Dredge begins with a shipwreck, your invisible fisherman player character forced to land on the shores of the island town of Greater Marrow, unable to return home. They are forced to lend the sleazy mayor a boat and mine the local slums to pay off the debt. And yet, this is the least disturbing section of Dredge.
Dredge’s bones are those of a soft fishing sim – you pilot a pretty, almost cel-shaded boat around calm waters, playing an almost rhythmic mini-game to reel in catches, found in bubbling schools around the sea. initial island. Trade enough fish with the local fishmonger and you can use your payouts to buy upgrades from the shipbuilder – extra outboard motors, stronger rods for larger species (there are 128 entries in the game’s catalog ), crab pots to drop off and come back for later.
There are also some less expected mechanics, like selecting a book to read, which triggers a timer each time you’re on the water, eventually granting you permanent stat boosts. Your ship’s stock is organized like Resident Evil’s Tetris inventory. There’s also a day-night cycle, with different species emerging at night – but going out after dark carries the risk of hitting rocks you can’t see and damaging parts of your inventory. send engines offline or drag catches overboard. It’s a satisfying pace of progression right off the bat, and even within an hour of playing I had made several significant changes to my ship.
But soon after you start, you hit day 5 and things start to get…strange. The people of Greater Marrow – and the other small settlements you find on the surrounding islands – already seem a little off. But when you fire your first Wave Aberration, everything becomes much more sinister. Something is wrong with fish in these seas – mackerel become distended and look aggressive, cod can develop a huge eye. The fishmonger cuts a perfectly preserved antique handkerchief from a specimen and treats it as a prize rather than a worry – then you meet the collector and you begin to see that there is a dark history hidden beneath the waves of Dredge.
The Collector, a former fisherman who has taken up “other pursuits,” sets you on your main quest, asking you to find unusual, possibly magical, artifacts from notable shipwrecks in the area. He equips you with the eponymous dredging device, and suddenly you’re playing a different mini-game to collect everything from scrap metal to a shape-shifting key, and learn clues about the bizarre stories, maybe lovecraftians, which preceded your arrival.
You’ll need to start making longer trips to other biomes, but piloting your ship at night increases your character’s panic level. The bigger your panic, the weirder things get – you start seeing places you can’t see during the day, and sinister killing crows start following your boat and stealing your stock if you’re away too long . You’ll also start receiving side quests from the islanders, who want you to find a sign of their drowned child, or ask for building materials, seeming a little too eager to leave their homes and live somewhere else.
Much of what I learn seems pieced together – clues to a sunken story, rather than the tale itself – but the developers at Black Salt Games hint that my travels could lead me into having freaking out my character to discover hidden places and saying that there will be monsters much worse than sharks to face there, all in search of answers to the questions I have.
It’s a magical setup – the sort of gripping, engrossing management game that can accidentally hold your attention for hours, but inherently tied to a much stranger storyline, one that promises to take us into truly uncharted waters. Dredge holds secrets, and I really want to find out what they are.