I have gone out of my way to make it abundantly clear to the Gaming Nexus crew that scary games are simply not for me. While I’ve tried my fair share over the years, I can’t think of one that I’ve been able to get all the way through. The original Blair Witch Project movie ruined me a long, long time ago when I was a young lad in my formative years. Games that are creepy or eerie, however, are something that I can handle and that is precisely how I would describe Dredge. It’s an eerie supernatural fishing game that wants you to be on edge about what is lurking below the surface, or just beyond the thick veil of ocean fog.
Dredge sets the tone immediately as you crash your fishing boat in a creepy fog and wake up in the nearby town of Greater Marrow. Your boat is totaled, but the town’s Mayor greets you and is happy to provide you with a replacement vessel, provided you agree to pay off your debt by providing the town with bounty of fish. From there, the waters become increasingly troubled, and you soon begin gathering relics for the mysterious Collector, who can somehow grant you supernatural abilities.
Everything is shrouded in a tinge of mystery in Dredge, with the game’s atmosphere doing much of the heavy lifting. The environment of Dredge serves as its main character, and it is quite a character indeed. As you set off on your journey to gather relics for the Collector, you’ll quickly discover the Jekyll & Hyde world that awaits you. During the day, the world is serene, the music is calming, and the fishing is (mostly) normal. However, as night falls, things turn sinister.
Early on, you won’t be able to see much of anything at night, meaning you won’t see hull-shattering rocks in front of you, much less the things that go bump in the night. Things that will throw you off course, steal your cargo, or outright destroy your boat. Your boat is also slow starting out, so whatever dangers you encounter will be much harder to run away from as well. Exposing yourself to the fog and everything that comes with it also raises your level of panic, which exacerbates everything I just described. As you start to panic, suddenly your field of vision narrows, weird apparitions appear out of nowhere, and creepy sounds begin to surround you. I won’t lie, Dredge gave me chills on more than one occasion. Early on, especially, when you don’t quite know what to expect, it can be anxiety inducing.
The inability to cope or operate in those oppressive conditions at the beginning are the driving force behind Dredge’s gameplay, as acquiring all of the relics for the Collector will require you to venture further and further out into the world, away from the safety of Greater Marrow. To safely do so, you’ll have to upgrade your trusty boat, which requires cash, which requires fish to sell. Fishing is relatively simple, with you approaching various fishing spots around the map and completing a small mini game to catch a fish. The mini games vary slightly depending on the species of fish, but all are a slight variation of “press square as the line crosses the green box”, and they boil down to timing your button presses correctly. For a game that features fishing as its central mechanic, you might be concerned that this process would grow tiresome, but it never really did thanks to some clever variations. Trophy fish and mutated fish are just a couple of those variations to the formula, but more important are the various tools at your disposal that are required to catch the differing types of fish. If you’re on the hunt for crabs, you’ll need crab pots for instance, which require you to set them and come back later to check on them. If you need to catch deep water fish, such as sharks, you’ll need a special type of rod, as another example. With more than 120 types of fish to catch, utilizing the proper tools in the most efficient setup possible is key.
As the fishing becomes more bountiful, so too does the cash flow. Your hard earned cash can be used to purchase boat upgrades at the shipyard, such as improved lighting to see further in the fog, rods that can catch multiple types of fish, or faster engines to help you escape those inevitable sinister pursuits. All boat upgrades must be unlocked for purchase by acquiring research parts. These are found out in the world by dredging (see what they did there?) shipwrecks for resources, and they’re also awarded for completing side quests. You won’t just be dredging for research parts however, as you’ll also need other basic resources like wood, metal, and cloth to undergo upgrades to your boat’s infrastructure. These are equally important compared to equipment upgrades, because you’re going to need all of the cargo space you can get as the game progresses. Some species of fish take up huge chunks of your cargo inventory – remember those sharks I mentioned? Fishing and upgrading my boat turned out to be quite an addictive gameplay loop. Time flies playing this game, and I went to bed well past my usual bed time on multiple occasions because of it.
Other than supernatural creepiness, there is another major undercurrent flowing through Dredge – time. The day and night cycle isn’t entirely dynamic, as time only advances alongside certain actions: driving the boat, fishing, dredging, and installing equipment. You’ll also discover rather quickly that not every species of fish can be found during the day, forcing you to steel your nerves and head out into the dark abyss at night. Time is a balancing act that you must always take under consideration. Do you risk staying out at night fishing for a particular species, even though you’re loaded down with valuable resources you need for an upgrade? What if your daily haul of fish rots before you can sell them because you stayed out too long? All are possible, and it’s up to you to balance it. To be clear, Dredge is not a difficult or unforgiving game, but it will punish you for pushing the boundaries beyond what you’re capable of at any given time.
As you grow increasingly capable (and comfortable), you’ll discover that the world has much to discover. Secrets abound in Dredge, and beyond gathering relics for the Collector in the main story, there are numerous other puzzles to solve and side quests to complete. Quests, or “Pursuits” as they’re called in Dredge, include your standard delivery and fetch quests, but there is also more to be discovered about the main story and what is really going on in the world through exploration. However, the story, while interesting, mostly feels like it’s just kind of along for the ride, and I felt that it ended rather abruptly. So much so that I felt like I had missed something along the way once it finished. But Dredge is one of those games where you get more out of it the more you explore its world and solve its mysteries. I found myself wondering “what is this for?” or “what does this go to?” fairly often. Without spoiling the sense of discovery for you, suffice it to say that not everything is as it seems.
Dredge is an interesting game. It’s simple yet highly satisfying gameplay loop make it tough to put down, and it’s heightened by a creepy, mysterious world with lots of secrets and interesting things to discover. Meanwhile, the story feels inconsequential for the most part – a means to an end to push you out into the world and ultimately outside of your comfort zone. Though truthfully, with gameplay this good it’s certainly possible that a more overbearing story could sink the experience. I sincerely doubt that Dredge will disappoint you, and who could have imagined that a creepy fishing game would be this cool?
* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company.
Hello! I'm Jason, the newest member of Gaming Nexus. My favorite genres of games are strategy, management, city-builders, sports games, RPGs, and shooters, but I don't limit myself to those. My favorite game of all-time is Red Dead Redemption 2 and I have somehow played it for nearly 1,000 hours. I also co-host a weekly PlayStation news podcast called The Dual Sense Podcast, so I stay pretty well versed in that ecosystem. Before that, I co-hosted a basketball podcast.View Profile