DREDGE is an upcoming mysterious adventure game that provides a fishing experience like no other. It’s the debut title of Black Salt Games and will be published by the award-winning indie games publisher, Team17. DREDGE is set to be released later next month, and I’ll discuss what I think about this game so far in this preview.
In DREDGE, you play a jobless fisherman who gets into an accident while on his way to apply for a job. Waking up after the accident, you find yourself and your vessel on the dock of an unknown island, setting up the entire main story of the game.
As a fisherman, your main task is to catch fish and other sea creatures and then sell them to the local fishmonger. Sounds boring, right?
Fishing is one of the first and most basic activities in the game, along with sea navigation and exploration. You’ll find plenty of fishing spots on various parts of the water where you can catch different sea creatures that you can sell or have examined later. But this is just a small part of what you’ll do in this game.
Fortunately, DREDGE’s gameplay has much more to offer. You won’t simply play as a lone fisherman trying to make a living. Rather, you will embark on a sinister journey and face various challenges as you navigate the islands and seas while discovering their hidden mysteries.
Some challenges you’ll face will involve meeting new (and sometimes odd) characters, finding elusive treasures, and completing various other objectives. You’ll be traversing the waters a lot as you look for other areas to explore. Just be careful when traveling at night, as you might encounter some rather unpleasant creatures.
You’ll discover more about these mysteries as you navigate the sea and discover the other islands and areas in the game.
Perhaps one of the best aspects of DREDGE’s gameplay is the sense of adventure and discovery that you’ll experience. The game revolves around discovering mysterious (and often horrifying) things that will take you down the rabbit hole with a series of bizarre quests and events, such as collaborating with shady characters, facing some not-so-pleasant-looking creatures, and finding unusually sinister relics.
Moreover, the game features multiple islands that you can explore as you progress through the game. There is also the vast body of water around the islands where you’ll spend most of your time on.
But navigating the waters is not always an easy task. You’ll have to avoid certain obstructions like rocks as they will damage your boat. It becomes even more difficult at night due to having less vision.
Also, be careful when traveling at night because things may get a bit creepier…
The fantastic thing about DREDGE is that the activities here involve at least a certain level of challenge. The fishing activity itself involves a simple yet entertaining mini-game and even the basic act of managing your inventory requires a bit of thought.
The game’s grid-based inventory system is like a Tetris mini-game where different species of fish occupy different shapes and numbers of blocks. The system is designed to force players to learn which items to prioritize, especially later in the game when the need for efficient space usage becomes more apparent.
In addition, colliding with objects while traversing the waters will cause damage to your boat’s hull. Damages to your boat are marked as “X” on a random grid in your inventory, preventing you from using that space and destroying any item that resides in that specific grid.
Activities and Damage
Your boat can sustain a maximum of three impacts or damages, and getting hit another time means game over. Luckily, you can have the damages repaired on one of the islands, though it can be quite costly if you’re not careful. Moreover, you’ll eventually have the option to make upgrades and changes to your boat.
These kinds of systems in place provide you with an engaging experience without feeling too difficult. They are there to keep you stimulated and engaged in the game, even during the “boring” and mundane parts.
And to be honest, I find the fishing mini-game to be quite addictive. I quickly burned through the in-game time and sometimes even ran out of fishing spots due to how much I fished. But maybe that’s just me…
Note: There is an option to make the fishing mini-game easier and guarantee success (in case you don’t feel like playing it), but it’ll just make the activity a bit longer.
There are also several other side quests and activities that you can do—and plenty more mysteries to unravel, which you’ll discover as you play the game. But to balance out the activities and add a slightly more challenging dimension to its gameplay, the game features a peculiar time mechanic.
Unique Time Mechanic
DREDGE features an unusual time mechanic. The time here only advances when you perform certain actions, such as traveling with your boat or fishing. Hence, staying still and doing nothing does not advance the game’s clock.
A fascinating feature, however, is that the environment will continue to move even if time is not advancing. This may break your immersion, but it allows you to appreciate the game’s amazing visuals and environment until you’re done and ready to move on to the next scenic spot.
