The moment I heard about Dredge, I knew I wanted to review the game. It hit most of the points I look for in a game; unique premise (fishing with eldritch horror mixed in) and decent visuals. Mostly it was the premise that sold me on the game.
I’ve had the pleasure of playing the game for most of the month now (Team 17 gave us a review key weeks ago) and now with the lifting of the review embargo, can finally make my thoughts known about the game.
So here they are…
What is Dredge?
Dredge is a single player third person fishing game with RPG elements. The game’s developed by Black Salt Games with publishing duties handled by Team 17.
It will be available for the PC, Playstation and Xbox consoles and the Nintendo Switch from March 31.
This review is based on the pre-release review version on Steam, provided by Team 17. Thanks a ton for the early access guys!
As with all PC games, I’m reviewing Dredge on our gaming rig.
For the review, we were running a rig off these specs:
– MSI B550M Mortar
– AMD Ryzen 9 5900X with NZXT Kraken X73 RGB Liquid Cooler
– MSI GeForce RTX 3080Ti Suprim X 12GB
– 64GB DDR4 RAM (Teamgroup T-Force Dark Z 16GB x 4 @ 3600MHz)
– Samsung 980 PRO 2TB SSD
Settings were all set to the maximum, at 4K resolution.
A side mention; both our motherboard and GPU were awesomely sponsored by the great folks at MSI. I can honestly say the MSI GeForce RTX 3080Ti Suprim X 12GB is a hell of a GPU and more than worth its asking price. Great performance in games, looks damn cool with its RGB stylings too!
Like The Pale Beyond, our rig’s clearly overkill for the game.
Here are the requirements of what you’ll need to play the game and they’re pretty light.
That’s a really good thing as the light requirements will hopefully get more people to play the game.
Yeah, that’s a bit of a spoiler alert for the review I guess.
The first thing you’ll notice about Dredge is that it doesn’t mince words. There’s barely an intro before you’re shuffled off right into the thick of things.
You crashed your boat, got rescued and now owe the fishing port that took you in (and gave you a new boat) a debt you need to repay before you can head off and explore.
Chugging around in your little boat is half the fun of the game.
Just exploring the islands (the swamps suck though), finding treasure and fishing is more fun than you’d think. I found hours (real ones, not in-game) just flew by as I puttered about doing my thing and making (very little) money. Yup, just like real life fishermen, selling fish isn’t exactly a lucrative business.
You start off with the dinky little boat, with barely any slots on it for your gear and cargo.
In a cool twist, Dredge makes you play inventory tetris to manage your gear and cargo. You’ll need to arrange fish (which comes in all shapes and sizes) to best fit your limited cargo space. Remember how it was in Diablo? Same thing here…just with fishes instead of gear.
Early on, you’ll learn to how important it is to prioritize. Do you want to haul in large fish (that sell more) in limited numbers or bring in little fishies (that sell for a pittance) that you can easily catch?
You’ll need to manage time and cargo space in Dredge so you can’t just fool around without a plan.
Time is your ally and enemy in the game.
It doesn’t move when you’re navigating menus or idle but movement, fishing and other activities makes time pass in-game. Ideally, you’ll only want to fish and explore during the daytime. You can easily make out your surroundings, fishes are plentiful and there’s no danger of damage (unless you hit the rocks or islands).
Night is where the horror aspects of Dredge comes in. There’s a sanity meter in play, and it steadily grows the longer you are in the dark.
Get it high enough and you’ll start to hallucinate, though the flipside it is also allows you to activate certain markers and read the in-game lore.
A high sanity meter (meaning you’re starting to go nuts) also cause weird events to occur, such as birds that steal your catch or an otherworldly corruption that infests the fish in your cargo, making them worth less.
It’s really a cool mechanic and I love its implementation. I just wish that it altered gameplay more. Perhaps in the sequel?
Even without the sanity meter in play, night is still fraught with danger. There are literal horrors trawling the waters of Dredge and you’re more than likely to encounter them in the inky blackness of night. These can damage your boat and ultimately, kill you.
There’s no way to fight them off (not until you get a certain something quite far into the game) so it’s inadvisable to venture out far out from land for long at night.
Only thing I LOVE about how Dredge is handles the night and the limited visibility it brings. You can still make out large details like landmasses and such, but minor details (such as rock outcroppings) are hidden unless you’re shining a light right at them.
It’s all too easy to run into rocks when you’re speeding around as you’re being chased by eldritch monsters.
Alas, you sometimes have to tempt fate, because quests (or side missions or just your need to catch more valuable fish that only come out at night) will have you venturing out into the dark.
Fishing is both easy and fun. You’ll get different mini-games depending on the fish you’re catching. One thing you need to be aware of is that different types of fish locations require different types of rods and reels.
Part of the fun of fishing is seeing what sort of monstrosity you manage to catch. It sounds perverse, but that was what actually drove me to keep on fishing at new spots all over the world! I want to see horror that makes me loco damn it!
Rods, upgrades and equipment are all locked behind their own skill trees.
You’ll need to find research parts (which are quest rewards or sunken treasure you can haul up) to upgrade them, which will unlock them for purchase in the game’s shops.
In the case of boat upgrades, you also have to find the materials and then pay a fee to upgrade your boat.
Speaking of boats, I found that I barely used the game’s crab (or lobster) traps and the trawl nets. I like to use them more, but issues with their usage make it a hassle.
For the trawl nets, they literally take up room on your boat. With the limited amount of cargo space you have for most of the game, I was using other more active fishing equipment (such as rods) instead of nets (which passively catch fish as you travel around).
For the traps, it’s the need to return to where you dropped them. I found that doing the quests and side missions made me travel everywhere, so coming back to the same location of the trap every few days (which happens very fast in-game) is a major annoyance.
As there’s only one way to quick travel (and it needs to be unlocked), it’s really counter-intuitive to check on your traps, especially if you’re on opposite ends of the HUGE map.
Ironically, with all the fishing and trawling you do, dredging happens the least. It only occurs whenever you spot treasure and have to haul it up, which is rather rare in comparison to the other activities.
The Bottom Line.
Dredge is one of the best gaming experiences of the year yet. Its unique premise means that there’s not much out there like it, so it’s highly recommended to try it out. The rewarding blend of exploration, fishing and upgrading scratches an itch few games do.
While there certainly are areas of the game I’d like to see improved (whether through patches or in a sequel), the game still stands as a great play nonetheless.
Some minor issues but overall a highly fun game.
- Unique premise.
- Fun gameplay.
- Cool horror aspects.
- Huge map to explore.
- Light hardware requirements.
- Traps and nets need to be more useful.
- Needs more evasive moves to fend off horrors.
- Selling price for fish needs tweaking.