If fishin’ is your mission, you’re about to get reeled in by this unusual indie game in our Dredge review!
Indie games have had a huge surge in popularity in the last few years with AAA game developers taking note of the different aspects that have been implemented. Generally, there’s a larger emphasis on story with a meaningful undertone that players are praising these types of games for.
Dredge falls smack bang in the middle of this, coming from a brand-new developer out of New Zealand called Black Salt Games. With only a team of four, they have crafted one of the more unusual games that I’ve ever played. So, let’s see what we can catch in this fishing RPG with a twist in our Dredge review…
Dredge Review – Story
It’s a fisherman’s life for you as you play a traveling fisherman who finds themselves caught in a storm, causing your boat to be wrecked beyond repair. Luckily, you find an island village nearby that just so happens to be in need of a new fisherman. The Mayor of Greater Marrow graciously gives you an old boat to catch some fish with. Of course, you must pay off the boat as nothing is free these days, but it doesn’t take too long as the mayor isn’t anything like Tom Nook.
Anyone know any sea shanties?
You then find yourself working for a mysterious collector, sending you in every direction of the map to find strange artifacts. Something seems fishy with him though (and it’s not the wildlife), yet you continue to fill his requests. Each one leads you to a new island where you must help someone with their individual problems. This in turn leads you to the artifact you are looking for. Upon completing that quest, you will receive a new ability to help in the next part of your island-hopping adventure.
Something fishy about this guy.
Unfortunately, the ending is quite abrupt, leaving you questioning what actually happened. Once you see the last small cutscene the game resumes from just before it, leaving you open to finish off anything else you wanted to. After exploring and speaking to a few people, the story begins to form a complete picture. This is definitely one game where discovering and piecing bits together will help you understand the impact of the last shocking scene.
Dredge Review – Gameplay
Dredge is a mix of exploration, fishing and horror, which seems like an odd combination but it does it swimmingly well. After you get started with your “new” boat, you venture out into the shallows to do a spot of fishing. Your starting island, Greater Marrow, is in the middle of the map with an Island to explore in each corner. There are a total of five islands with each having its own theme, layout and different species of fish.
This part is a bit slow, but once you finish the starting quests and catch some fish to sell, you can buy some better equipment. There’s obviously fishing rods but you can also buy improved engines, crab pots, fishing nets and lights. As you progress through the story, you’ll unlock the upgrade tree, making your boat bigger as the game utilises an inventory management system for your ship.
X marks the quest spot.
The fishing mechanics are quite simple yet not too repetitive. Each fishing spot plays out in the form of a small mini game. A small circle pops up and an arrow goes around it clockwise, with several small green bars littered around the circle. Press the right button at the right time and your fishing line reels in faster, but miss and you take longer. Fishing at the beginning of the game is quite easy, but as you travel to other areas you discover slight variations of this mini game that keeps you on your fins. Don’t hold onto your catch for too long though otherwise disease and rot will creep on your ship!
Along with fishing spots, you can also come across wreckages and salvageable areas where you can dredge up crafting materials for your upgrades. Certain quests will also provide a specific component that allows you to research improved gear that can be bought and installed. This employs a similar minigame, yet instead of hitting green bars you need to miss black ones. You can also use a handy telescope to see what’s further away, saving you the trouble of sailing carelessly around the open waters.
Here, fishy fishy fishy…
Now this all seems pretty stock standard, but here’s where the game employs a few twists. Time is subjective, but not in this case, everything you do takes minutes of the clock. Moving, fishing, and dredging takes time and you don’t want to get caught out after sunset unprepared. You will encounter several hazards if you find yourself in this situation. Ghosts of shipwrecks, monsters that look like boats in distress, birds that will eat your fish and a deep fog will fall that limits your line of sight. Most of these can be escaped if your boat is quick enough, but go too fast and you may have a rock sneak up on you like an iceberg.
This is where unlocked special abilities can come in handy. Speed boosts, teleportation, and a powerful light repellent to scare off monsters are some that you can use. All these mechanics force you to be aware of what you’re doing at all times, which increases the stakes significantly.
I hope she’s giving me a good deal.