The Research menu is basically DREDGE’s ‘tech tree’. The research option for the majority of the equipment isn’t readily available at the start, and you’ll only have access to them as your progress through the game.
Once you’ve researched a specific equipment, it will then be available at shops for purchase. After that, you need to have them installed, which isn’t more than simply holding a button, though it will take up a few hours of in-game time, depending on the specific equipment.
The game also features an Encyclopedia that provides brief (and sometimes odd) information about the different creatures you’ll encounter. This isn’t really a new concept, but it adds more depth to the game’s lore and may spark more interest from players.
Despite the semi-complex systems included in DREDGE’s mechanics and overall gameplay, it still maintains its relaxing and casual vibe—aside from some moments of horror, of course. The game puts enough challenging mechanics in place without overwhelming the player, and it doesn’t force you to keep track of too many factors besides time.
The controls in DREDGE are definitely well-optimized. They’re very intuitive and easy to learn, and I never had a moment where I messed something up due to a misclick.
I never encountered any problem with the controls aside from when navigating my ship. But I assume that the developers intentionally included this mechanic to add a slight challenge to the navigation and exploration aspect of the game, especially since you have to avoid rocks.
Fortunately, the game also has controller support, which is just as optimized as its keyboard and mouse support.
The main aspect that definitely grabbed my interest in this game was the eye-catching visual design. DREDGE features a fantastic art style that greatly fits the game’s sinister theme.
The design team was able to visually create the seemingly Lovecraft-inspired concept with excellent execution, and it perfectly matches the feelings of horror and curiosity that the game tries to evoke.
The characters and creatures look cartoonish, but their designs nicely correspond with the theme. Similarly, the overworld is not too detailed but still effectively presents an eldritch vibe through the exceptional manipulation of color and lighting in the environment.
The general visual style involves a lot of darkness and uncanny designs, which shows the clear direction and effective expression of the graphics team. The game may look foggy and dim most of the time, but the simplistic art style of the overworld maintains that spooky energy while still avoiding any visual clutter.
What I like best about the game’s visual design is that it gives off a sinister and mysterious atmosphere without forcing things to look too horrible and terrifying. It does not try too hard or pretend to look realistically scary but still maintains an eerie vibe.
I really have nothing more to say about the game’s visuals other than that it’s perfect. It perfectly fits what the game is trying to convey, and it blends well with all the other aspects of the game—the theme, gameplay, and audio.
The only issue I had is that the camera feels kind of buggy sometimes. There are moments when I’m on a specific island, and the camera keeps on resetting and zooming in on my boat.
Immersive background music and ambient sounds are a must for games like this, and DREDGE is undeniably successful in that regard. The rich music effectively accentuates the atmosphere and makes the player feel fully immersed in the game.
The game’s sound design does extremely well when it comes to transitioning between scenes and environments. The relaxing music during the eventless parts of the game gradually evolves into something eerier and more frightening as you progress and navigate the game’s more suspenseful scenarios.
Moreover, the accuracy and vividness of the ambient sounds really bring the game’s environment to life—the sounds of the moving waters, weather effects, splashes from fishes flopping about, creaking from your boat’s worn-out wooden hull, and even birds chirping as they pass by.
I would say that the game’s audio sometimes shows a detailed image of the environment better than the actual visuals. But this doesn’t make the visuals any less great—it just says a lot about how good the audio is.
Unfortunately, the game doesn’t feature any voice acting. Although the audio is excellent, it would still benefit from some voice acting for the extra immersive value.
Also, one thing I noticed is that some parts of the game do not feature any music playing at all. But at least the rich ambient sounds of the environment still provide a captivating auditory experience.
DREDGE is an amazing mystery and adventure game that will certainly get you hooked. The game has a solid theme that is excellently reflected in all its aspects. It executes its thematic elements perfectly, not only through its gameplay but also through its visual direction and audio composition.
All aspects of DREDGE converge into a charming masterpiece that will certainly provide you with an awesome (and spine-chilling) gaming experience.
You can add DREDGE to your wishlist on Steam at the following link.
What did you think of our DREDGE preview? Are you looking forward to the game? Share your thoughts in the comments below.