DredgeXbox X/S, Xbox One, PS5/4, Nintendo Switch, PC ¦ adventure
For the most part, the act of fishing has mostly been relegated to the lowly level of the mini-game in video games. Link is a keen fisherman and can be often been found in many of his games with his rod in hand angling for something on the fishy side.
Other games that allow you to fish include Red Dead Redemption 2, Animal Crossing, and Far Cry 5, to name but a small few.
It also features in Everybody’s Golf on the PS4, where you can take a break from the hectic life of, erm, golfing, and take a time out for a spot of fishing.
Of course there are also a number of simulation fishing games, but these are invariably as dull as the real thing.
But indie developers Black Sal Games wanted to promote the humble act of fishing to something more substantial, with their game Dredge.
You play a fisherman that arrives at the coastal town of Greater Marrow, where he accepts the position of local town angler. He’s even given a sea-worthy vessel – just – for him to start off with. At first the mayor informs him that the town will take a cut of his profits to start with, to help improve the place, but after that, the profit is all his.
And so with his capable little vessel he sets off to catch as much as he can. When he’s out during the day, he notices nothing unusual as he moves from spot to spot, but it’s a completely different fishy kettle when night falls.
There’s is something foreboding being out on the sea at night, with an almost impenetrable fog falling, unusual sounds, and some signs of unknown creatures seemingly on the hunt. He has some encounters just to prove it too, causing damage to his boat, serving as a reminder that whatever is lurking in the depths, he’d be better off avoiding fishing at night as best he can. But there are times when he has no other choice, and he has to take his chances with whatever is lurking out there.
With very crisp cel-shading visuals, Dredge has a distinctive look about it that’s easy on the eye. It’s made easier by the fact that while you are docked at various locales in the watery world, the visuals are all static choices. You don’t even control your character, simply just relying on text choices. This includes selling the fish you caught, storing anything extra you might have, such as equipment or items you find on your travels, or upgrading various equipment or the boat itself.
Once you undock, you set sail for a number of destinations on your map, with your vessel pootling around with its tiny little outboard motor. It feels very sluggish at this point, and it is, which should only encourage you to upgrade to a meatier motor as soon as you can.
And it’s not just the tide you’re up against in the game, you’re also up against the clock. Every time you go out on your boat the hours start quickly disappearing, possibly a little too quickly for our liking, as there isn’t that great an opportunity to get much done during daylight hours. And going out at night is not recommended. It’s dark, even with your lights, and if you run into a creature they can not only steal any fishing cargo you might have on board, but do a fair amount of damage to your boat too, which can prove to be fairly costly. So the window of opportunity really is very small indeed.
As you sail around you encounter various characters, who often have a quest for you to fulfil. This often involves finding certain objects in the sea, and returning them to them. One of the more curious folk is The Collector, for returning the items he requires are rewarded with some special items for your boat, such as the ability to fast travel to his destination.
It’s meeting with these individuals that the game helps in communicating its story, which is pleasingly dark in tone, and fairly mystical, which helps balance with the fairly basic tasks of fishing or dredging for specific items.
For the most part, it’s a fairly chilled and relaxed experience, only to be spiked occasionally by the attack from something down deep below. But there’s something to be said for taking to the water in your little boat, and exploring the relatively small map, which is let down only by the limited places to visit and explore.
It is however, a commendable attempt at putting fishing in the spotlight, with its curious mix of management sim and compelling story, dripping in atmosphere. It would have been fun if it had an off-the-wall mini-game of its own, an island with its own crazy mini-golf perhaps, but the only way it could have been improved is if you had Bob Mortimer and Paul Whitehouse on board.
A superb concept that has been cleverly created, giving the relatively sedate activity that is fishing, a strong line in storytelling.