is empty, that is when things can and do get rather scary out on the water.
There’s quite an extensive upgrade system. Different fishing rods allow you to catch fish in certain locations (shallow water, deep sea, etc). Improved engines so that you can zip around the map and explore more. You can get crabbing cages to drop and see what they lure in and more. Then there is the dredging, you’ll eventually get the ability to dredge other shipwrecks and more. These locations will get you various resources from lost treasure to bits of wood and cloth. Still, those bots of wood and cloth can be just as important as they are used to unlock major upgrades for your boat. More spaces for rods and nets, engine ports, light so you can see better at night and the main one, a bigger and better hull.
When you do catch anything in Dredge, fish, treasure, bits of wood, whatever, you have to place them in your boat. This is its own mini-game and works like a static version of Tetris. Different items come in different shapes and sizes, so you’ll be picking items up, turning them around and trying to fit them into the limited space that you have. The fishing and dredging are mini-games too that require timed button presses, though they do differ and offer some good variety.
The way that the day/night cycle works is rather interesting too. Time does not advance unless you move. So, you can stop and think about what you are going to do next without having to worry about nighttime creeping up on you. There really is a lot to do in Dredge and the map is not exactly huge, yet there is still a lot to see and do. Multiple islets to discover and plenty of characters to meet and help. With multiple side quests to complete as you work your way through the story too. Over 120 different fish to find and catch. and much more. For such a small indie title, there really is a lot crammed into it.
Dredge is available now for everything and priced around £22. You’re looking at between 10 to 12 hours to get to the end of this one, you could probably double that if you are a completionist and want to get 100%. There really is a lot of game here but, it is very slowly paced. For me personally, I really enjoyed this aspect of the game. Dredge is quite a chilled-out game to play (until night comes and things get a bit panicky). It is also very, very grindy. There is a lot of going out to the same fishing spots and catching fish, to sell, to get recourses to upgrade your boat before you can make some progress. Then, when you do get to a new location, rinse and repeat. New fish to catch, new upgrades to grind for.
The darker elements of the game are done very well indeed and crammed with Lovecraftian imagery and some genuine scares. The graphics are beautifully presented and really help add to the horror vibe. Then there is the music. Going out to explore the sea during the day and you get this really calming music playing. Go out at night though and the audio begins to match how bizarre and unnerving the gameplay can become.
There’s no doubt that Dredge is a great game and packed with things to do. There are a few niggles. You can’t zoom in or out on the in-game map. It may not be a huge map, but there are times when you want to get a closer look at what is around (say a crabbing cage you have dropped) but can’t quite make things out because the name of one of the locations is in the way. You can’t leave custom waypoints on the map to help guide you and unless it’s a special mission, they are not marked on the map either. This means that you are continually bringing up the map to ensure that you are heading to the right location. Plus, a lot of what you do really boils down to just doing fetch quests. Still, niggles aside, Dredge is well worth checking out.