Have you heard of Dredge? No? Then it’s time: We were allowed to test the brand new horror RPG and are absolutely delighted with its dark atmosphere and the exciting balance between horror and relaxed fishing.
In the footsteps of a grumpy fisherman, you steer your boat into the harbor of a small island town. As darkness descends over the vast sea, it is broken only by strange purple lights. You should be careful at night, that’s how the townspeople explain it to you; accidents can happen at night. What happened to the last fisherman in the area? Oh, he eventually disappeared. Everyone is glad you’re here now: after all, you’ll boost the domestic market if you sell your caught specimens.
dredges begins with picturesque harbors surrounded by the melancholic expanse of the ocean. Between the islands you maneuver your little boat, catch the first fish and collect money as soon as you sell them. During the day you experience a holiday idyll, at night you are safe in the harbor. But you’ll soon become curious: You should be able to catch other fish in the dark, too the pretty purple lights mark mysterious places. What is waiting out there?
Check out the trailer for a first look at Dredge:
Dredge is so atmospheric it gets under your skin
Behind Dredge’s beautiful graphics is a Lovecraft horror RPG, whose slippery antennae crawl under your skin in a sensitive way. At slow-burn pace, you first learn to enjoy the idyll around you, repair your ship and explore the area with ever larger laps. Secrets await at every corner of the island: new schools of fish, old shipwrecks and finally strange glowing stonesthat you want to touch.
It quickly becomes clear that something is wrong in this paradise. And yet Dredge manages to let the slowly creeping terror flow perfectly into the relaxed gameplay: If you catch fish with a satisfying minigame, you can slimy mutant fish be there, whose chest pulsates with small purple particles. The somewhat strange trader in town will give you more money for such catches – and once he explains that he absolutely must try this fish meat. The expression in his eyes is rather uncomfortable.
Catch fish, collect money, equip ship better: I myself really enjoyed the gameplay loop in Dredge, whereby the minigames require concentration to catch and are nevertheless quite simple: Perfect for fully engaging. But Dredge also shines with the open map, which invites exploration and hides resources as well as bizarre finds. The more you improve your ship and advance in the main quest, the easier it will be to explore more distant areas.
Dredge doesn’t throw out action-packed scenes, but felt for me relaxing yet unsettling on: More and more often you encounter strange NPCs and monsters, more and more often you have to drive around at night – one Panic indicator at the top of the compass shows you how scared your captain is. Purple fog follows you, ghost ships roar and if you overexert yourself, you have to sleep in the harbor for a while to avoid hallucinations. Lovecraft sends his regards here too.
The horror comes slowly, but it comes
Dredge plays along Lovecraft’s cosmic horror, who always creeps up quietly in the books of the horror author and is unforgettable in the end. That’s what it feels like to play Dredge: you’re steering your ship toward something big and horrifying, even though you can’t see it; although you didn’t notice it at first either. You will have to find out in the game whether the whole thing ends well.
Overall, Dredge really impressed me. Developer Black Salt Games has shown a delicacy in gameplay with the game which keeps it satisfying and fun till the end. But if at some point you don’t want to catch any more fish, it’s entirely possible to focus on the story and skip the final ship upgrades.
Either way: Fans of laid-back indie games who also want to venture into spooky realms have come to the right place at Dredge. For me it is now one of the best games in the Lovecraft universe.
Dredge is expected to be released on March 30 on PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series, PC and Nintendo Switch. By the way, you can get one exclusively on the Switch free demo play to get a taste of the game.