I initially had the great pleasure of getting my hands on this Lovecraftian fisherman’s tale back in October, and it quickly bubbled to the top of my favorite titles featured in Steam Next Fest. While the demo at this month’s Day of the Devs in-person event was the same, I got a chance to talk with the game’s developers and learn how unaware I was about several elements in the game.
To break everything down more easily, here’s some of what I wrote on the game a couple months ago:
“A lonely lighthouse watches over a foggy sky. A fishing boat captain stares, as if in a trance, at the sea as he steers his vessel. He doesn’t blink as the ship shudders and begins sinking into the murky waters.
This isn’t a cozy little game about fishing. I find that I’m playing the fisherman, now stranded on a strange dock belonging to an unfamiliar town. The city’s helpful mayor strolls up to greet me, noting my shipwreck and the boat’s destroyed state like he’s observing the weather. Like my predicament is the most natural thing in the world. It’s unsettling.
“Then he Tom Nook’s me. He’ll loan me a new boat to get me back to fishing, but I have to pay him back. Every catch, a small percentage of my sold fish goes back to the hamlet’s leader. And I’m abruptly pushed back out to sea to get some fish before the dark and fog roll in. I definitely don’t want to be out after dark, I’m warned.”
Playing the game a second time, I’m pretty confident I got the tone correct in my opening. That cutscene still sends a chill down my spine, even though I was watching it in a crowded hall. It’s not until the second paragraph that I lose my course. Apparently, it can just be a cozy little game about fishing.
You’d lose out on half the content, 3D Art Director Michael Bastiaens tells me, but if you wanted to only go out in the daylight, and bring in your haul before sunset, Dredge’s sinister undercurrent will stay, well, under the current. This caught me totally by surprise, and it’s awesome that two separate players might have radically different experiences. It opens the game to an audience beyond those just looking for a scary time — a fact that will surely relieve Gamerheads host Roger Reichardt, who had me on the show to talk Halloween-worthy indies.
I, however, am foolish. Though I am told to hurry back to port before dark, I set out determined to see what the night holds. My character’s sanity begins to slip, as shown by a bar — slowly turning red — at the top of the screen. Sadly, according to Bastiaens, this first night won’t have much effect on me, as the developers wanted this tutorial space to be pretty forgiving. That doesn’t stop me from running into a dumb rock and being laughed at when I freak out thinking it’s a monster.
At least I learn something in the wake of my accident. Any damage to the boat translates directly to the inventory. The storage space aboard the ship is already tight, with my fishing gear and boating equipment taking up their own space. When you begin to reel in some fish, getting them to fit into the hull is a puzzle in and of itself. So, when I bump into something and a part of my inventory becomes inaccessible, it has a serious effect on my ability to profit from my venture.
With panic beginning to course through my veins, Bastiaens is happy to point out that some of my catch has become infected with a purple, tendril-like contamination. It cuts the fish’s value in half and would have begun to spread if I hadn’t already been pulling into shore at that moment. As things are, when I finally sell my scaly treasures, I miss out on affording a new fishing rod by just a few dollars — exactly the amount I lost on the corrupted fish. Of course. He then directs me to sleep for a couple of days to calm my nerves and lower the sanity meter for the next time I set out.
I could tell you more of my adventures at sea, but you should set sail yourself if this all sounds interesting. Dredge’s first chapter is available to play on Steam, and with these helpful tips, you’re sure to avoid anything that goes bump in the night.