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  1. I'll be honest, I've had my fill of fishing minigames at this point. Whether it's an adventure game, RPG, or even a cozy life sim, the cycle of catching fish is a real drag to me anymore. An entire game based around fishing though? There might be something interesting to pull out of the depths there, and Dredge proves it. A relatively simple but addictive gameplay loop and a creepy setting turn a time-draining chore into an engaging experience. You play as a fisherman who, after his boat is shipwrecked on a foggy night, is given a rundown old boat to use. Now you'll need to catch and sell fish to pay off your debt on the boat and earn money for upgrades that allow you to catch more fish and make it easier to explore further. Amidst this core gameplay loop though is an undercurrent of ominous, eerie horror. Some of the fish you catch are dark and twisted, and soon enough you're on a quest to uncover the truth behind mysterious artifacts left behind on the islands. Dredge treats its story with a light touch, which works nicely for a horror tale. There's just enough detail to let your imagination fill in the gaps with something eerie. That said, a slightly stronger throughline might have helped keep the creepy narrative on track a little better—a lot of the NPCs you encounter are just side stories, and having a more consistent core cast might have made the ending hit a little harder. The core gameplay is as simple as you'd expect: catch fish, sell fish, buy upgrades, repeat. There are some wrinkles thrown into the mix to spice things up, but overall Dredge is a pretty zen-like experience, much like actual fishing. To actually catch fish you'll need the right fishing lines (which you can upgrade), and you'll also need to complete a simple mini-game, which is basically just hitting the Y button at the right time. There are also more passive fishing options like crab traps and trawling nets. Your boat has a limited inventory space, so finding room for your catch becomes a bit of a Tetris puzzle. Dredge finds just the right balance of simple fishing mechanics to keep the gameplay engaging but generally not very difficult, which will keep you coming back for more. After the first few hours you have kind of seen everything the game has to offer in terms of fishing mechanics though, so it does get repetitive by the end, but it's still pretty satisfying to rake in a big catch and pocket the cash. Aside from fish you can also dredge up resources and treasures from the depths. Treasures can be sold but the resources are needed to upgrade your boat to both increase inventory space and allow you to install better equipment. Sometimes you need to make a choice about what you're aiming for when you go out fishing: fish or resources. Of course, you can get both, but there's only so much room in your inventory and if you leave the fish on your boat for too long they'll spoil, so you need to get back to a port/trader to sell them relatively quickly. That's the other key aspect that makes Dredge more than just a mindless fishing adventure: time-management. You can go out fishing during the day or night, but at night the eerie fog can start to play tricks on your mind, causing you to hallucinate, or you might even encounter a monstrous sea creature that attacks your boat. On the other hand, some fish are only found at night, so at times you'll need to risk it. Sleeping at a port will recover your sanity, but when you're out in the open waters late at night, you might find yourself in dire danger. Ultimately though, Dredge isn't interested in making things too hard on the player. Although there's a day/night cycle there's no limit to the number of days you can spend fishing, so you can take it slow and steady if you want. You have no means to fight back against the monstrous creatures you encounter, which is a bit annoying at first, but if you upgrade your engine you can instead try to outrun them. A bit more actual urgency might have made the story connect better as well, but as it is Dredge is more about the relaxing, addictive loop of catching fish and resources day in and day out. The game's simple, striking art style is a suitable accompaniment to the grim story and the inherently repetitive, unglamorous life of a fisherman. The environment doesn't often get a chance to shine, but the character portraits have a delightfully grungy vibe. The soundtrack also does a good job of building up the atmosphere: melancholy and haunting, but with a seafaring air. Dredge can easily hook players with its simple but satisfying gameplay loop that sees every catch translate into cash and upgrades. The eerie atmosphere keeps you on your toes, but perhaps could've used a bit more detail to keep the mystery and sense of foreboding strong throughout the entire game, not just the beginning. Still, the core fishing gameplay, while never too complicated, is surprisingly addictive and will keep players well engaged for the 10–12 hours it takes to plumb the depths of this ominous sea. Rating: 8 out of 10 Fish
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