I’ve been struggling with Dredge, to be honest. It’s been critically acclaimed, and lauded by anyone you ask. Yet, it hasn’t hit me in the way that I’d hoped. I feel like I’m doing something wrong because I can’t engage with it in the way so many people seem to do.
Hot off my Dave the Diver review, the guys here at FULLSYNC thought it apt that I continue my sea-faring fishing adventures. Albeit with a darker twist.
Dredge is a lot of things, and I hope to give it the positivity it deserves here. From an objective perspective, it’s solid. From a personal enjoyment perspective, it’s felt like a bit of a slog, truth be told.
Dredge weaves a tale of eerie intrigue right beneath the tranquil surface of my little fishing boat. Days are spent in serene fishing sessions, accompanied by soothing piano melodies, as I circle the waters for catches to sell. This routine funds upgrades and tools. However, as night falls, Dredge reveals its nightmarish side.
The game’s ambience is deeply Lovecraftian, combining a sense of looming dread with a solid gameplay loop. It starts simply enough: my unnamed fisherman character finds himself stranded near Greater Marrow. Given a replacement boat and a debt to repay. Animal Crossing? No, a little darker and grungier than that.
I’m pretty quickly engaged with the fishing mechanics. Dredge fishing is straightforward but engaging, with a variety of minigames challenging my timing and precision. The real puzzle, however, lies in managing my catch. Different fish require strategic placement in my boat’s limited inventory, adding a thoughtful layer to the gameplay. Decisions on equipment versus catch capacity further spice up the strategy, balancing the need for efficiency with the lure of profit. This frustrates me no end, it removes fun and the casual feel. I’m not playing Resident Evil, but the aesthetic, I suppose, suggests I’m not a million miles away from it.
Each fish’s freshness affects its selling price, adding a time-sensitive element to my trips. However, this never really felt like an issue, as I frequently sold my catch before it could degrade.
Dredge’s narrative unfolds as I explore the surrounding islands, each with unique challenges and storylines. While some areas, like Gale Cliffs, can be frustrating due to their difficulty, the overall experience is richly rewarding. Mystical abilities granted for relic collection add depth but also increase the game’s panic meter, heightening the sense of danger during nightfall.
Fetch quests, being sent around to catch specific fish and try to survive the night to get back in time. It’s not gripping stuff, in fact, on the surface it’s incredibly dull. However, we all know that most games have these quests in them. It’s all in the dressing-up. Dredge certainly has personality and a unique aesthetic, but it doesn’t do enough for me to care about doing these tasks.
As night encroaches, the game’s horror elements intensify. Hallucinations and monstrous threats escalate the tension, with options like skill books and additional lighting providing some respite.
Dredge’s day-night cycle, though brief, encourages a balance of risk and safety. Ship upgrades and research parts, scarce but crucial, aid in faster navigation, though an increase in their availability would be welcome.
The game’s artistic direction shines, particularly in its portrayal of grotesque fish variations. The horror aesthetics enhance the game’s appeal, enticing me to continue playing beyond the main storyline.
All in all
The narrative is subtly woven through interactions, found items, and side quests, providing a satisfyingly layered storytelling experience. With no map, you’re stuck having to remember the ways around the world. I get it, from an immersion perspective, if you’re engaged, this adds to it for you. Dredge just never did enough for me to care, though, so the lack of a map was frustrating, much like the storage of items on your boat.
Dredge is a blend of horror and fishing gameplay, offering a unique adventure. I’m fully prepared to accept that it just isn’t for me because people love Dredge.
The game looks and sounds great. Mechanically speaking it runs well and is easy to get to grips with. It just never all came together in a meaningful way for me. I didn’t care about why I was doing things and everything felt like a chore. Perhaps in due course, a revisit will allow me to appreciate Dredge.