Dredge: Hands-on Preview
I’ve been following the production of Dredge for a couple of years and took a peek at the previous demo for the game which left me wanting more. Developed by a tiny New Zealand studio Black Salt Games, Dredge will be their debut title and it’s looking to be in ship-shape.
Shipwrecked in the starting area of Greater Marrow the mayor tasked me with paying off a new boat that had been supplied to me while I was unconscious. With no other options, I agreed and began fishing up anything nearby to pay off this debt. “Do not stay out after dark” He warns me before I leave for my first day on the job. You can question NPCs in towns which feels a little like a dark visual novel.
Disembarking from Greater Marrow docks I was informed that time only flows when fishing or moving your boat allowing you to gather your thoughts and navigate the complex islands of the region. I found the fishing minigames to be easy to understand and execute so far. The beginning gear can be exchanged and upgraded in town once you have enough money. After I gathered a few research points I was able to purchase faster motors for my ship. I like the research progress tree as it kept me feeling like I always had an upgrade to work towards.
The fish come in many shapes and sizes which affect how many you can catch and hold. Your storage is also part of your health which is a great touch. When taking damage you lose access to the grid square and even drop cargo from that space. It feels intuitive and I loved successfully packing as much stuff into the cargo as possible with my mad Tetris skills.
I’ll say that cosmic horror and strange otherworldly powers are the last things I think of when hearing about a Fishing game. Dredge leans heavily into these themes by adding a sanity meter to your main character. Successfully turning a genre notorious for its “cozy vibes” into nightmare fuel for gaming fishers everywhere.
That said I did have many moments of respite and coziness in this hellish ocean scape. Speeding between regions during the day I had a small pod of dolphins appear and follow my ship. These moments of peace are what helped me feel grounded in a world where the ocean fog is out to get you.
Getting to know the townsfolk of these strange waters will reveal optional pursuits and other rewards. Naturally, most of the requests are related to fishing up someone’s item lost at sea or finding a specific aquatic lifeform. I found it was always worth it to take these requests and take a moment to fish up the lost item. Upon completing these requests I was often given a buff book or another helpful item. There is nothing like a good book to read while waiting for fish to bite and these ones give permanent bonuses once fully read.
My partner couldn’t believe it when the monster appeared for the first time. Shrieking and exclaiming as I narrowly escaped it circling around me in a tiny passage. A single, large red eye stared at my boat from the depths and its long snake-like body effortlessly pursued my boat. Docking at the closest town seemed to deter this monstrosity.
I thought “That was enough Dredge for today”, but an unfamiliar voice mumbled something unintelligible and I was hooked. What other secrets are the townsfolk hiding from an outsider like me?
I hope my experience prepares me for what lurks in the darkest ocean depths when Dredge launches on March 30th 2023.