Black Salt Games’ DREDGE, which is being published by Team17 and launches next week, was a game we were unlikely to enjoy based on its self-described premise of a “fishing adventure”. Yet here we are after playing it on a PlayStation 5, and the score below this review speak volumes.
As soon as you get Lovecraftian horror vibes from a game, you know it’s not just going to be another fishing simulator. There’s a unique storyline set against a dark and moody backdrop that sees players take on the role of a fisherman who has ended up on the shores of an archipelago called The Marrows. Visiting the nearby town, you must explore the nearby islands, catching fish and helping its local population – but it doesn’t take long because you catch wind of strange artifacts that point towards why a mysterious and dangerous fog rolls in at night, hiding dark secrets that lurk in the waters.
Things are more ominous than dangerous at first though, as you simply set out to fish and make money with your catch. This allows you to buy new fishing rods and equipment for your boat, which act as upgrades that let you fish in other parts of the ocean for a bigger catch than you can find in the shallows. Exploration and dredging your nets across the floor is encouraged as well, as you sometimes need resources in addition to making enough money for upgrades. With a lot of different resources and upgrade options, there’s a richer system here than we would’ve expected, and it gives you a real sense of being in control of your own destiny.
To carry all of the materials you’ll gather, there’s a very ‘retro’ kind of inventory management system in place in Dredge, one that does not automatically sort and store stuff for you. Storage space is limited on your boat, and to make the most of it you have to find the best possible fit for everything, rotating your catch and other materials to make use of every little nook and cranny. Hit land and you can offload most of your stuff again, but it’s a challenge whenever you plan to stay out for a while.
Structure-wise, the adventure in Dredge has you exploring an open environment made up of five key island groups, with a core story arc that consists of finding occult artifacts for a strange man who lives on a secluded island. Key story quests help you find these, but these are also how you’ll cross paths with terrible monsters. It’s smart to explore a bit and grow stronger first, for instance by checking out old shipwrecks and campsites. Optional quests aren’t as dangerous, and even introduce other gameplay styles, including puzzles.
Letting the mystery unfold slowly is also the best way to enjoy Dredge, so we’d definitely recommend engaging with the locals and taking on quests for that reason as well. It’ll make the big horrors that emerge all the more impactful, even though you never quite feel safe anywhere else either – especially at night. You can’t limit yourself to the daytime though, because you’ll also want to hunt fish that only come out under the cover of darkness. The tension’s often tangible, and you’ll need to watch your fisherman’s mental health because of it – the last thing you want is to battle his own hallucinations as well as the real dangers that are out there.
If you like your games with a sense of mystery and a sinister atmosphere, this one’s a solid choice. It’s wonderfully moody and the visuals and excellent soundscape help to deliver on that. Dredge is one of those games that makes you want to push on and uncover more of its secrets, even though part of you wants to flee from them. A lovely mix for fans of Lovecraftian fiction.