With nearly seven hours under my belt, I’ve had a whale of a hands-on experience with Black Salt Games’ upcoming title, Dredge. And with a fiercely irresistible gameplay loop, tabletop-like narrative, and disquieting world to explore, the monstrous fishing game is reeling me in.
My previous time with the game, which you can read all about here, saw me washed up on the eerie shores of Greater Marrow, a down-on-its-luck seaside hamlet. Without a vessel to call my own, I was forced into a kind of indentured servitude until I could pay the town back for a new ship.
I paid off my debt in about three in-game days, being careful to stay on the ocean’s glassy surface only when the sun was out. Fishing is the game’s core, and the minigames — which vary between different fish or other kinds of targets — still feel rewarding and capture my attention after hours of playing.
My hard-earned money not only allowed me free access to the sea’s bounty but also built up the town which was starting to feel like home. The shipwright, who before could sell me low-level equipment like dim lights, old engines, or repair damage, now opened a dry dock.
Here, I could bring in resources to upgrade the ship. Searching for materials like wood, cloth, and metal became almost as important as catching the ocean’s slippery inhabitants. And both hauls battled for space in my ever-limited cargo hold.
The fishmonger also got a boost, and I started to receive special orders promising enlarged payments for specific specimens. I lost hours to the pull of grabbing just one more thing to improve this or hunting down unusual fish to fill out my encyclopedia and earn more money to buy that.
As I sailed further and further abroad, I encountered new quests. I stumbled over a strange shrine-like rock asking for a crop of cod, which I happen to have on hand. Depositing the offering, the waves spat up a free reel. This let me capture fish from the shallows and coast — each biome requires specialized gear.
Back in town, the mayor charged me with delivering a package across the bay to a dock worker in Little Marrow. The cagey quest earned me a book. By selecting the tome in my inventory, I read its contents as time passed and gained a buff.
I was careful to talk to every town’s inhabitants afterward as many were willing to hand me more reading material, and each encounter has a beautiful role-playing quality to it. No exchange seems to small to merit a thoughtful description or colorful characterization. This gives each person and place a real weight in a short time, bringing the world to life.
These wider ranging tasks forced me to stay out longer and longer. As I did, my panic rose. Staying out in the dark is perilous. The lights, which helped keep my sanity up, flickered, eventually failing altogether as I crossed a lonely span. I saw a darkened ship heading towards me with horn blaring. But as I hastened to avoid a collision, it passed and disappeared. A shipwreck I hoped to search for materials faded into nothing as I got close.
But the things that evaporated into thin air weren’t half as dangerous as the things that appeared. Rocks jutted into my path from nowhere, creatures heralded by bubble trails slither aboard and corrupt my goods, and even worse nightmares emerge from the depths as I venture to the far corners of the map.
I wasn’t up to making that kind of journey until about one in-game month had gone by. Even then, I might have been tempted to stick to nearby shores if not for a curious event that led me to the Collector. While fishing, I captured a grotesque aberration of a thing, which I promptly brought back to the fishmonger. He opened the creature’s guts to find a handkerchief.
Soon after, a stranger introduced himself and marked a solitary island on my map where I should meet him for a business proposition. The close-by Blackstone Isle harbored an ill-kept mansion in which the stranger told me a tale of artifacts scattered by the waves.
To repay this first item I offered him, he taught me powerful and foreboding words which could speed up my boat at the cost of some sanity and pressure on my engines. The second item took me farther away from my base than I’d ever been. Luckily, I’d had enough time by then to build a larger cargo area for my ship, supply it with new engines, and trade up for brighter lights.
Uncovering the lost artifact required risking the wrath of an underwater nightmare and patching up a family. By the end of this adventure, I not only had my prize but discovered a traveling merchant and found someone willing to sell me route-opening explosives.
It was the last time I’d ever sail my way back to the Collector. Not because there wasn’t more left to his quest, but because the next otherworldly power he bestowed on me was Manifest. This let me fast-travel to Blackstone from anywhere on the map, and all I had to exchange was a creepy cutscene and the promise of more items.
My task before me and a more seaworthy vessel beneath my feet, I’m consumed with curiosity. I can’t wait to see what happens as I discover more sinister secrets, dive into diverse new regions full of watery wildlife, and unravel Dredge‘s ultimate mystery.