DREDGE Review: Perfect Blend of Lovecraftian Horror and Fishing

Marc Torzar
Marc Torzar
10 Min Read
View of a sunrise
9 Awesome
Review Overview

Black Salt Games’ debut title, DREDGE, will finally be here in six days—and the game only got better since we last discussed it in our preview. In this full review of DREDGE, we’ll share the elements that make DREDGE an amazing game and why you should definitely give it a try.

Gameplay

DREDGE gameplay screenshot
What is that thing?
Never mind, I don’t wanna know.

The main gameplay of DREDGE revolves around fishing and exploration. You can do plenty of other things in this game, but these two activities will probably take up most of your time. In addition, the in-game time only moves when doing certain activities, and fishing and exploration are the primary ones, along with moving your boat.

As a fisherman, your primary source of income is fishing and selling your catch. Fortunately, in this game, fishing isn’t as boring as it sounds (well, not as boring, at least).

Engaging Fishing Mini-Game

Fishing mini-game in DREDGE
Just press “X” while the indicator is within the green area.

Unlike other RPGs, fishing in DREDGE is actually an engaging activity. The fishing mini-game requires you to pay attention since you have to correctly time your button presses multiple times to successfully catch a fish or haul an item.

Moreover, the fishing mini-game does not feel too repetitive due to the wide variety of layouts available. The type of layout you will encounter depends on the type of fishing spot or “disturbed water” and may even vary in difficulty and speed to help keep players hooked in the activity (pun intended).

Note: If you find the fishing mini-game too tedious or mundane, you can turn on Relaxed Fishing Mode in the settings, which forces the fishing mini-game to always end in success. However, its downside is that fishing will take relatively more in-game time.

Once you’ve caught enough fish, the next step is to sell them for some money. Initially, you will only be able to buy a few minimal upgrades for your boat. But as you progress through the story, more powerful and significant upgrades will become available—and this is where your hard-earned money really comes into play.

Interesting Inventory System

DREDGE inventory menu screen
It’s like Tetris, but with fish!

Your inventory is quite limited at the beginning, so you’ll have to go back to town more frequently since your inventory becomes full of fish and materials quickly. The inventory system in DREDGE also features a grid system akin to Tetris.

Having a limited inventory space and grid system adds a reasonable level of challenge to your exploration, preventing the game from feeling too easy at times. These mechanics force you to manage your inventory and time (i.e., actions) more efficiently, which is a huge part of DREDGE’s gameplay.

You won’t be able to travel that far without a few upgrades on your boat, and this may sound “grindy” for some players, but the research and upgrade trees in the game are simple enough to not feel too dull.

Research and Upgrades

The research and upgrades trees in the game are far from complex, and they actually provide a more streamlined gameplay experience for players. The simplicity of the technology trees means that players aren’t forced to spend too much time trying to min-max everything.

The research and upgrades trees simply aid in advancing through the game and allow you to explore more difficult-to-reach areas. Moreover, they help give you another rewarding sense of progress aside from finishing objectives.

Sea and Island Exploration

Message in a bottle
What do we have here?

Although money will help you progress through the story, fishing, getting rich, and upgrading your boat isn’t the end goal. Another important aspect of DREDGE’s gameplay involves navigating the sea, meeting different characters, and completing objectives.

The adventure aspect of DREDGE is probably the best part of the game because there are just so many things to discover in this game.

The game does a nice job of keeping things mysterious while also teasing you about peculiar characters or strange phenomena to provoke your curiosity. You’ll rarely run out of secrets to encounter, and it’s up to you to discover them!

The Collector
The “Collector,” huh?

For example, suspicious characters may ask you to obtain artifacts found on faraway islands in exchange for some reward. Others may ask you for a favor, and granting their requests may or may not benefit you.

Some islands feature abandoned houses and buildings, while some give off a sinister vibe as if there’s something that the residents aren’t telling you.

Wondering what’s deep in the middle of those cliffs? Maybe you should go there and find out. Curious about the abundance of shipwrecks around a specific island? Try to investigate the wreckage yourself.

View of the Gale Cliffs at night
Somewhere in the middle of Gale Cliffs at nighttime

Each set of islands is unique in terms of its geography and ecosystem, and most of them feature unique types of fish and aberrations and some mysteries like odd sea creatures.

You also are not limited to a single objective at a time. You’ll often have multiple tasks at a time. Moreover, most of the available objectives weren’t made just for the sake of it. They are usually accompanied by a long series of tasks and compelling stories, which form smaller parts of the game’s overarching narrative.

Visuals and Audio

View of a sunrise
Enjoy the Sun while you still can.

In terms of overall presentation, DREDGE does an amazing job of executing its theme through the perfect harmonization of its visual and audio elements.

The game does not need to have realistic graphics to evoke feelings of suspense and mystery. The Lovecraftian cartoonish art style is enough to bring forth the game’s sinister undertone and its characters and creatures into life.

An old man from a town in DREDGE
Grandpa doesn’t look too sinister…or does he?

The consistency of the character designs and environment with the Lovecraftian visual concept creates a universe as deep as its actual in-game lore.

When you encounter a character or a creature in the game, you just feel that they absolutely belong there. When you discover an eerie-looking town, you just feel that they could be hiding some secrets that you would want to unravel.

Spooky town view in DREDGE
This looks a bit too spooky for me.

Moreover, the captivating experience brought about by the game’s visual aspect wouldn’t be as engaging without its extremely immersive audio elements.

You’ll hear the flying birds and leaping fishes in the morning, along with the sound of the waves as you navigate through the sea, creating a relaxing sunny atmosphere. Then, you’ll hear the eerie ambiance of the dimming environment, along with the suspenseful music as the night goes deeper and your panic increases.

Visual changes during increased panic
The more you panic, the scarier everything looks and sounds.

From the relaxing ambiance of the environment in the morning to the unsettling sounds at dark, DREDGE’s audio design and direction provide a realistic, thrilling experience that (I would dare say) is even more suspenseful than some horror games.

Verdict

A view of the lighthouse from afar
The lighthouse seems too far, but we’ll get there… eventually…

DREDGE is the perfect blend of Lovecraftian presentation, mystery adventure, and role-playing features. It’s definitely a must-try game for players who are interested in these elements.

Players who expect extreme horror in this game might end up a bit disappointed. But DREDGE does not advertise itself as a full-pledged horror game—only that it has a suspenseful and sinister theme, which it executes perfectly well through its overall narrative, visual, and audio presentation.

What did you think of our DREDGE Review? Share what you think about it in the comments below.

This review is based on the PC version of DREDGE. The key was provided by Team 17.

View of a sunrise
Review Overview
Awesome 9
Overall Score 9 out of 10
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Philosophy scholar by day, avid gamer by night—Marc spends most of his free time playing strategy/tactics, FPS, and RPGs on his laptop and console (after he's done all requirements for his graduate studies, of course!).
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