Dredge Review: Perfect Lovecraftian Horror Wrapped in a Cozy Game

Dredge is a beautiful anomaly among games. It’s a fun, unique video game that combines popular genres of cozy games with Lovecraftian horror. Seeing as how that’s a sentence that doesn’t usually make sense, it hints at the remarkable game that Dredge brings us, and the unique world that it brings to life.

Dredge is a horror fishing game that has day-time mechanics of a cozy relaxing fishing game before turning up the cerebral dread and horror of a Lovecraftian mystery. This 2 in 1 genre blend combines for a very unique indie game providing a one of a kind experience.

Dredge is the first game produced by Black Salt Games Studios and if this game is any indication, their future is very, very bright. A game that starts with the cozy comfortable mechanics of fishing, of upgrading your boat, of turning hard work into increasing wealth quickly steps to the side as more and more strange occurrences begin to take place.

Will you discover the mysteries the area has to offer? Will you find salvation or succumb to mysterious Eldritch horrors? Only time will tell.

Dredge Early Morning
What a disarmingly beautiful beginning to a cozy game.

How Dredge Starts

The player finds themselves waking up in town after a cut scene where their boat went straight into the rocks. The bad news is your boat is unfixable. The good news? There just happens to be a boat the Mayor is willing to sell to you on the cheap so you can start fishing the plentiful waters in the area. How convenient!

The beginning of the game does a great job of walking you through the mechanics of being a fisherman, the importance of equipment, and the services that everyone in the town can provide. The local mechanic can repair a damaged boat, sell you upgrades, while the fishmonger buys your fish and occasionally has a special mission for you.

You are in the Town of Big Minnow, with Little Minnow across the bay, and several fishing spots close by to walk you through how to do it. The decision to allow a player to eventually pull in the fish even if they do nothing, but speed it up by playing the mini-game, is a good choice that adds to the early cozy game vibes that Dredge puts off.

The mini-game changes based on the type of fish and difficulty of fish, making you pay attention and keeping you engaged. This fishing mechanic does something most farm sims struggle immensely with: it makes fishing enjoyable. The fact there are over 100 fish to be found in this world, including sharks, squid, and some serious aberrations indicating that maybe, just maybe, something is going on.

This is a great way to keep the game fresh and interesting, and the mechanics work extremely well, to the point where it wouldn’t surprise me to eventually see a full-time fishing cozy game that looks at copying these mechanics or something similar to them.

fish monger Dredge
The fishmonger will be an important early game friend to buy all those fish you’ll be packing the hull with!

The Seductive Siren’s Song of Dredge

One thing that stands out instantly about Dredge’s design is its ability to afflict an emotional reaction. Many games when the build up happens before a jump feel you know it, you play along, but there isn’t any actual visceral feeling of anxiety or anxiousness.

Many times in Dredge I actually felt emotion. When I’d look up from fishing and see it was already midnight, the wide eye of paranoia staring right at my boat, sometimes panic set in. Was this the moment I pushed too far and would now be destroyed?

Playing the game brought excitement when setting out for a new location, hoping I had a good enough engine and could find a safe dock to get there safely. The world was interesting, the fishing was enjoyable to the point I’d stop and fish while traveling even when I knew I probably shouldn’t, and every part of the game just works.

New characters have their stories and open up tasks or mysteries worth exploring, messages in bottles scattered throughout the world give pieces of an increasingly terrifying story that sounds remarkably similar to yours, and as you continue to make your boat better, stronger, faster, and more able to catch fish, you seem inevitably drawn to exploring this remarkably deep and interesting world.

The day provides a relaxing and cozy fishing game, but as the local fishing holes are fished out, recovering slowly, you must go out further and further in order to fill the hull. As you find yourself having to go out further to fish and further to get back you stay out later. There’s another fishing hole, there’s something glittering begging for investigation, wait is that another boat? Are you hearing whispers? Did…did those rocks just appear out of thin air?

Dredge Aurora
What a beautiful evening sight. At least that’s what I thought before this run went horribly, horribly wrong.

Relaxing Fishing Cozy Game By Day…

The first few fish you find will have one type of mini-game, but as you expand there will be a split track that the arrow jumps in between. There are then full rings with small circles coming in from both sides. Then later rings go from in to out and the outer ring and need to be matched up.

