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Hook, Line And Sinker

There is a charming simplicity to the romanticized version of a fisherman’s life. The briny sea laps up against your rickety motorboat, and the damp breeze fills your nostrils and lungs with an undeniably dense fishy smell. Your gaze wanders far into the distance watching the blue waves while you patiently dip that fishing rod hoping for a school of fish to wander through. The calmness that permeates your daily drudgery starts dissipating the moment the sun sets, and night creeps in.

And that’s when I knew that peace was a fleeting feeling in Dredge.

The developer, Black Salt Games, are a 4-person strong team from New Zealand, and the indie-darling Dredge is their debut game. And there is one thing that I came to know about them while playing this game – they love it when you panic! It is the cozy lull of the daytime with which they seduce you, only to throw you off the deep end into the murky abyss of Lovecraftian monstrosities!

There is an evil that hides in plain sight – in the depths, in the shallows, in the fog, in the darkness. These eldritch horrors would chase you and haunt you. Watch over you with a thousand eyes, and damage your ship, and make you delusional. Every night, the only thing that you will search for is a safe refuge. Each biome you visit – fog-enveloped tropical island clusters, volcanic islands spewing smoke, stormy isles with high cliffs, calm atolls, twisted mangroves – will push you into switching up your strategy. And this binary Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde day and night cycle will keep you on your proverbial toes, and make you come back for more!

Plenty Of Fish In The Sea

Let me assure you: there are not going to be any spoilers in this review. With that out of the way, let’s dive into the major story beats of Dredge. You are a fisherman whose boat gets damaged, and you wash up at a sleepy fishing village island in the mysterious Marrow archipelago. Home to a majestic lighthouse, that will act as a navigation beacon for the rest of the game. The mayor offers you a new ship with generous terms – you catch fish and provide it to them, slowly paying off your debt. This also opens up a research tree for ship and gear upgrades – with access to brighter lights, faster engines, more storage space, better fishing rods and more, provided you have the money and materials. You pick up quests from quirky island inhabitants, and adventure out into the sea to do their bidding. There are grim occult undertones to some of the stories and people you will come across, the possibilities of which will keep you awake at night.

As you start off, you are presented with a fascinating encyclopedia of fish, and every time you catch a unique one their entry gets unlocked. It’s a smorgasbord of 125 fishes in this veritable field guide. And boy, do they get weird! After the first few times of catching ordinary fish, you will stumble upon their aberrations at night. Bulbous eyes, decaying glowy fish, unholy appendages and glistening rows of teeth. You also dredge and scour flotsam, in places that allow them, to retrieve wood, salvage cloth, scrap metal and valuables lost to sea. You buy crab cages of different sizes, and add in a trawling net to catch fish passively, but that comes at a cost of repairing them often every few days.

The core gameplay cycle flits superbly between fishing, dredging minigames and inventory tetris. The QTE-based minigames are simplistic but offer a lot of variety. Sometimes it might be about pressing the button when the arrow on the dial passes green, sometimes a circular frogger like game where you need to avoid obstacles, and many more. It keeps you on your feet! Trying to jam all your haul into storage aka Resident Evil inventory style is the next best thing the game does. Fishes, materials and gear come in different shapes and sizes, and you are tasked with arranging them optimally on the fly. This constant juggling keeps the gameplay fresh and kinetic! The swiftness with which the accordion soundscape effortlessly jumps from idyllic fun to eerie menace brings an added layer to the dual nature of the gameplay.


In a SUPERHOT-esque fashion, time only moves when you move: which further controls your strategies for the day. Should you play smart and sleep the night away at a dock, or gamble away your cargo haul by winging it through the open ocean at night? Even when you might be peacefully fishing, your eyes will often dart towards the clock. Is the sun setting? Should I leave now for the nearest small town or dock, or can I brave it out for one night? Once you have established your daily routine, you can start pushing your limits and testing your luck. To break the loop is to invite danger, but you know better, don’t you?

There are things that go bump in the night. You need to remember that you can’t bump back. From distant ships that match your bugle horn, island mirages that appear in the distance to lure you astray, waterspouts that have a mind of their own, sharp cragged rocks that materialize in places you swear wasn’t there before, and shipwrecks that are anything but what they seem – there is danger at every turn in Dredge. All you can do is push that engine’s throttle for overburn and run. And not look back. At all. Facing your fears is overrated. Especially when your floodlights start to flicker exactly when you need them the most. You can’t lose your mind – and whenever you find yourself slipping, it’s time to get a good night’s rest at any of the multiple docks strewn across the open world map.

Siren Song Of The Rising Dread

If you stare long into an abyss, the abyss gazes back at you. Dredge stops just a tad short of greatness owing to its occasional repetitive nature and indie budget, but that is but a small nitpick against the overwhelming positives it provides. Fishing, inventory management, saving for upgrades and exploration – each aspect of Dredge is gamified just right, and sandwiched effectively to keep you coming back for more. Clocking in at a good 12–15 hours to complete the story, this thalassophobic collectathon provides enough fun, excitement, horror and mystery to tide you through this quaint fishing adventure!



Disclaimer: This copy of the game for the PC platform was provided by the publisher for review purposes without any riders.

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