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If you've ever been to the sea, you might have thought about trying your hand at fishing.
From a distance, this calm yet rewarding pastime seems like a great way to slow down time and get a free fish supper without having to go down to the chippie.
But once you've played Team17's terrifying new fishing simulator, Dredge, you won't ever want to pick up a rod again.
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This critically acclaimed new indie game from the folks at Black Salt Games might not look very frightening at first glance. After all, you play a lonely fisherman who gets to gently sail a small cartoon boat around some idyllic islands.
When you first start the game, you interact with a couple of weird, if friendly locals who aid you on your path to catch totally normal, tasty fish like cod or mackerel.
Nothing seems out of the ordinary, except everyone is very keen to tell you not to venture out to sea after sunset.
I was honestly too scared to go sailing at night in the game thanks to these old fishwives' tales, which made me feel like a real-life fisherman being given warnings by the crochety locals.
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However, once the local fishmonger asks you to go and bring home a special catch one night, I had no choice but to head out into the dark waters.
The tone and mood of the game instantly shift as soon as you're sailing at night, and this is aided in no small part by your panic meter which starts giving the fisherman hallucinations the more scared he becomes. The atmosphere is dripping with doom and panic, and the shift in mood is a real testament to the game's developers.
What's kept me going is Dredge's incredibly satisfying gameplay loop. Sailing around, gathering new materials, upgrading the ship and finding new secrets in the depths is hugely fun and also relaxing—just what I need after finishing Elden Ring.
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But now I'm deep into the game and have made it to other islands in the archipelago, I'm just too scared to keep going. I've had my fair share of run-ins with sea monsters and tornadoes already, and it absolutely sets my blood pressure skyrocketing.
It means it's quite difficult to actually finish the game and fully uncover the mysteries of its compelling story. 10 or so hours in, I still don't know if the monsters are real or just a figment of the lonely Fisherman's imagination. Maybe they should release a version with a 'Peaceful mode'—some of us just want to fish, guys.
Despite my own scaredy-cat nature, Dredge is an immensely fun and beautifully designed indie game that deserves to make some Game of the Year lists in 2023. Just make sure you play with the lights on.
Dredge is available on PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X | S, Nintendo Switch and PC. Buy it now
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