Dredge | Review – Fishing with H. P. Lovecraft

Dredge | Review – Fishing with H. P. Lovecraft

Dredge is, primarily, a fishing game. You explore a colorful and varied archipelago, which an appreciable artistic direction punctuates with captivating and evocative places, and when you find a school of fish, you use the numerous equipment available to reel in as many as possible; it is also a game that allows a fair amount of freedom, because the story proceeds in precise moments, which the player himself activates, and between one and the other you can do whatever you want; and, finally, it is a Lovecraftian restlessness, which, as per the literature canon of the Providence writer, creeps under the skin.

This seems to be a very fascinating whole, capable of uniting a simple but satisfying play and addictive, with mysterious and hallucinatory atmospheres. We have tried dozens and dozens of videogame declinations of fishing, and it is always with difficulty that we detach ourselves from it; it also happens in Dredge, because between the search for new points, the act of fishing itself, entrusted to very simple mini-games, and the discovery of the fish species of each area, a loop is generated from which it is really difficult to escape. At the same time, the progressive appearance of elements related to the supernatural and the progression of a story that clearly has its own style and content in the disturbing and disturbing are what most defines the identity of the game.

--> All this is true, but only up to a certain point, however, when already in the medium term of a production that in any case does not stand out for its longevity (it is possible to get to the end credits in about eight hours, without running, but also spending some more if you wanted to complete each secondary activity) the limits of an experience that always remains solid and appreciable, but of little depth begin to emerge.

What's there at the bottom of the sea?

Just to make a maritime comparison, Dredge is a game that sails peacefully a few meters from the shore, but never ventures over the ocean trenches, those that promise to keep the secrets of the oceans, which so much fear but also so much fascination they arouse. My first hours of playing were the most interesting and exciting ones, and it is certainly no coincidence. They are the ones in which the perfectly fitting union between a fascinating setting, immediately assimilable game mechanics and such particular atmospheres works best.

--> The first fishing trips are used to familiarize yourself with the tools of the trade and go smoothly, you make some money, necessary to repay a certain debt, and in the evening you stay at the dock, because we have been warned that it is not advisable to sail at night. On the other hand, the first vision of that very disturbing pillar of red light which illuminates a point of the sea when darkness falls already suggests that it is not the case to do so.

Then, in the networks you begin to find deformed, horrifying fish, the need to raise a little more money makes you stay at sea even when it gets dark, when disturbing phenomena appear, you get to know people who make you uncomfortable: in short, it begins a crescendo in which fans of the genre can only bask, among the echo of ancient myths, unexplained creatures that manifest themselves, cryptic messages and, more generally, a vast collection largely corresponding to that of the reference literature, including H.P. Lovecraft, Edgar Allan Poe and similar.

--> When one would expect a change of pace, however, this does not happen. The main plot, above all, does not become more dense and exciting, and we arrive at one of the two possible endings much more unloaded than we started. Similarly, one would expect this well-crafted game world to hold something more, but it doesn't: it takes effort to find and solve its secrets, but if some are really interesting most of the time the reward is not at all. effort height. One would like to be paid in stories, in emotions, one often receives objects.

A reliable engine, but a little stuttering

And the same goes for the closest play. The loop that involves fishing, selling, finding objects and upgrading the vehicle through new equipment always works, but small calibration errors and, above all, the progressive erosion of that enormous initial charm of the tones and atmospheres of the game, just when we it should be an elevation to power, in the long run they underline its repetitiveness.

Raising a new specimen is always a reason for satisfaction, especially when it comes to a mutated fish, a manifestation of the dark power that permeates the archipelago. However, there are always various nuisances to contend with, above all the lack of space on board the ship (the hold is organized like a grid, each object and fish occupies several boxes) and the need to constantly change and improve one's equipment . The system of improvements that underlies these aspects works and it is very pleasant to see the hold expand, to be able to install new lights, nets and rods, however the upgrades require too many materials, and looking for them is a nuisance, given the rarity of some of them . Then everything, from the sale of fish to repairs to upgrades, passes through special structures, and if on the one hand this is functional to the need to manage the inventory and one's time at sea, in the long run having to go there every time and do what it must not only become repetitive, but it also breaks the bond that a work so focused on certain atmospheres should create with the player. All in all venial sins, these as well as those of the narration, but which are definitely felt in the overall economy.

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