I love it when a game’s inspirations are clear for all to see.
For Dredge, there’s components of Fallen London, Dishonored, Resident Evil 4 (really!), Pirates, and even Moonglow Bay in here.
It really is a game that mixes things up to create a wholly unique experience, with its focus on a gritty, 1920s world, using powerful writing to drive its story, with inventory management that has that familiar Tetris feel, seeing you travel from town to town to sell, upgrade and resupply, having fishing right at the heart of it all.
Dredge is great. It’s a really compelling video game that gets you to think about your approach carefully and smartly. It starts out simple enough, gathering fish to sell with a light QTE mini-game, but eventually you’ll need to start thinking about boat upgrades, crafting unique gear to help you make catches in different waters and eventually go dredging.
Similar to Moonglow Bay, you acquire new rods which catch different types of fish, but Dredge differs in that you have different types of water for you to dip into with fish types categorised into the type of water they roam in, like shallow, oceanic, coastal and even volcanic.
And while there are some quirky, even horrendous fish types here – some of which you’re rewarded for if you hand them in – it’s not quite in the same vein as MGB which was putting out Pokemon-esque acquatic life with duck-billed trouts and jack rabbit fish. Dredge prefers to stick to more traditional types.
But Dredge is very much its own game with its focus on finding treasure in sunken galleons and not only taking them to merchants but equally helping a collector build out their collection. Overtime, you’ll learn stories of people lost at sea and even an overarching tale, told through journals, that creates an underlying tension within the game.
You’ll also be able to configure individual components of your boat, upgrading the engine, the type of rods you use and even carry passengers. You also only have very limited space, with fish types varying in size and shape, so runs are often pretty limited, at least initially, as you move between towns and rest for the day.
And you’re definitely going to want to do that because being out at sea too late at night is a recipe for disaster. The game has a fear and panic meter which, if you get too far away from lights and it goes out of control, you’ll start seeing hallucinations. These can suddenly appear out of nowhere like a big outcropping rock, or even a sparkling gem that turns out to be an oversized fish.
This adds a horror element to Dredge and really ensures you have to pay close attention to the day and night meter and start timing your approaches and departures within a sensible timeframe. Add to the fact how perilous it is out on the water and how easily your ship can be damaged.
Blow out an engine because you accidentally hit a rock and all of a sudden you’re moving like a snail. One more hit and you can probably sink. Repairs are essential at this point but if you’re nowhere near a dock and it’s pitch black out there, you’re in for a long night.
Like I said, Dredge is a great video game and once it’s got its hooks into you, it’s very hard to put it down. Days on the water can look very different and you always feel like there’s something to do. It doesn’t just rely on fishing to drive it forward, the writing is really powerful, impactful and meaningful, but equally moving your boat along the waters of a fairly decently sized map is rewarding. Even its fishing and dredging mini games are rewarding.
One of this years best surprises, Dredge has something for everyone with mechanics that shine and an atmosphere that cuts to the bone. Everything is well-implemented with a core loop that’s wholly enjoyable. Wonderful.
Dredge is that rare breed of video game that successfully blends a mixture of great titles and creates something quite different and special. From its stunning atmosphere, complete with an ominous soundtrack, to its rich, well-developed mechanics, varied quests, and compelling core loop. To date, it’s one of the best indie games of the year, both because it’s incredibly difficult to put down and forget about.
+ A successful combination of some great games, brought together to make something special
+ Atmosphere in abundance
+ Has a great gameplay flow that balances itself well throughout
+ Great activity variety
– Gameplay can get repetitive overtime
Dredge is now available on all formats.
Code Kindly Provided by Team 17 for Review Purposes
Played on Xbox Series X