Fishing is such a relaxing pastime, isn’t it? Cast a line in the water, enjoy a cold drink, and if you’re lucky, maybe even catch something for dinner.
It’s a different story when your fishing spots are also home to Lovecraftian horrors, however – as you’ll soon discover while playing Dredge.
Developed by the NZ-based Black Salt Games and published by Team 17 for PC, Xbox, PlayStation and Nintendo Switch, Dredge asks you to don the oilskin of a late 1920s fishing trawler captain who finds themselves shipwrecked in a mysterious archipelago where things get rather unsettling after sunset.
After being kitted out with a new trawler via the generous mayor of the island of Greater Marrow, you sail around the region’s islands, fishing for potential seafood and dredging wrecks for equipment, selling your catch to the fishmonger and using the equipment to upgrade your ship. By day it’s all very pleasant and quite tame – but as soon as the sun sets, things get weird.
A heavy fog envelops the map, obscuring your view, and your vision starts to get less reliable as you stay out longer. Rocks which definitely weren’t there before will appear out of the fog in front of your ship, damaging it if you hit them, and strange, grotesque sea creatures start to come up in your nets – or even attack your boat. It’s all very Lovecraftian, and done very well.
Throughout all this, there’s an overarching story – a mysterious Collector, living on one of the islands, has asked you to recover five relics from various points of the map for an unspecified but important purpose, which becomes increasingly ominous as you progress.
Fishing takes place via mini-games where you try to hit certain markers to speed up the reeling in process (time is a factor on the game, lest you be on the waters at night unprepared) and works very well.
Most of your income comes via selling your catch in each region’s major port, and the money from that can be used to buy better engines or fishing gear or lights etc for your boat.
It’s not just fish you are hauling on-deck either – as the name suggests, you also dredge for salvage from the region’s many shipwrecks to provide raw materials to upgrade your boat’s endurance, cargo space and fishing equipment mounting points.
Hitting rocks or obstacles damages your boat and means some of your cargo can be lost overboard – the different items have different shapes, so inventory management is an important factor of the game as well.
I really enjoyed Dredge – it’s innovative, accessible, a great mixture of relaxed and sinister at the same time, and well made, with interesting settings, an intriguing story, and doesn’t outstay its welcome.
Dredge is very much a trophy catch that does a good job of reeling you in – if you like well-made indie games with a touch of Lovecraftian Horror, it’s well worth seeking out and casting your line for.