Dredge Review – An ocean of triumph

Reviewed April 3, 2023 on PC


Xbox One, PS4, PC, Nintendo Switch, PS5, Xbox Series X|S


March 30, 2023




Black Salt Games

A seemingly innocuous fishing management game turns into an eldritch horror RPG as Dredge sets sail into release on PC and console. Coming to us from New Zealand studio Black Salt Games, this unnerving title will test both your inventory management as well as your sanity management as it dives deeper into the horrific absurdist with each new voyage. Proving to be both engaging and unique, Dredge is a bright light in a sea of spooks and a title that shouldn’t be overlooked.

What’s instantly gripping about Dredge is the stunning art that mixes gorgeous sunrises and oceanic views with deliberately crude brushstrokes and character art. The game comfortably flips from painterly to unsettling as dusk turns into night and it’s in this space where Dredge thrives. Every visual detail hides a sinister edge that leaves you uncomfortable with character dialogue and audio design only helping to hammer home that discomfort. It’s a thing of beauty for horror fans as the game maintains a dread-filled atmosphere without ever going for the actual scare.

Played from an isometric perspective, your job is that of a new fisherman who’s arrived in a town filled with mysterious anecdotes and disheartening hints toward a submerged threat. The mayor of the town acts as a humanoid and more ominous Tom Nook, offering you a fishing boat in exchange for some debt that you’ll have to pay off as you help to improve the town. The Fishmonger will buy your latest catches and the Shipwright will sell you upgrades, new equipment, and repair any damages you may incur. All that’s left for you to do is to set sail, catch some fish, and allow the beautiful cycle of wealth-acquisition and boat-upgrading carry you through to new and exciting depths.

“The game comfortably flips from painterly to unsettling as dusk turns into night and it’s in this space where Dredge thrives.”

There’s definitely some immediate fun and endorphin rushes to be found as you reel in new catches, dredge the ocean for treasure, fill out your fish encyclopedia, physically slot those fish into spaces in your boat, sell your wares, obtain new rods, and go out to see what new aquatic goodness awaits in deeper regions. That gameplay loop alone makes for an engaging baseline, especially when you consider the breadth of fish available to catch, the different little minigames associated, and the range of tangible upgrades you can acquire. However, the real spirit of the game comes from everything else. It’s the cryptic warnings from the Lighthouse Keeper, it’s the mysterious package that needs to be delivered to the next town over, it’s that feeling of being watched as the darkness settles in around you, and it’s that chill that runs up your spine as you see the warning that something has slithered onto your boat.

Dredge loves to flirt with horror as a cavalcade of new encounters and happenings begin to emerge. The game has a day/night cycle and a sanity system that makes things more threatening the later you stay out at night. Cleverly, of course, the game also slowly begins to encourage that dangerous nocturnal behaviour as you need to sail further out and for longer periods as the game progresses. A set of tasks are recorded in your journal and it’s here where the game really relishes in its D&D roots. The feeling of stumbling across something naturally as you explore and being rewarded with a new task or puzzle is super satisfying.

The game keeps you occupied and engaged beyond simply following quest markers. There’s a level of figuring things out for yourself that comes with a title like this and I always appreciate that decision enough. Occasionally, this does lead to roadblocks as you question what you’re supposed to do next, and on one occasion it forced wasted time and frustration that eventuated in me looking up the answer online. Perhaps further balance or a hint system could have solved this specific irk, though in an ocean of triumphs, it does feel like a decently small nitpick.

Messages in bottles can be found scattered around the ocean and it’s here where further lore can be uncovered. It’s like a mini reward as you stumble across the lives of people trapped in the same hellscape as you are. Reading the journeys of those already lost to the madness and dispair that surrounds you. Books can be earned and read passively over time that grant little boons here and there. It’s these small touches and more that show how Dredge was not a race to the release line and instead a well-crafted and evolved experience with extra tidbits of goodness hidden here and there for that added layer of excitement.

I appreciate the writing of the game too. It’s not always a narrative experience, but when you pull into a new dock, it’s always fun to see what colourful and brooding characters you’re about to meet and what otherworldly doom and gloom they’re about to speak into reality. Admittedly the quests these characters send you on rarely go beyond that of the fetch quest or searching within an area. Perhaps this is where the game could have been improved upon most in its design. However, what remains is still a staggeringly rich experience that goes one step beyond what you’d expect and keep you hooked every step of the way.




  • Beautiful audio/visual experience
  • A unique and captivating idea, executed incredibly well
  • Brilliant use of horror settings and atmosphere
  • Fishing and dredging make for a fun gameplay loop
  • RPG storytelling adds a huge amount of depth


  • A hint system wouldn't have gone astray
  • Questing could benefit from more variety in design

Never quite sure what’s lurking below the surface, Dredge captivates from the jump with a well-defined and engaging gameplay loop built atop the foundation of a creepy and beautifully atmospheric setting. The storytelling and questing push this fishing management game into new territory as you uncover just how deep this ocean runs. Some repeated quest archetypes aren’t enough to drag this gem down as Dredge continues to surprise and delight from the moment you first set sail to when you finally hang up your sailor’s hat.