Review: Dredge

Posted 23 March 2023 by Zoey Handley
Dredge Header

Gone fishin’

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Anecdotally, one of the most common complaints I hear about The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker is that there was too much time spent sailing. That’s completely valid. I get it, not everyone is fine with looking at the ass end of a boat for large slabs of time, but for me, that was one of my favorite parts.

Dredge marries the ass end of a boat with horror. I love horror. I moved onto it after I explored so many depressing games that I eventually reached the other end of them and realized it was a cliff. So, rather than jump off that cliff, I turned around and meandered through the bramble field of horror. Let’s ignore this obvious cry for help and take a look at Dredge instead.

Dredge Lost at Sea
Screenshot by Destructoid

Dredge (PC [Reviewed], Switch, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S)
Developer: Black Salt Games
Publisher: Team17
Released: March 30, 2023
MSRP: $24.99

Horror fishing is a vastly under-utilized genre of video game. Off the top of my head, I can only really think of one other game that did it: Monster Bass on PS1. Dredge takes a different approach.

You’re cast as a fisherman who is called to help the small town of Greater Morrow after their last fisherman…uh…did a bad job. You find out quickly that night is a bad time to be out at sea, as your ship is wrecked on the nearby rocks. The mayor hooks you up with a new ship (and debt) and sets you back off to work.

It’s not long before you pull up something horrible from the deep. Some of the fish are badly mutated. The townsfolk whisper of madness and other dark things. You learn the fate of the old mayor and get wrapped up in some questionable errands. Keep your head down and keep working. You’re just a fisherman. You know nothing of the horrors that lurk deep beneath the waves.

When it’s raining and when it ain’t

The mystery of Dredge is unfurled slowly. Then it just keeps unfurling. The main crux of the narrative is that you’re tasked with finding a number of items from the four corners of the map by this creepy guy who keeps casting spells on you.

Largely, you fish to make money. Money gets you better equipment and also helps keep your boat afloat. You can unlock new equipment by finding research material out at sea. This can allow you to get better fishing gear and engines. You’ll also find debris that can be used to improve your boat to hold more items.

Your goals also involve a lot of fishing. There’s an item to get in each of the four corners of the world, and usually, you’ll need specific species of fish in order to get to them. One, for example, has you slot in various sea creatures to unlock keys that eventually result in you getting the sought-after treasure. Another, those fish are used to make special chum, and so on. It’s a number of different fishing systems that all feed into one another. While the challenges in each part of the world are unique, they’re all unified under catching fish.

Dredge Sea Monster
Screenshot by Destructoid

A sailor’s life

On the surface, Dredge is actually a rather relaxing game. Chugging across the waves in your little boat is peaceful, and the music is rather nice. Despite being a horror game, the biggest hazard is bumping into rocks. There are monstrous entities in the deep, but they’re not much of a threat as long as you give them a wide berth.

The relaxed mindset is probably the best one to go into Dredge with. The actual gameplay is rather drab. Not that I expected a lot of action here, but chugging back and forth from the different locations can grow a little stale over its 10-ish hour playtime. While some of the characters are relatively well-defined, not much is done with the dialogue system. There’s backstory floating on the waves, but I never found much of it to be very interesting.

For that matter, the narrative is pretty weak. It’s not bad, but it never quite makes it above the waves. The way it started, I half expected it to start out relatively normal while gradually piling on the horror as it continues. However, it never really gets to that point. It’s sort of flat throughout, and I was left a bit confused about how some of it progresses. By the end, I had some questions I felt I wasn’t provided answers for. Not in a “read between the lines” kind of way, but rather, “why did things unfold this way?” There’s no growing threat that leads to a terrific climax. It just kind of chugs along.

Dredging the deep
Screenshot by Destructoid

Catch of the day

That’s not to say that Dredge is bad. It’s hardly condemning to say, “this fishing game is about fishing.” I’m mostly trying to stress that, “No, this is really about fishing.” The horror part is mostly a framework. The fishing mini-game isn’t that involving, which can lead to a bit of repetition. At least the progress is good.

I just don’t think Dredge is all that it could be. While the sea-harvesting foundation is solid and well thought out, nothing else around it has much depth. There’s a dearth of imagination surrounding it, which I found disappointing. The plot is lifeless, the gameplay is one-note, and it never really picks up speed. However, if you want a more relaxing take on horror, Dredge might be worth hauling up from the depths.

[This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]

6

Alright

Slightly above average or simply inoffensive. Fans of the genre should enjoy them a bit, but a fair few will be left unfulfilled.

About The Author
Zoey Handley
Staff Writer - Zoey is a gaming gadabout. She got her start blogging with the community in 2018 and hit the front page soon after. Normally found exploring indie experiments and retro libraries, she does her best to remain chronically uncool.
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