Dredge on PS5
A good mystery is often the gateway to something much bigger, and in the case of the single-player fishing adventure Dredge, developers Black Salt Games and publisher Team17 have definitely crafted a journey of constant reward and intrigue for players that are willing to dive in. The time to head for the high seas is now, where daring fishermen come for the spoils and stay for the titillating secrets that lie beneath the waves.
At its core, Dredge is a half-fishing adventure and half-inventory management experience. Having crashed their ship and being saved by the mayor of a nearby town, players are rapidly ushered into getting back out there to do what they do best, fish for profit. Of course, there is more to the proceedings than this innocent premise, but it is through the activity of exploration and fishing that more is unravelled.
There is a routine to things, at least at the beginning of your first steps into this way. Start off the day by navigating to nearby waters, start catching fish, and bringing them back to the fishmonger to sell for profit. As you work off your debt, Dredge opens up with new ship upgrades and even quests that further open things up in interesting ways.
While you most certainly can just stick to this order of things, the real fun part is breaking out of that cycle. Nighttime brings different species into play, but spending an extended amount out at sea brings a host of dangers. Visibility is reduced, increasing the risks of you running into rocks and shallow reefs, damaging your hull and ability to hold items.
Not only that, but you also have to cope with your sanity, which can result in hallucinations whose danger remain ever so real. Tentacles that shoot out from the ocean may not make sense, but the damage they can do means avoiding them is to your advantage. Then there are the biggest threats out on the water, lurking behind the fog, all posing different challenges that players will learn to overcome as they invest time into Dredge.
Without venturing into spoiler territory, as you progress in the game by obtaining several relics that grant useful powers, the world of Dredge becomes easier to navigate. This means the process of catching any of the 125 deep sea creatures, turning them in for profit, and upgrading your gear becomes a more efficient one. In due time, not even the darkness can hold you back as long as you play smartly and pace yourself. In fact, I can argue that the game truly becomes an even more inviting prospect once you have all the necessary powers.
That is not to say the road to getting to that point is not worthwhile. Exploring the waters brings more than just fishing spots to see, with various biomes bringing their own flair to things. Volcanic islands, deep swamps, and windy shorelines are just a few of the sights to behold, and obviously, they are home to different fish to catch, as long as you have the right equipment ready.
Having sizable savings is only the first step, as better equipment can only come with research. And that requires dredging the depths of the seas for components and resources to make that happen. Need a rod that can fish in mangrove swamps? You better start exploring. Want to give yourself a speed boost with an improved engine? Time to head out into uncharted waters. Running out of cargo space? That hull upgrade isn’t going to buy itself.
Fishing on its own is actually not that complicated, with a nice variety of methods available to players to grab their catch of the day. Anytime you fish, a mini-game of timing will start, requiring you to reel your prey in at the right time, and rewarding you with a trophy catch worth more money every so often. There are also crab cages that can be used to augment your fishing, while trawling with nets is a passive way to build up your stores. It all works to create a gameplay loop that keeps you coming back for more.
Along the way, you might find messages in bottles that provide more lore and worldbuilding, solve puzzles using fish to give yourself an advantage, or even find a home for a lost dog. There is much to do in Dredge, and the game never pressures you to get things done, but what it engenders is the curiosity to see things through, and that is an achievement on its own.
Your time spent in Dredge can vary depending on your appetite for its gameplay mechanics, and it should probably take you about 15-20 hours to see everything through, including all of the side content. Yet, not all of the time spent on the boat is smooth sailing. There have been instances where the UI can get stuck, leaving you with no option but to exit the game and start again. Bugs during fishing may also cause you to lose your catch, and that can be a bummer if you are trying to catch something rare. The game does compensate with autosaves, so always remember to dock once in a while to safeguard your progress.
On its surface, Dredge promises a fishing adventure and there is no doubt that there’s plenty of fish out there to be caught. However, the sinister undercurrents are truly what hooked me, like a voice in the fog that constantly calls me back to explore further, fish deeper, and embrace the madness of its twisting tale. This premise may not be for everyone, but for this new angler on the dock, Dredge is definitely one hell of a catch of the day.
Requires time for players to buy in.