2023 has been an amazing year for video game releases, especially in the indie scene. Earlier this year, we were blessed with one of the best, that being the Lovecraftian fishing game Dredge. It was a deep dive into madness, obsession, and of course, fishing for profit. A few months after its release, Black Salt Games decided to bring us a more glorious helping of fishing meets Eldritch horror, taking us to the frozen planes of the Pale Reach. Is it worth setting sail again to check out this new additional venture? What is Dredge and The Pale Reach?
So I won’t spend a huge amount of time going into detail on what Dredge is and providing a deep dive into it mechanics. You can read my glowing full review here
But a quick overview of the wonderful world of Dredge is simple; You’re a stranger who finds themselves washed up in a community known as The Marrows. As someone who now owes a debt to the major and townspeople, you are given a boat and asked to sell across the seas, fishing for tasty fish and supplying local communities nearby.
Soon enough, you will find yourself at the heart of an ancient mystery, involving 5 lost artefacts that when combined, will unleash a magnificent and possibly world-ending emergence of power. Dredge offers a vastly compelling narrative dripping in Eldritch horror lore, and provides a tightly woven gameplay loop of fishing, exploring, and surviving the night against unseen evils. It’s massively rewarding, highly risky, and immensely engrossing with a great sense of progression and meaningful gameplay touches. I absolutely loved it, and it’s among my highest recommendations for the year.
The world of Dredge is an expansive, ocean, filled with various outposts, islands and fishing towns that usually hide a sinister secret. From the Ancient Ruins surrounding an active volcano, to a Mediterranean paradise that harbours a sea monster of ungodly magnitude, who waits for you to pass over. There are some amazing location discoveries, and the Pale Reach is just another to add to the collection, where you will fish, explore, solve a compelling mystery and avoid the wrath a of horrifying sea monster. Warming up to the cold harshness of the sea
As mentioned, the many places you venture to in Dredge are all quite different in their aesthetics, rewards, or dangers. One moment you’re cramming your way through a series of looping pathways in a dank, decaying swamp being chased by an unknown beast. Then you explore a more picturesque cluster of smaller islands, littered with jagged rocks, looming high peaks that block out the sun, and of course a sea monster with a massive red eye that blurs your vision the closer it comes to you.
The new location is set in the furthest southern region of the map, which was once guarded by a gigantic sea turtle. The Pale Reach again an area that is vastly different, harbouring a visually impressive threat, presents new challenges to overcome and offers plenty of neat species of fish to capture. The frozen planes, the clusters of ice and the misty winds that coat the screen with light sprinkles of snow altogether create a beautiful harrowing and hostile environment. It’s immensely atmospheric, sending cold chills down your spine and making you feel completely and utterly dead. Your arrival is incredibly hostile, as you fumble your way around to find the friendly floating merchant that offers refuge and upgrades. Right away it presents the same level of danger and intrigue as all the other locations have done, but offers quite possibly the most dense in atmosphere and mood, since Devil's Spine.
The first stepping stone towards the greater mystery at hand is learning of a photographer who’s gone out to see the sights and sounds of the Pale Reach and hasn’t come back. You find her, and soon enough discover the one main, and very angry denizen of the region, a flesh-eating Narwhal, which doesn’t take too kindly to your arrival.
Soon enough the Eldritch themes kick in as exploring the Pale Reach reveals a cold heart tale of an expedition long lost and something much larger and more sinister…. With several eyes. *Random Mr Freeze quote from Batman and Robin here*
What happens in the Pale Reach and the lore within is great, particularly with the lost crew encased in ice, warning you of the horrors in the area, while a man-eating Narwhal keeps you on your toes as you explore, fish and break some ice. The main objectives are of course to find key items, whether it be to build an ice-breaker tool that fits to the front of your ship and thus allows you to break through ice. Or be it searching and fishing out other key items to progress the story. It’s familiar and no new major mechanics are introduced, aside from the ice breaker and the ability to gather ice for your ship, which keeps fish fresher for longer.
The steady unravelling of the mystery did keep me invested and unnerved at times, wondering if I should carry out certain acts and if I would live long enough to regret them. While it doesn’t end on much of a bang, it is indeed a rather unsettling note which leaves many unanswered questions, that will keep me awake at night for some time to come. Plus, there is some fantastic loot, which is super useful if you haven’t finished the game yet.
The Pale Reach is immensely enjoyable to explore, with a couple of neat points of interest, that were visually beautiful and hauntingly unwelcoming. The icebreaker is a great new addition, that opens locked areas of the region, making for some fun and progressive exploration. The many new types of fish just add to the whirlpool of denizens of the deep that make you awe in wonder and be freaked out by the creatively cosmic horror-styled fishes. The Pale Reach is not massively, overlong, clocking in a round 2 hours to finish overall, but does give you plenty of reason to come back and fish, due to the value of your catches.
I did find that the Narwhal itself wasn’t a massive threat as I hoped for, being quite easy to outrun and lose, as it mainly stays in the more open area of the Pale Reach. Although I found many of the other stalker sea monsters to be just the same, where you can learn their patterns and basically avoid them easily. Aside from the Serpent of the Gale Cliffs, this was quite a good stalker and true threat, due to its size, and how the screen would distort when it approached you.
I like the design of the Narwhal and the presence it has, but I feel maybe something much larger like a giant whale would have been more engaging to deal with and a bigger, bolder threat overall. I would have loved the chance to take on a stalker monster, in a battle of wits, and maybe even kill it to end the region’s story. But again, I get that the tone is more about the undying horrors that will always be there when you return to fish for more resources and so forth.
The Pale Reach is a great addition to Dredge, and while it could have elevated the tension and threat with a better stalker enemy, the region is fascinating and enjoyable overall. There’s a cool new mystery here to unravel, with plenty of strange fishes to catch, new abilities and gear to acquire and just an impressive and oppressive new region to explore that feels immensely unsettling and fun to sail around in. I absolutely love Dredge and would be thrilled to see an expanded world that harbours more dangers, cosmic mysteries, and tasty fish to catch.
++ The Pale Reach is a stunning, and harrowing place to explore.
+ Cool new mystery to unravel.
+ Same awesome Dredge vibes, great gameplay and new additions to gear
- The threat could be more threatening…
- Climax could have been a little more exciting
A review code for Dredge: The Pale Reach was kindly provided by Team 17.