Note: Most of this review is repeated from the originally published version back in April of this year. More of the review has been added at the end to discuss the new DLC expansion content.
From indie developers all the way from New Zealand called Black Salt Games comes “Dredge,” a single player fishing game that is an interesting take on the traditional fishing genre. The game lets you explore the sea on your fishing boat and catch a wide assortment of fish. But that’s not all; using your dredge ship, you can also dig up some other interesting things. Although fishing isn’t something that excites everyone, especially me, but “Dredge” manages to pull off a very addicting gameplay loop as well as incapsulate all of it in a very Lovecraftian atmosphere and story.
You start as a shipwrecked fisherman that gets a new boat and has to pay off his debts to the locals. As you travel through the remote isles known as “The Marrows,” you’ll accumulate items and fish that you’ll need to sell to the locals for money as well as to complete quests. Cash in the game can also be used on upgrading your boat, such as making it tougher and even giving yourself more room to store what you catch. Cargo space can be crucial as everything you catch can take up several squares of this grid. Managing your inventory is crucial, and you need to sell your fish in a timely manner, or else they can rot.
The biggest aspect that sets “Dredge” apart from other fishing games and had me even interested in the first place is its Lovecraftian themes. Many of the creatures and atmospheric places you discover are very Lovecraftian, which adds a new layer of intrigue to the game. The day/night cycle also plays an essential role in the game as some creatures you’re trying to find may only appear during a specific time of day. Another interesting mechanic this game has is a panic meter that can get set off if you’re not sleeping enough and spend too much time in the dark. You may also encounter stressful events like mysterious whispers that will creep you out. If you, the fishermen, encounter too many stressful events, and that meter fills up, then that will cause you to suffer madness, which makes this game feel even more Lovecraftian.
You need to keep your sanity up as best as you can. If your sanity gets bad, then you will also begin to hallucinate, rocks will show up in the ocean that shouldn’t be there, and crows will begin to attack and steal your inventory. Monsters may also attack your boat, but are they real? Probably not. You’re just going insane, but the damage is still real. When attempting to catch a fish, the game turns into a mini-game. The type of mini-game can change a bit depending on the difficulty of the fish you’re trying to catch. There are over a hundred different fish to come across, making the game feel more immersive.
The entire map is covered in secrets, and if you just try to speed through the main story, you probably won’t see them all in your first playthrough. This is a game where you can spend six hours playing or twenty, depending on how thorough you want to be with exploring and side quests. The game would have worked just fine as a standard fishing game, but it goes above and beyond with its themes of madness and Lovecraftian storytelling that adds an entirely new layer of immersion. For a $25 price tag, it’s well worth checking out for something you probably haven’t experienced before. Will I ever play another fishing game in the future? I’d say highly unlikely, unless it pulls off something like “Dredge” which offers a unique and engaging experience that combines traditional fishing gameplay with Lovecraftian themes that makes it stand out in the genre.
Now onto the expansion! Embarking back into “Dredge” after about seven months felt like revisiting an old friend. This frozen expansion is a testament to both brevity and brilliance, as it unfurls a pristine, icy canvas to the south of the map, enticing you with the promise of exploration at any juncture in your gameplay. While this DLC can be played at any time during your playthrough of the base game, it demands a substantial traverse, deliberately positioning itself as a late-game haven awaiting your arrival. The starkly frozen tableau of “Dredge: The Pale Reach” serves as a refreshing departure from the familiar areas of Dredge, offering an immersive and chilling environment teeming with untold secrets waiting to be unearthed, as well as fun new mini games of course.
For devotees of the original game, “The Pale Reach” is not merely an option—it’s a non-negotiable, a mandatory detour that enriches the gaming experience with its unique blend of challenge and wonder. While this extra bit of content isn’t all that long, it’s surely still a detour worth taking on your journey. So, gear up, upgrade your vessel, and prepare for an extended sojourn into the heart of The Pale Reach, where every frosty breath whispers the promise of unparalleled adventure.
Base game & DLC 8/10
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