Full-time adulting leaves a finite amount of time to enjoy video games. That won’t stop a lifelong gamer from trying. You roll the die on every new game you purchase and hope you can play it. Dredge is no exception.
Dredge is a sinister fishing game by Black Salt Games for PC, Xbox, Switch, and PlayStation. It’s playful art style caught my eye, but the Lovecraft-style story elements hooked me early. As with most games I am interested in, I wondered if I would even play it after I purchased it. Thankfully this was one of the few that made it into the “win” column.
What pulled me back every night to play was the satisfying gameplay loops. Dredge has bite-sized chunks of gameplay easily executed before changing a diaper or settling a debate.
What is Dredge?
I am a sucker for an eerie Lovecraftian setting. Dredge stuffs you into a rundown boat with a fishing pole and asks you to catch fish. Pretty straightforward. The catch is you must be careful at night. As the sun sets and darkness cascades around your tiny boat, all manner of unnatural things happen, including plucking mutated fish from the ocean’s depths.
Luckily, the fishmonger in town will pay a pretty penny for these waterlogged abominations. The cash you receive can then upgrade your vessel from driftwood dingy to a high-powered sword of the sea. That’s the gist of Dredge’s gameplay. Catch fish, sell fish, and upgrade your boat to catch more fish. Upgrading your boat with the money or materials you collect and then venturing deeper into the ocean for more spoils (pun intended) is a satisfying game loop.
First Pause Menu: 25 minutes in
I booted up Dredge on my Xbox Series X and began my Lovecraftian journey after work. My kids were winding down before bed (by winding down, I mean running in circles after each other in front of the TV), and I decided to jump on the game before they put their tiny heads on billowy pillows. After about 25 minutes of game time, I was sitting in the Fishmonger menu selling some fluffy-faced deep sea abomination when my daughter hit me with the old “Daddy, wanna hear a joke?”
The obvious answer is no because she’s seven and not funny. However, I don’t want her growing up thinking daddy doesn’t listen to her, so I paused the game and said, “Sure.” I don’t recall the joke because it was terrible, but I smiled and said calmly, “OK, baby. That wasn’t funny.” I won’t lie to my kids. Daddy listens and speaks the truth.
The rest of the evening had me lost in the depths of Dredge as I poured my remaining energy into catching weirder and weirder fish or staying out just a little bit later on the water before going completely insane (in-game).
How is the pause menu?
It’s great. Not the UI or design (I can go on a whole thing about that if you like), but from a technical perspective. The pause menu stops the game. In an age of live-service video games, you can’t pause; it’s refreshing to get called away, pause the game, and not be penalized. I will be judging most pause menus from the perspective of a man who plays Destiny 2 and has to take an L whenever his wife or children need him mid-game.
From a design perspective (yup, I am going there), the pause menu is pretty stripped down. That isn’t bad; pause menus shouldn’t be adorned with too much flair. You are meant to navigate the menu quickly and easily. In that regard, Dredge is mostly successful. It isn’t flashy, but the minimal (not minimalist) aesthetic works with the game’s overall vibe. It feels like a colored in wireframe, which it very well might be.
Dredge’s satisfying game loop, bite-sized mechanics, and Eldritch narrative will entertain even the busiest gamer. The pause menu is fine and so was my daughter’s joke.