Just a couple of hours into Dredge, Black Salt Games’ fishing-sim-meets-survival horror RPG adventure, I’ve fallen into a comfortably familiar routine. Thanks to the exciting genre mashup’s amazing pacing, engaging progression systems and fun, intuitive mini-games, I’ve settled in to the charming maritime city of Greater Marrow and its surrounding islands.
My fishing business is booming, as evidenced by the plentiful coin the local fishmonger pays for my daily bounties. I’m doing so well that I’ve actually been able to invest in a new rod – capable of raiding both shallow and inshore waters – as well as a faster outboard for my customizable craft.
The future also looks bright, as I have also earned enough research parts on my sea voyages to invest in even better equipment. And thanks to my newfound ability to dredge supplies from the depths of the ocean, I’ve also begun gathering resources that will eventually see my ship upgraded with more space, better lighting, and a more powerful hull.
Life for me in the beautiful archipelago is literally smooth sailing, so I offer to help some of the less fortunate locals. A friendly dockworker is seeking a more fulfilling life up north—on the tiny island of Steel Point—so I collect some materials for her quarters before transporting her to her new home.
I also meet a grieving man in neighboring Little Marrow. He is seeking closure from the loss of his son, who apparently died in a shipwreck years earlier. I dredge the wreckage, find the victim’s engraved belt buckle and return it to his father for some peace of mind.
My leisure activities also mean that I accept a task from a traveling merchant with an interest in rare marine species. But with my quest log expanding as quickly as the game’s open world map, I decide to hold off on catching and cataloging the scarce fish for now.
I had previously accepted a more urgent assignment, from a rather mysterious fellow who lived in a dilapidated mansion on nearby Blackstone Isle. I was going to check in with him again, plus his little island hosts a small workshop that has piqued my curiosity ever since I learned it was locked up tight.
The man, who calls himself the Collector, had previously equipped my rig with the aforementioned dredging equipment in exchange for an old handkerchief I had found in the belly of a fish. While the deal was undoubtedly strange, it came with the offer of more work: if I agreed to bring him more relics, he would continue to reward me for my efforts.
First on the document was an old key supposedly located not far from my new home, Greater Marrow. I secured the item with little effort and immediately delivered it to the collector. Strangely enough, he accepted the treasure with more agitation than gratitude. Stranger still, he began flipping through a dusty old book, before a blinding beam of light shot up from the pages.
Now mind you, my unexpected encounter with this man’s apparently magical tome was not my first brush with the strange or inexplicable in Dredge. As well as chatting to the eccentric locals – many of whom warned me not to take the boat out after dark – I had also caught a couple of mutant fish, including a five-eyed mackerel.
I’d also been swarmed by red-eyed ravens, had an unidentified “something” slide onto my deck, and seen my hull damaged by an illuminated, bulbous fish almost the size of my boat. But while these encounters ranged from somewhat unsettling to downright ominous, none interrupted my peaceful routine or provided evidence of the supernatural that this ancient work the Collector now cradled in his hands.
He cryptically spoke of the book as having “power from the deep”, a claim he backed up by giving me an ability called “Haste”. The gift was described as “otherworldly speed” and cost While that would give my aging engine newfound speed, it would also threaten to burn it out. But in addition to stressing my motor skills, the ability came with the foreboding promise of also straining my increasingly fragile psyche.
With my peaceful existence now turned upside down, I set out with a new sense of urgency—and dread—to track down the remaining four relics on the collectibles list. But with my clockwork routine thrown overboard in favor of a frantic schedule, fueled by disjointed pursuits, it wasn’t long before I met my demise.
As I raced toward Gale Cliffs—where a coveted music box supposedly rests on the ocean floor—I began to appreciate the exhilarating benefits of the Haste ability. But I was also worried about my engine, which according to a rising HUD gauge was threatening to burn out.
An overheated engine was the least of my worries though, because – as promised – it seems my anxiety started to boil over too. As I pushed forward through a thick fog, rocks seemed to appear out of nowhere, forcing me to frantically steer away from them. While I barely managed to escape these jagged obstacles, I wasn’t sure how to avoid the dozens of red eyeballs that were now floating above the surface of the water.
I ignored the menacing peepers, believing them to be figments of my spiraling imagination. However, it was harder to ignore the massive, stretching tentacle emerging from the sea. I prayed that the towering limb was just another sign that the character’s mind was playing tricks on me, but since it soon took me out of life—and effectively ended my demo—I have to assume I’ll find more than relics lurking in Dredge’s depths when it launches later this month.