DREDGE is a unique fishing adventure that takes players on a dark and sinister journey. Although at first glance it appears to be a simple indie production, as you delve deeper into the sea’s depths you will quickly realize that a Lovecraftian spirit hangs over every innocent task here.
In DREDGE, we play a fisherman who arrives in the coastal settlement of Greater Marrow in search of work. His arrival is not easy, however, as his boat is destroyed by a violent storm, leaving him stranded on the shore. So before his story can unfold in earnest, he must repay his debt. This sequence perfectly captures the unsettling tone that permeates the entire game.
I really liked how gently the game explains the basics of the gameplay, and we discover more mechanics here at our own pace. Of course, most of the action is simple and logical, but this aura of mystery fits perfectly with the rather overwhelming mood created here. What sets DREDGE apart from other fishing games is its unique storyline and atmosphere. The game combines elements of horror and mystery, slowly drawing you into its dark world.
However, the gameplay itself is not complicated, as it mainly consists of swimming and fishing, which is nothing more than a simple mini-game. The whole process of fishing looks like pressing the required button on the controller at the right moment. It sounds trivial, but it gave me a lot of pleasure and I didn’t feel bored through the story, which lasted more than 12 hours. Of course, this is just one element of the gameplay, as the progression-building mechanic itself is very addictive.
We start the game with a very weak boat, with little cargo, destroying itself from a few hits on any stone. In addition, we are limited by time, because the day is very short here – during the day we are relatively safe, but at night we quickly fall into madness and without frequent rests it is very difficult to survive at sea.
In DREDGE a big role is played by the management of equipment, because space (especially at the beginning) is very scarce and every field is at a premium. The developers here built a system somewhat reminiscent of Tetris, but with me the first association was Leon’s memorable suitcase from Resident Evil 4. Many times you have to decide what to take with you to the docks abandoning less important fish and treasures.
The theme of developing our boat is very absorbing, quite elaborate and cannot be denied the “one more turn” syndrome. The progression is extremely noticeable. Better speed and greater payload allow us to tear away more scraps of sea and make us a little more confident to swim in the fog-bathed madness. And the anxiety is felt at every turn, because DREDGE is not about simply exploring the marked points on the map and collecting dots. Exploration here has been prepared in a somewhat old-school style, where a lot of surprises await the attentive player, and discovering more mechanics is a lot of fun.
Between swimming and visiting the docks we talk a lot with the characters we meet, learn their dark stories and perform simple tasks. Plot-wise, the game doesn’t impress, but rather this wasn’t its task – here the main violin is played by simultaneously calm and disturbing gameplay. Once I caught more or less what the game is about and how to develop properly, I couldn’t tear myself away from the screen until the end credits.
The world design is very artistic, has character and creates a great atmosphere. The atmosphere is built here through the use of fog, shadows and lighting combined with an unsettling soundtrack. The whole creates a solid sense of unease and honesty. This isn’t a title where you’ll encounter advanced graphic effects, but the minimalist audiovisual setting works well here.
In technical terms, DREDGE runs perfectly on Steam Deck. Performance is a fully stable 60 frames per second at native resolution with about 3 hours of gameplay on a single charge. The interface and subtitle size are fully adapted to the small screen.
If you’ve made it to this point then you already know that DREDGE appealed to me very much. While it’s not a game that will change the industry and win dozens of awards, it’s hard for me to see any major flaws. It’s a very good production – simple, atmospheric, incredibly engaging from start to finish. Of course, not everyone will like this type of gameplay, but it is worth giving it a chance.