There’s been a lot of buzz around the adventure/mystery game, Dredge. I wanted to see what all the hype was about, so I took the plunge and experienced what it might be like to be a fisherman in the early 20th century. Although the story is weak, the game’s sense of discovery does more than enough to keep you engaged.
A mysterious fisherman in a mysterious land
You start Dredge as a fisherman with amnesia who awakens in a small town. You’re given a boat and are tasked with collecting fish in order to pay off your debt. From there, you sail around the water collecting fish, but that’s not all, to be honest.
You see, there is more to this area than meets the eye. Early in the game, you’ll be told to avoid fishing at night as it appears that there are evil or unexplained things roaming the waters at night. At the same time, you’ll come across mysterious people.
As you travel further out into the other islands, you’ll discover more secrets and strange occurrences. Is there a connection to all of this? Well, you’ll need to complete the various quests to find the answer.
Fishing first, mystery-solving second
There are two core elements to Dredge. The first is fishing, while the other is the mysterious circumstances of this land. The fishing is the primary gameplay hook. You’ll spend the majority of the game collecting different sea creatures. Early on, you’ll only be able to catch the most basic of fish types. But as you earn more money, you’ll equip a dredge to your boat, which opens up the ability to upgrade your boat and equipment.
The parts you find while dredging will allow you to increase your ship’s size and storage capacity. You will also be able to unlock more slots so that you can equip larger rods and other aspects to your boat, so you fare better in the water. While dredging, you’ll also find research parts, which unlock better equipment for you to use, necessary to catch certain sea life in specific areas across the map.
As for the mystery in the game, that comes as you explore the different regions. You’ll interact with quite a few different folks. In almost every situation, a person you meet will ask for a favor. It might be as simple as taking them back into the main town. Then there are those who might have more complicated requests. It’s these quests that ultimately move the story along.
For both fishing and dredging, you must play a mini-game to collect potential items. Early on, the fishing is simply hitting the correct button when a spinner passes a specific marker. As you encounter bigger and better fish, you’ll need to do a better job of timing those button presses.
While you’re performing these mini-games, the in-game time continues to move through the day So, if you’re taking too long to catch your fish/item, then you’re wasting precious daylight hours. This adds a nice little challenge. You could theoretically stay out on the water all night, but you put yourself at risk and there are a few things that can happen to you.
Early in the game, when it starts to get dark, you have almost no visibility, so it’s easy to crash your boat into some rocks. One or two hits are enough to capsize the boat and give you the game over the screen. Later in the game, bigger and more vicious sea creatures start roaming the waters, and they can take you out. Obviously, it’s key to upgrade your boat, so you can handle more damage. This risk versus reward is a lot of fun, and you’ll regularly see how far you can go in the process.
Not that strong of a story
While the fishing and adventure aspects of Dredge are a lot of fun and take up the majority of the game, the story is kind of weak. I wasn’t really invested in progressing the plot. There are a handful of missions/tasks that move you forward, but they’re not as engrossing as they probably should have been.
The main quest has you recovering a series of rare items. Each of the game’s five main locations has one. Early on, they’re fairly easy to find, but the last few require completing multiple side requests. However, the type of request is always the same. You will need to catch a specific type of fish, place it or give it to someone, which will then trigger the next event. It never deviates too much from that. But in order to catch the more “exotic” of sea creatures, you’ll need to use specific a rod or trawl net that works for that water type.
There is no “master” rod or trawl net. Early on, you’ll have to buy multiple types and adjust your ship accordingly. As you get closer to the game’s conclusion, there is a decent combination of rod and trawl net that will help you hunt for fish in every water type. It just takes a while for you to get all the necessary upgrades in order to unlock them.
It’s all about the discovery
Dredge excels as a game about discovery. If you don’t really go out of your way to visit every possible island, you’ll finish the game and not see a proper conclusion. The game’s main/correct ending is easily missed if you don’t make that effort. At the same time though, I was fine just sailing around and seeing what new sea creature I might discover. It’s those moments that you’ll remember most about the game, and it’s the main reason to give this a go.