Fishing has never felt so intense and full of dread.
Black Salt Games
|Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4/5, Xbox One/X/S, PC (Steam and GOG)
This isn't your traditional fishing game. You are in a world of darkness, mystery, and mutation; the world is vast yet feels like it is constantly trying to strangle you. In Dredge, you are fishing to survive and to recover something you had lost; overtime, you will wonder if you have begun to lose your own mind as night sets in.
You play as a fisherman who had a boating accident during a storm and lost his memory, but you are rescued by people of a small island town. After a brief minute chat with the local mayor, you are provided a "rent to own" ship to go do what you do best: fish. You are provided a brief tutorial on the controls and then otherwise left to do whatever you can in the fairly open world. Now, you will likely spend time focusing on the local area, fishing, and selling fish to pay off the loan. Once the loan is paid, additional features of the game open up such as upgrading your ship and your upgrades (more shopping options essentially). This is the core of the game in my opinion, pimping out your ship to get everything you possibly can on it. Sadly, I was never able to add on a game room...sigh.
The game is largely open world with a seven-core quest (Pursuits) and thirteen side quest you will discover. If you follow the main story, you will visit all 5 of the major regions looking for artifacts that you have been sent out to retrieve. I would say in most cases, each artifact can be easily found within an hour of gameplay in each region. Meaning, if you really focused on getting through the main story and not much else, you should be able to clear the game in 6-7 hours. However, the side quests are pretty enjoyable and push you to search the world for fish and hidden items; I found this to be the meat of the game. Much like Pokémon, I just had to find every fish and variation. That said, there are over 60 core fish, but most fish have a twisted, Aberrations form (or two).
Once you make your way through the main quest and have found the artifacts, you will have a tough decision to make that will alter the ending of the game. Will you recover what you had lost or accept the loss? The game is focused on storytelling; once you make your decision, the ending is pretty straightforward and runs itself. No boss fight other than the one within yourself.
The core of the game is exploration and fishing. You will be able to collect fish in three main ways:
- Traditional Fishing with a Rod via a mini game where you will time a button press within colored sections of a meter (shown in the left side of the picture below).
- Automatically with Fishing Nets while exploring
- Deploying Crab Boxes for passive fishing left in spots in the ocean
The major decision you have to make is how will your outfit your ship to use these main mechanics. The challenge is there are different fishing regions you have to equip your ship to handle:
- Ice (expansion)
Each Rod or Net will allow for fishing in specific region(s). Because your ship will have limited upgrade slots, you will find yourself changing your boat loadout fairly often. Luckily, you will be upgrading your ship to have a bigger hull and then converting sections into equipment slots; the rest of the hull slots will be fish and item storage. You will still have to make some decisions after the ship is fully upgraded, but it is much more reasonable.
The crab boxes are unique because you basically find a spot, drop it, and check on it later. A pop up will tell you the depth of the ocean below you where the crab box will lay and an idea of how many creatures can be caught there. Each box will have a number of slots where captured creatures will fit, and it will stop catching things once it is full. Each box will also catch a certain number of fish each day and some perks like increased chances of catching mutated creatures.
Crab boxes and nets will degrade overtime and will need to be repaired. Everything on your ship can also be damaged if you are attacked or crash into obstacles. Again, everything can be repaired in town or at a shop.
You also acquire other things such as boat lights to use during the night to see through the fog and spells that provide useful effects.
The game looks really good for the theme they are going with. The environment blends very well together. You will discover random fish creatures while exploring...some you can't even fish for, but you really wish you could. At night time when things are getting tense, everything changes...it become foggy, you begin feeling dread as if eyes are watching you, and the nightmares will find you. I definitely felt the panic at times thanks to the visual effects as well as the audio.
This is not a triple A game and some may not like the art direction, but once you get into the game, you realize it really does work and will appreciate the decisions they made.
The audio in the game is very atmospheric. It really helps build the mood, tension, and horror elements. I found myself eventually not really noticing the music until something bad was about the happen. This syncs well with controller rumble to add to the impending doom. I overall enjoy the game music and the sound effects. It won't be something I remember or hum to myself while not playing, but it was a solid soundtrack during gaming.
There are two main DLCs. If you buy the deluxe version of the game, you will get the first DLC which is the Blackstone Key. The other separate DLC is the Pace Reach. I do not personally own either of these DLCs, but from what I can tell, the Pale Reach is actually new content opening up an Ice Region, new fish to find, new equipment for your ship, and a new mystery. A common comment in use reviews for this DLC is that it is short. Since I don't have it myself, I can't really comment.
The Blackstone key seems like a minor DLC mostly providing access to a few additional items.
I thoroughly enjoyed the game well enough that I may pick up the DLC if it hits a Steam Sale at some point.
I was surprised how much I enjoyed the game. I wasn't entirely sure what the gameplay was going to be like when I loaded up the game, and when I realized it was a fishing game, I almost wondered if this game would be for me. I am very happy to say I got through the initial tutorial and found it hard to put down. Maybe it was the desire to catch all the fish or perhaps the need to unravel the mystery of the story...I don't know. I just know I put 22 hours into the game over the course of a week, and I don't regret it.
If I were to play the game again, I would definitely focus on my upgrades in a different order. I think early game, it makes a lot of sense to get the fishing net upgraded once or twice to make early money easier. The net is a nice passive income that requires very little work; the crab pots are good later in the game but require you to visit them and empty them. The net is just always with you. So that would be my main recommendation to consider if you decide to play. I probably spent a little longer fishing while grinding than I needed to early on.
I don't have any issues with the game beyond I wish I could equip everything, but I appreciate the fact that you can't. You have to decide at different phases in the game what your strategy needs to be. If you enjoy indie games that can be knocked out in 10-15 hours with a nice dose of horror and mystery, consider looking into Dredge.
WVGamers received a review copy (Steam) of this game for review. This does not impact our honest review of this game.