If there is one thing I love, it’s a fishing mini-game. Need my credentials? Here I am talking about Sea of Stars and its amazing fishing mini-game. I’ve been around the block, played many a fishing mini-game, and caught a lot of fish in my time. So, the prospect of an entire game that pulls off fishing as its central mechanic was the perfect bait for me.
Hence my unsurprising adoration for Dredge, a game that I only caught up with in the last weeks of 2023, but which quickly became one of my favorite games of the year. If you are also a lover of fishing who managed to miss this wonderful release, now is the perfect time to grab Dredge while it’s 25 percent off on PlayStation until January 18.
Within minutes of starting Dredge, you are sent out to the open sea to fish. It gets right to the action. As a faceless fisherman, the player crashes on an island with a small town and is sent out by the mayor to fish and provide food for the quaint hamlet.
Nothing suspicious or horrifying is going on in this town, by the way. Just some wholesome fishing. It’s normal that everybody is warning you not to stay out on the water past dusk. Also, ignore the red pillar of light that appears once the sun has set. I’m sure it's fine.
The more you fish, the more money you make, and the more improvements to your ship you can buy. With a better engine, more versatile fishing rods, and machinery to dredge (hey, that’s the name of the game!) through the ocean’s depths to reveal more of their bounty. Eventually, you start getting requests to catch specific fish, some of which only come out at night. Despite the town’s warnings, you stay up late. Maybe you see something that doesn’t seem of this world or catch a fish mysteriously infected by blight. You know something suspicious and horrifying is going on in this town.
That’s because Dredge isn’t just a great fishing game. It’s a fishing game set in a cosmic horror story. In addition to the extremely satisfying and extensive fishing that can be done in Dredge, there is a story to unravel of Lovecraftian terrors infecting its waters, and its people. Following this narrative leads you to explore the many islands of Dredge and come into contact with new characters with new perspectives on mysterious events occurring. Unraveling it while also unspooling your fishing line in search of the next big catch is a perfectly balanced experience.
Much of this is because there is something inherently terrifying about the unknown depths of the deep, which Dredge easily makes the player feel when they inevitably get caught in the middle of the sea at night. Visibility shrinks to a small circle around your dinghy. The black sky above you matches the dark void of water below. But you feel as though something is watching from within the abyss — your gut is correct. I felt genuine terror as I raced to get back to a safe port in the night, desperately hoping that whatever unknowable terror that lay just outside of my vision would not make itself known.
But even the safe spaces of Dredge’s world may not feel so cozy, as it's very rare not to feel unsettled in some manner when talking to the off-putting residents. This is especially notable in the starting area of Greater and Little Marrow, whose eerie New England fishing town-coded vibe feels clearly in line with the many seaside Massachusetts towns that serve as the settings of H.P. Lovecraft’s stories.
Dredge satisfyingly delivers on its core gameplay loop and spins an enthralling narrative that keeps the player guessing. The gameplay somehow maintains chill vibes even while exploring an unsettling subject in its story. Fishing has never felt so good.