There are real monsters in the deep blue sea of Black Salt Games' fishing adventure, that'll keep pushing you to dive in deeper and deeper.
Lets be honest, the open ocean is terrifying. It's vast, powerful and isolating.
Take all of that and head into the waves in DREDGE where the raw elements aren't the scariest part, it's the actual sea monsters lurking just below the surface.
But every day I journeyed out again in search of resources and my next haul, pushing further and further until I was too scared to go on and pulled into harbour to escape the waking nightmares.
Catch of the day
If you've played any major game of the last twenty or so years, you're likely to have come across a fishing mini game, usually they are pretty simple, wait for the queue and press a button at the appropriate time and Black Salt Games have taken basically a greatest hits of fishing games approach.
As you're pulling in your catch you try to hit the green target zones as a marker moves across spinning wheels, segmented semi-circles or timed rotations.
It's pretty variety each of the different types of fish have their catching mini game, which can be really finicky and felt a little bit punishing at times, though you can turn off the penalty for missing the mark in the settings.
Once you've pulled in your fish, there is a diablo style inventory management game where you position the fish-tetrominoes into your cargo hold and you'll be quickly prioritising space for profit.
All pretty straightforward so far right? Well the longer you stay out the more fearful you become and that increases the likelihood you'll run into punishing random events.
Stay out too late and you'll start seeing eerie echoes of your own ship, foghorn blaring through the darkness, which are anglerfish masquerading right up until they clasp their jaws around you.
Random sharks can appear and torpedo their way towards your hull causing you to lose precious cargo or your equipment damaged hindering your journey back home.
Rocks can appear just in front of you if you're scared or birds will steal your fish, so you'll be scurrying from safe port to calm harbour before bedding down for the night.
And that's where DREDGE works really nicely, you've got a wide horizon of possibilities ahead of you but each night you'll need to prioritise your pursuits, there isn't anyway to get it all done in one go.
There is always a bigger fish
There is a real push and pull, that risk versus reward feeling of pushing a bit further to see if you can collect a little bit more equipment, a few more planks or valuable seafood to pay for it all.
If you go to far you risk losing your payday but there are only cheap fish near the safest ports.
It's really nicely suited to the pick up and play short sessions, I played the vast majority of the game on the Steam Deck, but equally on the Nintendo Switch a few days and nights of work feels really satisfying.
As you become a more seasons sailor you'll be able to secure the bigger fish, and journey further out to varied island chains of this creepy archipelago emboldened by the eldritch powers imbued upon your vessel.
There is a weirdness to the waters in DREDGE, with horrifying aberrations or valuable fish variants lurking in the schools, and a creepy main plot surrounding cursed drowned items scattered throughout the world.
As you progress through each of the island chains you'll gain the ability to instantly travel, push your engines forward with supernatural speed and more.
It always feels precarious whenever you're heading out into the world and that dread sits with you even as you get faster, stronger and better equipped.
Beside the seaside
As you scurry into each of the seaside communities after a long night you'll meet a cast of grim characters who feel just like you do, eking out a meager existence, in a world that feels completely in decline.
There are moments of connection here, you'll be able to rescue heirlooms and reunite family members, but this isn't a world that's thriving.
This sombre ensemble will send you out in search of treasures or sealife in fetch quests that feel pretty natural, though more than once I accidentally sold an item which was needed to complete the request. Whoops.
Even though the world feels a little bleak there were definitely moments of wonder, like the first time I sailed into a bio luminescent atoll brimming with life and a giant tentacled beast at its centre, it was stunning.
I didn't have too much time to ponder however, I had full cargo of fish to sell and more to explore.
DREDGE has a lot to offer the player willing to push forward and explore and will keep pulling you out into the waves like a riptide.
A copy of DREDGE on PC was provided to SIFTER for the purpose of this review.