When you think about it… it’s a terrifying fact that we know much more about what’s above us in the stars and space, than we do about what lurks deep beneath the waves. New Zealand based studio Black Salt Games isn’t helping this fact much at all with their new game Dredge, it may look like a harmless fishing sim on the surface but delve a little deeper and you’ll find this couldn’t be further from the truth. You start out as the new fisherman on a remote archipelago called ‘The Marrows’, taking to the waters each day and scouring the depths for ever bigger prize catches, with there being over 125 different deep sea creatures to hook. You soon start to find some curious collectables in the waters, as well as twisted and warped versions of the creatures you have been landing each day and oddly these mutations land you double and sometimes treble the coin. This is a big part of the gameplay loop if you want to go further and deeper into the sea you’ll have to upgrade your ship which doesn’t come for free.
You’ll want to bank the best catch you can, so odds are high you’ll have to head out at night, but that’s when things change and the madness truly sets in. There are many things that go bump in the night out there and you will panic and push your sanity to the edge and when you do… you’re in for a rough time sailor. Being out at night for too long, not getting enough sleep or witnessing stressful events will push you over the edge and have you questioning if those rocks just appeared in front of you? Or are there other ships out in the sea with you, or are they really sea monsters? And have a murder of crows started to hound you down stealing your prize cargo? Though this may all be in your mind, what isn’t is the damage to your boat. You can get, and often will be, stuck nursing your boat back to dock to get fixed if you push yourself too far. Dredge does have an interesting mechanic for handling time, as it only moves when you do (a bit like Superhot) so you have tonnes of time each day to think out your next move.
As you brave the seas in Dredge you’ll explore the five different areas in the world while completing quests and exploring small neighbouring islands where you’ll find extra loot and materials – each island comes complete with its own unique inhabitants and secrets uncover. These locals will drip feed you the large Eldritch inspired tale, as well as the shadowy past of the world; like what happened to the old fisherman, but its only when you’re ready to leave your comfort zone which is an interesting take, as you can just fish the local waters making a bit of coin and still have fun if you want too. The fishing side takes on a mini-game vibe; firstly as a reaction based puzzler, which changes for each species you catch or resource and then as an old school Resident Evil style inventory grid puzzle, where you have to fit everything into the limited space you have on your ship. Often this sees you having to choose which catch to keep or throw back.
Visually the game has a striking art style that is simplistic in ways but packed with mood and atmosphere as well. Sound is OK with the soundtrack being used sparingly throughout your voyages, bouncing between light tones to more sinister beats. Dredge is a real double edged title… on one hand it’s a fun and solid arcade fishing sim puzzler of sorts in a beautifully crafted nautical playground, while on the other is a mystery and a thriller that you can truly take at your own pace.
An Xbox review copy of Dredge was provided by Team 17’s PR team, and the game is available now on PlayStation, PC, Switch and Xbox for around £22 for the standard version.
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