Panic is another odd resource you need to manage. Let it build too much and the screen will blur, causing monsters to pursue you. This only increases at night or if you stay awake for too long. You can also rest at any dock you discover and it’s recommended you do so unless you intend on sailing into the night.
Dredge Review – Visuals
Vibrant colours fill this fishing archipelago as you sail through beautifully designed islands. With splashes of luminous fish, crazy characters and disgustingly hilarious aberrations, Dredge nails the visual department. It combines a water colour paint style with Lovecraftian themes whilst also making the game somehow look 2D and 3D at the same time.
Every character you cross paths has been made specifically for that role, there’s no double dipping in character models here that you might find in open world games. The five different islands all feature a different theme that matches the location. A foggy cliff area sports darker tones, through to a massive volcano that suffocates the air in orange and red making you feel like you are really in these environments.
Following the strangely placed sign seems like a great idea.
Even your boat receives an updated look each time you upgrade the hull (the main upgrade). You’ll initially start with a rickety wooden ship, eventually morphing into a metallic arrow piercing through the water at breakneck speed. All of the upgrade materials, items and equipment are delicately designed to look exactly how they should with added flare.
Dredge Review – Audio
Have you ever just listened to the sounds of the ocean? Crashing waves, sea breezes, birds flying overhead and slight rustling in the distance of a small town. You can do that in Dredge and its very authentic. This is probably the highlight of Dredge’s audio, with a natural ambience that sounds perfectly relaxing as you watch your boat bob on the waves. Whilst the music does a good job of filling the void of silence, it’s quite limited and after a couple of hours you realise it’s just a few repeating tracks.
NPCs will give you the silent treatment. Literally.
The silence is more deafening when talking to the characters you come across. They barely murmur whilst explaining in great detail how they ended up ship wrecked in the middle of nowhere. Sadly, this detracts from the immersion of Dredge, as reading lines and lines of text can get a bit cumbersome.
However, one aspect where the audio truly shines like a beacon amidst a stormy sea is the tense music at night. It’s eerie, creepy, and makes you want the sun to come up faster. Not to mention when being chased by monsters, the melody ramps up even greater, causing a tight grip on your controller. Even though the music of Dredge is a bit lacklustre, it definitely doesn’t make the game any less fun.
What Else – Dredge Side Quests, Post-Game, Trophies
Gotta catch ‘em all?! Fish, that is. With five areas filled with different fishies and their rare counterparts, this is one of the main side attractions for the game. Dredge features a special fish compendium that notes all the locations where the fish are located once you find the first of its kind. This will mostly be used for clean up to fill out your fisherman’s journal.
Maybe Willem Dafoe is up there?
There are quite a few side quests to discover, some of which are basic fetch quests and others have you transporting people between islands. Exploration is key here to find everyone that needs your assistance, as it’s not marked on your map. Successfully completing these will generally reward you with an upgrade item and yes, you can unsuccessfully complete a few.
Why is she apprehensive? Guess she just has a hunch.
The trophy/achievement list for Dredge is quite manageable and in this instance will provide a longer game for you to wade through. There are no missable accolades, so feel free to do as much or as little as you want during the story. Of course, finding all species of fish is one of the main goals to achieve along with all side missions, fully upgrading your boat and a few miscellaneous tasks to focus on. Nothing too hard here, but possibly a tad time consuming depending on how you approach this game.
Black Salt Games have certainly proven they can create something that is set apart from everything else. Dredge will reel you in with its addictive gameplay loop and beautiful landscapes. Whilst the story and music lack slightly, for a developer team size of four, this is an incredible feat for a first outing. If you love fishing in larger sized games as a side activity and want to play something solely focused on that, then this is the one!
So, why should you play Dredge?
- Gorgeous art style
- Addictive gameplay loop
- Collecting all creatures is your thing
- Mini games are fun
- Plenty to do afterwards
But why shouldn’t you play Dredge?
- Lacking a wide range of music
- Fairly short story
- No actual voice actors
A review code on PlayStation 5 was provided for the purpose of our Dredge review. If you enjoyed this review, be sure to check out more of our indie game reviews and join the Qualbert Discord to chat about the latest indie releases!