Dredge is a relaxed fisherman simulator hiding a very sinister heart

Dredge begins with a shipwreck, your unseen fisherman being forced down the shores of the island town of Greater Marrow, unable to get home. They were loaned a boat from the shady mayor, and worked in the local countryside to pay off the debt. And this is the least disturbing part of Dredge.

Dredge’s skeleton is that of a gentle fishing simulator – you steer a pretty, almost shaded boat around calm waters, playing a near rhythmic action mini-game to get back to the hit products caught, found in schools around the original island. Trade in enough fish for the local angler and you can use your payout to buy upgrades from the shipbuilder – additional external engines, more powerful fishing rods for larger species ( there are 128 entries in the game category), crab pots to drop and return to later.

There are also less desirable mechanics, such as picking a book to read, setting a timer whenever you’re on the water, eventually giving you permanent stats. Your boat’s inventory is arranged like the one of Resident Evil Tetris. There is a day-night cycle, with different species appearing at night – but going out after dark runs the risk of hitting rocks you can’t see and damaging parts of your inventory, cause the engine to go offline or catch. It’s a gratifying progression rate from the start, and even in an hour of play I’ve made some meaningful changes to my ship.

But as soon as you start, you hit day 5, and things start to get… weird. The people of the Greater Marrow – and the other small settlements you find on the surrounding islands – already seem a bit out of place. But when you pull your first Aberration from the wave, things get much more sinister. There’s something wrong with the fish in these waters – the mackerel grows larger and more aggressive, the cod can develop a very large eye. The Fisherman cuts a perfectly preserved antique handkerchief out of a scrap of cloth, and treats it as more of a reward than a worry – and then you meet the Collector, and you begin to see a Dark story hidden under the waves of Dredge.

The Collector, a former fisherman who has taken on ‘other pursuits’, puts you on his main quest, asking you to find unusual, possibly magical artifacts from worthy shipwreck attention in the area. He equips you with the dredging apparatus of the same name, and suddenly you’re playing another mini-game that pulls everything from scrap metal to shape-shifting keys and learns hints of wondrous stories. strange, maybe Lovecraftian before you arrive.

You’ll need to initiate longer trips to other biomes, but sailing at night will increase your character’s panic levels. The higher your panic, the more strange things appear – you start seeing places you couldn’t see during the day, and the sinister murders of crows begin to track your boat and steal your stock if you stay out too long. You’ll also start getting side quests from islanders who either want you to find signs of their drowned child, or ask for building materials, seeming a bit eager to leave their home. them and live elsewhere.

Much of what I’ve learned feels pieced together – hinting at a sinking story, rather than the story itself – but the developers from Black Salt Games suggest that my ride could lead me to having have my character panic explore hidden locations, and say there are monsters far worse than sharks to contend with out there, all in search of answers to questions I have.

It’s a magical setup – the kind of gripping, gripping management game that might inadvertently capture attention for hours, but in essence, tied to a strange storyline, promises to… leads us into truly unknown waters. Dredge is holding secrets and I’d love to find out what they are.

Joe Skrebels is IGN’s Executive News Editor. Follow him on Twitter. Got a tip for us? Want to discuss a possible story? Please send an email to [email protected].

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