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Dredge review: Fishing the deep, dark depths

Gerard: I usually find that when I think about a game at lot when I’m not playing it, it means that I really, really like it: Trying to find solutions to mysteries, mulling over exactly what did that cryptic conversation with a character really mean. For me at the moment, that game is Dredge, a “fishing” game from a game development studio in my home town in New Zealand, that has buried itself into my mind and I can’t stop thinking about it, I can’t stop playing it. I just adore this indie gem.

I’ve been lucky enough to have been able to play Dredge for some time now – at its heart it’s a fishing game set in a seemingly idyllic archipelago menaced by underwater monsters that come out at night, mostly. That said, of all the things I can do in this Lovecraftian, eldritch horror-inspired game – from fishing to dredging to exploring – I’m singularly obsessed with upgrading my fishing boat.

Richard: It’s easy to go down one rabbit hole instead of balancing across them all. I got excited about crab pots for a while. Until I realised I was probably spending more on fixing them than I was making. I love dredging too, the mini-game mechanic there just makes sense, its industrial and skillful, but represents what’s going on. How scary is it when you been dredging a while and realise it’s suddenly night time?

Gerard: I’m just obsessed with the upgrade tree that informs me how much wood, cloth, steel and scrap metal I need to make the hull stronger, to provide more room to install a larger, more powerful engine, to be able to fit brighter flood lights that will hopefully pierce the strange fog that descends at night. I’m convinced that a bigger, faster, stronger boat will prepare me for those underwater horrors that lurk underneath the blue water and idyllic tidal pools and can sink your boat in the flick of a tentacle.

They Dredge at night, mostly.

Richard: I know what you mean Gerard, there’s something about Dredge, aside from the mystery and exploration that gets under your skin. Like all great ideas, its deceptively simple, but the deeper you Dredge, the more engaging it becomes. I love the style, and I love the sense of foreboding that comes at night. That last minute dash home as the darkness closes in can be worrisome to say the least.

Gerard: Dredge is a game of two very distinct parts: The day, where bright colours and safe waters mean you can fish in peace, selling your catch to fishmongers at a number of the island ports, and the night, where things get more dangerous as god knows what prowls the depth but often the rewards from fishing can be much more lucrative. Just be prepared for weird things and unsettling things to happen and an air of unease to drift down, much like that fog. It’s up to you, though, if you want to can only fish during the day then tug up in bed on your boat during the night, but the riches – and the narrative – won’t be as rewarding.

Richard: Nail on the head Gerard. I have to say, the term gameplay loop is not one I use often, if at all. However in the case of Dredge it makes sense. Whether I’m opting for safe daytime fishing, exploration or a risky night time venture. They are all at you fingertips. Once you get used to docking, selling, upgrading – you can be back on the water in a few seconds. There is no barrier to progress, no extended wait times or dull skippable conversations. It’s plain and simple great gameplay, with options.

Personally, I tend to launch between 3 and 4am. Which makes me feel a bit badass and risky, but generally the day’s just got going by time I get anywhere.

Gerard: Agree about the weighing anchor about 4am: The creepy things are going to bed about then, right?

Richard: Mostly… 😉

Judge this book by its joyful, although muted cover.

Gerard: Part of the charm of Dredge is its wonderous art-style. It has a hand drawn feel to it with chunky shapes formed from defined edges and bright colours. It really is delightful to look at and there’s this magical calm that descends over you as you motor through the rolling waves, heading towards some treacherous cliffs to find some relics or to uncover the mysteries of an abandoned research station.

Richard: In a world of HD super defined graphics, Dredge does exactly what it needs to. Delivering a satisfying diversion in a beautiful package. The team have done wonders stitching together their idea of narrative, with that of crafting and fishing. And as a bonus it’s all wrapped up in a comforting, unique art style that helps the atmosphere move along. From the wisps of wind that guide you to the rolling waves in the deeper waters, Dredge just feels complete.

Gerard: I’m keeping this short because people just need to play Dredge. Not only because it’s been made by people that live in the same city that I do, but because it’s genuinely captivating, visually delicious and has a charm about it that just deserves to be experienced by as many people as possible. I recommend this thing wholeheartedly. Oh, and the soundtrack is just delightful: It has a real “sea shanty, yo, ho, ho” vibe about it as you explore locations. It has strong use of accordians, too, for those that love accordians.

Richard: I agree, I came away from PAXAUS last year with very little to remember. Dredge was my highlight. I’m so glad the game has delivered, this team is about to be put on the map. BlackSaltGames deserve every success from Dredge, which was obvious from your interview with them. Can’t wait to see what they do next.