In other words, a wide array of different mini-games keeps this game fresh, interesting, and makes the cozy fishing game aspect of Dredge interesting, satisfying, and entertaining. As you upgrade fishing rods, nets, and engines to get further and further out, you will run into new types of fish and new mini-games that often come with them.

Eventually you unlike the ability to add draw nets, which allows you to drag a net behind you and grab random fish (some of which can only be caught this way) while exploring. This is nice because you can keep making money without having to stop for a mini-game as you explore local islands, check out anything glittering, and learn more about the remarkable work around you.

There is something deeply satisfying about improving your boat, learning new techs, and bringing in the catch for more money. Some of those upgrades are expensive. And sometimes when you stay out too long you run into…something…and need repairs, which can stack up.

Nerve Wracking Mystery By Evening…

There is a distinct shift as you hit the evening hours. The skies darken and it seems like far away distances close in on your ship. The fog is coming in, the eye opens measuring panic, and you get an increasing sense of dread. Strange lights might appear in the distance. Maybe you should investigate. Maybe you shouldn’t.

Are you going to leave that cry for help unanswered? Do you want to see who is going around on a wooden ship in modern times? Maybe you just want a shot at those special fish that only come out once evening begins to set in.

Things get strange. The music takes on a nervous tone, and you learn very quickly to become paranoid. You worry about every movement, about lights that may or may not be there, and…does the location of the lighthouse move? Is it really that close?

Some of the fish you catch will have extremely bright colors of fish contrast with colors of the surrounding environment and while beautiful it’s an unnatural beauty that doesn’t belong in such a setting, and only further heightens anxiety and the sense that something isn’t quite right.

Dredge Ghost Ship
A ghost whaling ship heading towards the same dock as me? Nope. Nope, nope, nope!

Lovecraftian Horror Game By Night…

The undercurrent of dread and anxiety carries over and extends into night when panic can reach massive levels and things may or may not appear that can do some serious damage to your sanity…and your boat. The light is your little bit of defense against the horrors of the night…until it burns out.

Shapes, colors, whispers all hint at dark mysteries that demand your attention and exploration, pulling you into a world that is less Stardew Valley and more into a level of Lovecraftian terror that no fisherman ever wants to find themselves in.

The first night out you may survive or you may not. You will learn very quickly why all the townsfolk warn you not to go out at night, and despite the potential dangers, there’s something that keeps drawing you out. A need to explore, but you will learn very quickly that ghost ships on the water, strange moving lights, and disturbing rushed whispers are hardly the worst out there.

The game doesn’t try to be Lovecraftian horror by being overwhelming or direct…though in late game there are shock moments where the world lets you know the “rules” you thought kept you safe don’t always and night horrors can come into the day if you’re not careful.

The creeping dread invokes an anxiety, an excitement, a paranoid eye always watching the Eye of Panic at the top and the clock. The darkness is your enemy and a dock to spend the night is crucial to have any chance of surviving through to see the next

The more you see and experience, the more panicked and insane you become, and the more panicked and insane you are, the more likely you are to be found and assaulted by something not explainable in this world.

And with the Eldritch undercurrents of it all taking place, the lighthouse looks out over it all.

Eldritch Monster attacking boat Dredge
Oh god what is that, what is that, why is the eye looking at me? Not pictured: The 4 tentacles?/vines? and 3 hull damage that followed. Ouch.

The Tension Builds Throughout The Game

The tension builds throughout the game of Dredge in a way that makes it really work. It’s possible to fish for days or even weeks early on, make it to port, and not press your luck at all. Just fish out the nearby fishing holes while moving in between Greater Minnow and Lesser Minnow, play this like a relaxing cozy game and keep your boat in dock at night.

The world will keep calling and drawing you out, as will the need to find better fishing holes further and further away, as well as new spots where you can dredge for supplies like cloth, wood, metal, or even the occasional lost treasure.

