Black Salt Games and Team 17 take us aboard in a dark and disturbing world. Dredge will bring us into a Lovecraftian adventure.
In Dredge we are a fisherman responding to a simple job request. While we are heading to the planned place with our boat, a thick fog envelops us and we are shipwrecked. We regain our senses and find ourselves in a strange port town called the Marrows where we meet a shady figure: the mayor of the town. A sinister figure who says he saved us. We are now indebted to the city and pay the boat repairing cost through fishing. Through what is the focal point of the game we will discover that even if the debt is paid off, it will not be so easy to leave that place.
In addition we will realize that the fish fauna has undergone heavy mutations and aberrations can be found. On top of that, going out to sea at night or staying late can be very dangerous, and drive us mad.
These particular conditions will lead us to meet other bizarre characters who inhabit the archipelago. Getting to know them will immerse us more and more in a dreamlike and disturbing atmosphere.
Dredge and the Map
Dredge focus its gameplay on fishing, inventory management and the development of our boat. The Map plays a fundamental role in orientation and in the pursuit of objectives. The game world consists of a central Marrow archipelago where most of the key characters and upgrade utilities reside. The other 4 archipelagos are: Gale Cliffs, Stellar Basin, Twisted Strands and Devil’s Spine. You can follow zones in order with the storyline or explore freely.
Each archipelago has a type of fish fauna, which will lead the player to modify his equipment in order to fish. In the docks to which we can land, we will get to know new characters and unique places that will allow us to progress with the story, providing us with unique tools. Each zone has its own gimmick to face to progress in the adventure. The real safe point remains the traveling merchant’s wharf where we can sell our catch and manage our boat and tools. We will find a pier in each archipelago. Beyond that the archipelagos have secrets, if you have the patience to explore.
Dredge and the Boat
Our boat is the central tool of gameplay and narrative. It is basically the “character” that we will guide throughout the story. The boat has tank controls and hit points, so my advice is to master the controls well. You will need it when you have to maneuver in very tight places.
The boat has different areas and characteristics.
The Cargo is the space where fishing gear, catch, collected relics and other utensils go. It is divided into slots where the various tools are fitted together and managed to optimize space and benefits. Some spaces in the front are reserved for lights for the night, those on the sides for fishing lines and trawls and those at the back for the engines. I will talk later about the technical and space upgrades that can be obtained.
The Cabin allows you to manage the other activities of the game. We can access the encyclopedia to record the species caught, check the tasks between main and secondary, the messages in bottles that we will find scattered across the sea and books obtained or dropped. The latter must be selected and can be read as we perform actions with the boat. Reading the book completely, will give permanent passive bonuses.
Dredge and the Pursuits
Dredge‘s true story begins to take shape the moment we meet the collector. This mysterious figure will instruct us to find relics, in order to complete an unspecified ritual.
To obtain the relics, the boat will be equipped with a winch to dredge the seabed.
We won’t stop repeating the fishing and dredging mechanic from here on out. Thanks to our binoculars we can look for the fishing and object collection spots scattered around the map. Binoculars are a very important tool because they identify the shape of what is in the spots.
Fishing and Dredging
Line fishing or dredging the seabed will trigger a minigame. Completing it several times will deplete the resources in the area. These actions will make the time go by faster and be careful when the night comes, better to be close to a safe port.
Another effective method of fishing are Nets or Crab Pots, with which you just need to move the boat or let the time pass. Nets also allow you to catch fish that cannot be caught with a line. However, the nets will need to be repaired after a certain amount of time.
The only way to collect relics and precious objects remains to dredge the seabed.
Valuable items and fish can be resold. A word of warning: aberrations and mutations have high prices and are more frequent in areas that have a strange brightness. Don’t let too much time pass or they can rot and lose value.
Physical and Magical Upgrades
Finding materials such as metal, wood or fabric is a fundamental part of the experience.
In the Dry Dock we can use these materials to increase the spaces on the cargo, thus increasing the level of the hull up to a maximum of 3 times.
In the Research Center we can invest research components to develop new technologies for lines, nets, pots and engines.
Once developed, they can be purchased from the Shipwright. Calculate the time well, because installing or uninstalling a piece takes time.
Increasing the space for the latter allows for more fishing options or for example more knots in the engines.
Research components, while rare, can be found by dredging materials or by completing side-quests.
By delivering the relics to the collector, we will be rewarded with “mystical” upgrades. They are magical and dark powers, useful but with a recharge time and a cost in terms of gameplay. I won’t give spoilers and I’ll let you discover them.
They can be selected from a menu wheel during navigation.
Fear the Night
In the day/night cycle we can find both particular fish and great dangers.
Venturing out at night increases the protagonist’s danger and paranoia. Headlights are essential for getting around at night. Better to have very powerful ones because the dark is thick like a fog and seems alive. Eyes look at us and voices with will-o’-the-wisps will undermine our mental stability.
Silhouettes of ghost ships will cross our steps and respond to our siren by imitating our sound. Insisting on navigation can lead to “something” slipping on the boat and infecting the cargo. At higher levels whirlpools or deformed abysmal creatures will attack the boat damaging it and potentially ending the adventure.
Finding a safe place and resting until the following morning is the best thing to do.
Usually, in a review I don’t dwell much on the technical aspect, but in this case the graphics sector is decidedly poor. Although some design choices of fish and certain characters are really spot on despite the simplicity.
The sound sector has very well done themes that well describe the specific biomes and locations.
The animations except for the gigantic creatures and the boat are not there or are quite poor. Despite this, the immediacy, the good structure of the gameplay and its simplicity do not weigh those defects.
My Two Cents
Dredge‘s concept is all about two strong points: the gameplay and the sense of discovery. The design of the monstrous creatures, adventuring at night and exploration gives away many secrets. Exploring allows you to encounter secondary characters, abandoned wrecks and strange standing stones. Even if all interactions will be limited to text boxes, choosing the right ones will remind the older of us of the feeling of the old Gamebooks.
Dialogues, even those that seem superficial, can actually hide surprises. With certain choices you can get further lore or even the true ending.
The plot drags slowly except for some peaks. Many side tasks are based on collecting fish and therefore repetitive. Yet its solid gameplay and Lovecraftian atmosphere save Dredge from a heavy penalty.
- Strong gameplay design
- Great sense of discovery
- Great horror atmosphere
- Some technical flaws
- Some narrative gaps
- Repetitive actions