Well… rather carelessly you've gone and wrecked your boat on the rocks off Greater Marrow... The kindly Mayor has had your possessions salvaged from your boat and put aboard one of the town's old boats. The good news is you can go fishing to earn some cash, the bad news is that you'll have to pay for the old boat, as well as any damage you cause, or additions or improvements you want to make to your basic equipment.
As well as dynamic weather Dredge has a very short day/night cycle and the locals regularly warn you how dangerous it is to go fishing after dark around these parts–and they aren't kidding! All manner of monstrous fish come out at night and thick fog is common. Adding to your problems is the fact that your vision blurs and you start to hallucinate when over-tired so it's important to get a few hours sleep when convenient.
Every fish requires a slightly different skill to catch it, but they all boil down to timing presses of the 'X' button well. Fish weighing record weights are harder to catch, and just about every species has at least one aberration (mutated subspecies‐some of which are hideous!) Dredging is another source of booty, and again, requires well-timed presses of 'X' to winch things up.
Everything you bring aboard, whether caught with a rod, net, pot, or dredged takes up spaces on your small boat. Some clever jiggling and rotating of your catch allows you to maximise the space, with what is best described as a sort of "fishy tetris" mechanic. If you catch something that won't fit, you can discard it or replace an item already in cargo.
Your boat handles well, with all movement being mapped to the Left stick, while the camera is controlled with the Right stick. Although even gentle collisions cause damage, velocity must be taken into account when colliding with anything (even hallucinated rocks) so careless boatmanship can cost you a lot in repairs, and even result in the destruction of your boat! Thankfully docks and other boats all have fenders so you can dock easily.
There's a selection of different rods that are suitable for certain kinds of fish in particular areas and depths of water. A range of unlockable fishing nets and crab pots allow you to add some substantial passive fishing income. Pots soak for a number of days and catch a number of crabs depending on their size and design, and nets are trawled behind the boat and catch fish as you motor around without you needing to do anything until you return to port to sell your catch.
At your new home, Greater Marrow, a fishmonger will buy your catch and sell you crab pots, and a Shipwright will repair and modify any damage to your boat or fishing gear. When away from home repairs to the boat and fish sales are handled by a Travelling Merchant who tows her rickety pontoon around the map and turns up everywhere you go. You will always be extremely glad to see her boat's lights guiding you to safety.
With the size of some of the creatures and the amount of equipment and upgrades available, like Chief Brody in JAWS, I often thought "You're gonna need a bigger boat", but you never do, you simply expand the hold (which makes the boat feel Tardis-like), and upgrade the equipment of your original–which might be disappointing to some, but seems strangely appropriate in Dredge.
Talking of size, I sincerely hope scale isn't important to you, because it wasn't to developers Black Salt Games, so some of the crabs are among the most space-consuming creatures, and a 3-piece treasure map takes up 9 cargo spaces! There's nothing wrong with Dredge's lifespan though, and it's likely to take you 15-20 hours to complete the sstory and catch every species (and mutated subspecies) of fish.
I love Dredge's graphics. They remind me of another of our favourite games of the year, Wavetale, https://gamecell.webflow.io/reviews/wavetale and while simplistic in style they convey everything the game requires. There is no voice acting or animated cutscenes for when conversing with the locals. Instead the developer went with mostly static screens and closed captions for speech, which works ok, but doesn't impress, or live up to the rest of Dredge's quality, like the sound of the waves sloshing and some wonderfully appropriate music.
Dredge somehow manages to be extremely repetitive but never becomes a boring grind, there really is little to complain about but here goes: The UI could have been a bit easier to use and certain actions (transferring items) are more fiddly than they should be. Thankfully the world map is accessible by simply pressing 'up' on the D-pad. The days are a bit short (only about 5 minutes) so getting caught at sea after dark (which can be dangerous) is a regular occurrence –just, I suspect, as it's intended to be.
Dredge may look cute but it's not for kids. It both made me jump and creeped me out on numerous occasions and there are some distinctly sad moments as the story progresses.
A game with umm… hidden depths and priced at only £23.99 and a teeny 1GB download, I think Dredge is an absolute must-buy game. Only some clunkiness in the UI and weirdly incompatible equipment upgrades keep it from being a 10/10.