Dredge isn’t the gloomiest game, and it isn’t the grittiest. It works powerfully with subtlety that infects the player and is threaded all through the game, giving that strong Lovecraftian experience that scratches players looking for that itch and really delivers on the feel of a cosmic horror game, of being insignificant in a universe holding terrifying secrets that don’t care about you, aren’t moved by you, and which are too much to resist.

Not in the form of all out, in your face expressions, but that subtle and steady influence.

This is a game that elicits genuine excitement to explore, curiosity at what you find, and genuine anxiety as you experience more of night and learn firsthand why you need to rush to the docks at night. That time, the disappearance of light, becomes something that invokes actual emotion, that creates a need to rush in, and genuine emotional relief when you get in without incident.

Especially when the panic eye is at full size and staring down as you pull the boat into the dock.

This is an incredible strength of this indie game, and one that is very hard to find in most modern gaming experiences.

Positives of Dredge

  • This is a game that inspires genuine wonder and excitement, something all too rare in modern games
  • The controls are outstanding with fishing, exploring, and navigating all simple, responsive, and intuitive
  • Good soundtrack and stunningly good use of sound effects to set the mood
  • Remarkable job capturing the vibes of what makes a good Lovecraftian horror title
  • Outstanding and beautiful world with deceptive depth – the ocean is outright beautiful at times…when it’s not terrifying
  • The many variations of the fishing mini-game keep things interesting and tap perfectly into those “cozy game” mechanics that are so popular

There’s a lot to love about what Dredge brings to the table! I am a huge fan of the world, the exploration, the pacing. Even the fishing mini-games are fun, and this is coming from someone who uses non-fishing ways to Min-Max Stardew Valley runs (aka “Not Real Min-Maxing”) to avoid fishing.

Dredge is a wonderful game that has delivered a quality gaming experience that I rarely find. The music, plot, and mechanics synchronize perfectly and form an atmosphere that is perfect for the game.

Negatives of Dredge

I had to really think about this as there are so many pros and so few cons, and I had to reach for some, but if there were some negatives or things that could be worked on, they were these:

  • Things can get a bit repetitive in the late game, especially when there’s really nothing to spend money on
  • Late game progression can be a touch imbalanced
  • At the end of the day this is a fishing game and if you have no interest in this, it’s harder to appreciate what else the game can offer
  • Crab fishing feels like an add-on that can be all but ignored

The positives heavily outweigh the negatives, and I am nitpicking to get three but these are little things in game design that could have been addressed. While money is good for boat repairs when you have to push your luck in the late game, there’s a certain point where you just don’t feel any tension in the money vs boat health balance.

Dredge Game Map

Dredge Final Grade

For me this is a delightfully rare grade, but it’s worth it. I give Dredge a 10/10.

I admit that I am a fan of both cozy games and Lovecraft style horror, so for me this is a game I’m going to be biased towards liking. I’d understand people who might give the game 9/10 or even 8/10 if they tend not to be cozy game or Lovecraft fans, but the fact those grades are still high shows just how unique and remarkable and experience this game can be.

And remember, with the Eldritch undercurrents and mysteries all taking place, the lighthouse looks out over it all, offering an increasingly false sense of safety from that which searches for a new victim with every evening and nightly fog.

Dredge Video Game FAQ

Is there a time limit to Dredge?

Only with some side quests. If you find side quests with solo individuals on an island or hiding in the shallows, these are often time based and you only have so much time to make sure they don’t starve to death or otherwise get wrecked. So if you do find someone on an unmarked island the clock could be ticking on that one.

Where can I find Aurora Jellyfish?

The Aurora Jellyfish is one of the samples needed by the Researcher and it can be tricky because it’s impossible to catch with a fishing rod. You need to have a trawling net and spend some time around the Stellar Basin at night. Do this enough with the net and you will eventually pick up an Aurora Jellyfish.

Is Dredge a horror video game?

Dredge is a unique horror video game that goes away from traditional tired jump scares and goes in the Lovecraftian sense of dread and creeping terror. It could be considered a cozy game-horror game blend…which is a fascinating new genre, for sure.

What platforms are Dredge available on?

Currently you can get Dredge on Steam, PC, PS4, PS5, and Xbox.

Take a look at some of these amazing screenshots, all from my first 10 or so hours playing Dredge and exploring (albeit slowly) what the world has to offer:

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