There’s a new fishing game in town but this one has a twist or two hidden in the fog. Dredge is an upcoming sinister fishing adventure developed by Black Salts Games and published by Team17, and is set for launch on PC, Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4/5, and Xbox One/Series X|S on March 30, 2023. Having played several hours of a preview build, I love the moody aesthetic mixed with music that instils unease as we catch fish, chat to the locals and uncover mysteries as we explore the depths.
In DREDGE, we step into the boots of a fisherman who destroyed their boat on the reef during thick fog and washed up on a nearby jetty. The mayor gives us safe harbour in Greater Marrow by providing us a boat so we can earn back our debt to his people. So off we go exploring the waters and surrounds, catching a variety of fish and other items of value. The graphics of the game paired with the simplistic controls grabbed me from the first moments on the water. I love this aesthetic and moody atmosphere that the game instils. It goes to show games don’t need all the bells and whistles with graphics, so long as the world is inviting to explore, which Dredge does well.
We control our small fishing vessel with WSAD and can see fish of various species circling and bubbling on the surface. Initially we start out with a coastla style fishing rod which limited me to catching mackerel, and the next rod I bought was for shallow water. The mini game of catching a fish is simple but engaging, hitting green blips on a circular radar. Later you can purchase different types of fishing rods that have faster retrieve times and other advantages. What I really loved here though was the inventory management which becomes a bit like playing Tetris. Each fish has a different number and shape of inventory slots they take up, and they cannot be stacked. Therefore, each fishing expedition is quite limited, however that is balanced by how fast time passes.
We start fishing in the morning and after stopping at a few fishing holes, it’s nearing late afternoon. As we head back into port, the clouds and darkness start creeping in, and so do eerie red glows in the distance, and your fear meter starts to rise showing a shaky eye near your compass. The mayor says we best not fish after dark, however some fish or creatures only come out at night, such as squid which was required to fulfil a quest given to us by the fishmonger. Night fishing is dangerous because you cannot see what lurks below the water, such as reefs and rocky outcrops. Hitting these can damage your boat, and ultimately you can die from sinking the ship.
As we earn money we can purchase engine, net, fishing gear and lights upgrades at the shipwright, allowing us to catch bigger fish and explore further out. To gain the upgrades, we need to be able to obtain resources from completing quests and exploring new locations. As we explore nearby locations, we meet lots of interesting characters who have their own tales to tell, as well as some side quests to complete. This makes you think how far you can push exploration before you need to turn back home and get back before darkness sets in.
The game’s soundtrack does well to instill a sense of dread the longer you stay out fishing in otherwise peaceful and tranquil waters. The characters you meet also indicate either dark history or weird and creepy activities, such as asking you to catch mutated fish, or hooded figures wanting you to help them complete a strange rite. Other locations will provide further safe harbour and more places to sell your catch and upgrade your boat. Given the need to keep returning to safe harbour, along with always finding new shiny things to investigate, gives Dread that oh-too-familiar feeling of ‘just one more run’ which is super addicting.
So far, Dredge is promising to be a fantastic game of discovery and risk versus reward in what we can catch, with a foreboding feeling of dread as we take bigger risks. The selling of goods found versus a decent upgrade tech tree gives you small goals to work towards, and I loved the calming nature of the gameplay despite the eerie and creepy premise. I am looking forward to the full release next month.
This preview utilised a Steam key provided by Team17 and Dredge will launch on March 30 on PC, Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4/5, and Xbox One/Series X|S.