Developer: Black Salt Games
Publisher: Team 17
Genre(s): Adventure, Simulation, SUrvival Horror, RPG
Platform: Xbox Series X (Also available on Playstaion, Nintendo Switch and PC)
Age Rating: PEGI 12
Release Date: 30/03/2023
A code was provided for review purposes
Dredge is the sort of game I never thought could exist, yet does so in such spectacular fashion. I knew nothing about the game before it came up for review. The name alone had me intrigued, and so blindly, I hoisted the anchor and set sail on a journey from which there is no going back. So pack your bags, grab a line and hop on board this rapid review. There’s something dark lurking beneath the water, and the wind’s mournful cry pulls us and this review ever onward.
A Remarkable Combination
I never thought about the possibility of someone creating a Lovecraftian fishing game. Yet that is exactly what the creative geniuses behind Dredge have done. The combination of gothic horror and the open sea is one that, when you look at it after the fact, makes sense. There is no end of watery connotations surrounding the great old ones. Fishing, not so much; however, the jump from one to the other is far simpler than you may imagine.
Dredge is a hard game to review for two core reasons. Firstly, Dredge is a game that really needs to be experienced in order to be done justice. Secondly, describing the Dredge experience without giving anything away makes it tricky work. Taking the first reason into account, I will be giving absolutely nothing important away during this review so as not to risk spoiling a moment of the haunting experience for you.
Hoist the Anchor!
Dredge sees you playing a nameless fishing boat captain who lands at the island of Greater Marrow. Here you are recruited to be the town’s new fisherman. Catching fish to pay off the debt you owe the Mayor for having your vessel patched up.
From there, the adventure starts immediately. You play as the boat. Steering your way over a small map that is staggeringly well populated to feel much larger than it is. Along the way, you catch a variety of fish, and their associated abominations, upgrade your boat and equip all manner of different rods and nets. For all intents and purposes, Dredge is your standard chilled experience. Catch fish, and sell them at the market for upgrades which allows you to catch more fish with better equipment.
However, that is where everything vaguely normal ends.
Fishing But Not As We Know It
As you sail around the islands, you meet a host of different characters and accumulate a range of different errands and tasks you need to perform. While the central storyline soon starts and is clear to follow, I beg you all to explore. Don’t just play the game to get to the credits because it is something much greater than the sum of its parts. Yes, the main storyline is great, and I didn’t quite figure it out before everything unfolded. But there is so much fun to be had with the wide range of NPCs you meet along the way.
The map is easily traversable but packed with lots of small islands and rock clusters, and all of them have something cool to offer. While exploration isn’t needed to complete the story, you are given clear markers for that, I cannot recommend roaming the ocean swell enough. Also, while not really recommended, make sure you spend some time sailing at night. It’s worth the risk to your sanity.
The fishing aspect of Dredge is, of course, one of the key elements. Yet it is so straightforward; it manages to blend into the background. This allows you to enjoy everything else the game has to offer. Which is all the more important when you step back and look at the small things. The shadows or the sun slowly sinking beyond the horizon. I spent far too long just watching the rolling of the ocean all around me.
An Easy Game That’s Highly Addictive
I spent a long time playing Dredge. I sailed around, I explored, and I fished way more than I had any need to do. Yet, here I am, writing the review and already thinking about getting back to a new playthrough. There’s a second ending I need to try and get, also.
Dredge is very much a pick-up-and-play game. For those playing or thinking about playing it on the Switch, I can see it becoming the ultimate commute game. Just a day here and a day there. Most quests are fun and easy to complete without too much of a struggle. Although, watch out once you get to Devil’s Spine. I’ll say no more about that.
Dredge offers you five core locations, including your starting base, The Marrows. Each of the remaining four allows the main storyline to unfold. I really liked the pacing of the game. I knew from the first interaction with the Mayor that Dredge was going to be a creepy game, but where it really excelled was in the evolution of the map. Each area you went to pulled you deeper and deeper into a maddening world. Yet, there was always something eerily comical about things that kept me sane and drove me deeper in my quest to unravel the story.
A Visual Masterpiece
Visually, Dredge is a masterpiece with an art style and ambience that perfectly matches the gothic nature of the story. From the shimmering horrors to the increasingly bloodshot eyeball that represented your sanity, the developers hit the mark every step of the way. It’s been a long time since I have played a game that pulled me in as quickly and as powerfully as Dredge.
When creating something so strongly Lovecraftian, it is imperative that you get the correct atmosphere. Dredge does this perfectly, creating a sinister gothic world. I loved the rolling ocean, and the game really stood out, for me, during the frequent storms. The dull colours and the angry swell on the growing waves created a feeling of helplessness for the faceless, nameless character behind the wheel of your ship.
Not Your Standard RPG
Imagine if a standard fishing simulator had a child with a survival horror RPG. The result of this unholy pairing would be Dredge. I loved how you were able to control which area of your boat and materials you improved.
Character development in Dredge works in two ways. I say character development because, from a gameplay standpoint, the boat is your character. Firstly, dredge for supplies and trade them to unlock boat upgrades. These upgrades include a bigger hull, along with more space for engines, nets, and lights. Spend your money wisely and install these parts to get the most out of the game. Secondly, use research points to unlock no rods, nets and engines. These are then available for purchase in the game and let you move further through the main and side-quest objectives.
Completing the main quest also results in certain ‘supernatural’ abilities being granted to you. However, I shall say no more about them. They are yours to discover and are acquired simply by playing the game.
Dredge has left an impression on me that will not be easy to shake. I struggle to find a single fault with the game. Even now, re-reading through what I have written, I worry I didn’t do it justice. Dredge is gorgeously grotesque, and once it slithers onto your screen and into your mind, you will be as powerless to its thrall as the fisherman is to the raging seas.
Rapid Reviews Rating
5 out of 5
Grab your copy of Dredge from the Microsoft Store today.
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