Dredge combines fishing gameplay and horror elements, and I’m in | Hands-on preview

by on February 20, 2023

I’m not really someone who has ever been hooked on fishing in video games before (if you’ll pardon the pun). So often it’s a tedious side activity in a game where there’s plenty of other fun to be had, so I’ll spend twenty minutes reeling in minnows and never look back. The idea of fishing in a video game setting is great though, and at a time where more zen experiences are all the rage I wanted to whip my rod out and become a master angler. Dredge is my first foray into the world of fishing, and admittedly wasn’t what I was expecting.

The beginning of Dredge sees your salty fisherman character crashing his ship on the rocks outside the harbour town of Greater Marrow. Once you wake up after the accident, you’re greeted by the local mayor of this run down locale. He decides to give you his humble fishing vessel as long as you pay him back with your earnings, and so begins your adventure on the waves.

A screenshot of Dredge

So as you’d expect I immediately left the dock and headed out to catch some fish to sell. Navigating the waves is perfectly simple, and done by moving the left stick to move the boat. Before long you’ll spot some splashing, and as long as you have the right fishing gear you can spend some time trying to catch the cod, lobsters or eels lurking below the surface.

The actual fishing in Dredge is rather enjoyable. Depending on the type of fish you’re trying to catch you’ll have to play a timing based mini game, which usually involves having to press a button as a reticule spins around a circle. The better you do at nailing the timing the quicker you’ll catch the fish, and with night always approaching every second counts.

All was going well in my chilled out life on the waves, when all of a sudden I caught a mackerel with a huge sack of pus attached to it. Suitably horrified, I thought I’d head back to the Fishmonger to sell it. On the way home it started to infect all my other fish, which raised my panic meter. Moments later a flock of red eyed crows descended on my ship and attacked it, and I narrowly made it back to the dock with plenty of holes in my boat in need of repair. It turns out Dredge is a fishing game with horror elements, and I am absolutely here for it.

A screenshot of Dredge

At this point the game started to give me objectives that required me to leave the safety of Greater Marrow at night. With a dim bulb purchased I set sail into the darkness, and got some much more valuable fish for my trouble. The panic meter kept rising, but as long as I didn’t spend all night out fishing it wasn’t an issue. Overconfidence eventually got the better of me though, and when further away from port than usual a massive glowing fish tried to attack me and a mysterious ship let out an eerie blast of its foghorn and started steaming toward me. One narrow escape and a change of underwear later, a lesson was learned. The ocean is a dangerous place.

Unfortunately Dredge knows you’ll do pretty much anything to avoid leaving port at night after a few close calls, and starts giving you more and more quests that require trips outside of your comfort zone. A mysterious man noticed my vessel one day and asked me if I was interested in finding artefacts lost in shipwrecks, and gave me the dredging tools needed to search wreckages around the coast. Unearthing Cthulhuean keys sounded like fun (and seemed pretty important) so dredging was the next mechanic to master.

As well as finding lost valuables and sinister artefacts, dredging is great for finding scrap metal and lumber. This is used to upgrade your ship, and doing that quickly became my priority. With more slots for fishing gear I was able to bag anything the waves sent my way, and extra room for engines and lights made escaping danger and surviving the night slightly less terrifying. The loop of upgrading and expanding the area you’re willing to explore is so compelling, and even in the few hours I was able to play for this preview I was desperate to explore this weird and wonderful world.

A screenshot of Dredge

It helps that the oceanic environment is so beautiful too, in an oppressive sort of way. The combination of bright colours and dreary weather is really unique, and I guess visually appeals to those of us used to British weather. Even the fish designs are delightful, with the corrupted fish looking especially bizarre and interesting.

Dredge combines fishing gameplay and horror elements, and I didn’t know I needed that in my life. The moments of panic ensure that you’re never bored with the loop of fishing and upgrading, and there’s even an intriguing narrative I can’t wait to explore further into the game. It may not be as wholesome as some would appreciate, but Dredge has made me more interested in fishing than I’ve ever been before.

Dredge is coming to PC (via Steam) on March 30th, 2023.