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How Dredge Corrupts ‘Cozy Fishing’ Into ‘Cosmic Horror’

Your voyage begins at first light. The sun ascends as you sail out, its sparkling reflection dancing on the gentle waves of the bay. Plentiful shoals of fish can be seen through the glassy surface as you peer into the water below. It’s a fine day for fishing. And the townsfolk are hungry.

Dredge opens with the above sequence, putting you behind the wheel of your boat within the first minute of gameplay. The scene is picturesque. Our glossy, stylized water ripples against islands with their trees swaying in the wind. Soon, sparse piano keys will join the cries of the seagulls overhead.

You’d be forgiven for thinking you’re in a happy place.

The sun sets sharply at six o’clock, and the fog descends soon after. Any anglers still left out on the water better have good lights, or they’ll never make it back to safe harbor.

Cosmic Horror Fishing

Dredge Screenshot

Dredge initially presents itself as a fishing game, and the premise is deliberately simple: catch fish, sell fish, upgrade your equipment. You’ll want to invest in your boat, as it’ll allow you to equip faster engines, better rods, and store more fish – all in a grid-based inventory that grows with your vessel. Money might seem important, but arguably your most vital resource is time. As you sail around, a day-night cycle is in motion, and it’s something to behold.

While you’re more likely to catch valuable, corrupted specimens in the dark, eldritch encounters are also more frequent – particularly in deeper water. You’ll also come across larger, hostile creatures which can be outsmarted (via abilities) or outmaneuvered (via a sufficiently upgraded vessel) rather than outgunned. Dilapidated towns you come across are home to peculiar residents with even stranger requests.

We try to twist every feature that might feel familiar into something unexpected, so that right from the start, you’ll sense that something sinister lurks under the surface. It’s no accident that the name ‘Dredge’ is adjacent to “dread” – we’ve infused every aspect of the game with an unsettling atmosphere. In this article, I’ll delve into the ways we’ve achieved this, and touch on how each element contributes to the overall experience.

A Harsh Aesthetic

Dredge Screenshot

The visuals of the game will immediately feel familiar to fans of typically joyous adventure and exploration games – and that’s where our subterfuge begins. What may appear to be very low-poly models are deceptively detailed, with jagged edges and shapes carved to accentuate false shadows. A dark and dreary color tone underpins the world, offsetting any warmth from the sun’s bright colors. It’s crucial to visually remind players that something unexpected could happen at any moment, even if everything seems calm right now.

We added angular edges to the portraits of characters – reminiscent of paint applied by palette knife – leaving harsh patterns on their faces and sleeves to match their already prickly dialogue. This same geometry is reflected in the clouds; normally light and fluffy things, here we made them sharp, and they shift between broken shapes.

This world doesn’t want you here. It wasn’t made for you. But you’ll explore it all the same.

The weather can be as unpredictable as the people you meet. Overcast days can turn into thunderous storms, causing high waves to slow your return to port. On that note, civilization itself is scarce and often dilapidated. It only makes sense that the others in this world are suffering as much as you, and have been for many years. This bleak and unforgiving landscape only adds to the feeling of isolation and despair that permeates the game.

When you drop your line to catch some fish, we pull the camera up above your boat, showing you the dark depths below. As we do this, we conveniently eliminate your peripheral vision. You’re focused on fishing, after all. At night, we bring the oppressive fog down around you, leaving you with nothing but a small circle of vision to navigate rocks and other hazards. The shapes you see through that fog might be imagined or real – I’m not sure which is worse.

This world doesn’t want you here. It wasn’t made for you. But you’ll explore it all the same.

No Wasted Words

Dredge Screenshot

In the world of Dredge, people are efficient and practical. As a result, we made sure their spoken dialogue reflects this utilitarian mindset. Each line tries to achieve at least two of the following goals:

  1. Give you an instruction.
  2. Add to the story of the world.
  3. Carry a sinister, suspicious or strange tone.

Despite the importance of dialogue in Dredge, we understand the value of brevity, and don’t want to keep you from the gameplay for too long. To avoid overwhelming you, most conversations are optional and can be skipped if you want. The world itself should do most of the talking, and the people in it aren’t so keen on gossip anyway. These characters don’t have names, either – they have roles, like “The Fishmonger”, and “The Mayor”. You wouldn’t want to get too familiar with them. They’re not your friends.

The atmosphere bleeds into item descriptions too, particularly in the fish. Strange, corrupt specimens you haul aboard might give you an insight to where they came from, and why.

Our storytelling doesn’t stop at the borders of the game itself, of course. The achievement descriptions and OST music track titles add a different perspective or give names to things which were unknowable or unspeakable inside the game itself.

Blending Genres

Dredge Screenshot

Juxtaposition is one of my favorite words to use when describing Dredge. The juxtaposition of ‘cosmic horror’ and ‘fishing’ genres is one of the things players love about it. We combined a lot of features, mechanics and concepts that wouldn’t normally exist together in the same game. We set out to create something fresh, unexpected, and unpredictable – and what better way to evoke the sense of cosmic horror than by diving into the unknown?

Xbox Live

DREDGE – Digital Deluxe Edition

Team17

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The ultimate pack for your impending voyage. The DREDGE Deluxe Edition includes everything you’ll need to weather the seas and trawl the deep for sinister secrets. Includes: DREDGE Blackstone Key in-game item Custom Rod (Pre-Purchase only)
Xbox Live

DREDGE

Team17

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Pre-Purchase DREDGE to receive the Custom Rod! Give yourself an advantage with this improved starting rod. You'll start the game with this stylish piece of equipment, decorated with the company colors of its creator. But it's not all just looks. Unlike other equipment you might find in DREDGE, this rod is in reasonable condition and should allow you to get the edge on other anglers – for a while at least. This grants access to the following item: Custom Rod This rod replaces the normal starting rod when beginning a new save. It can catch fish more effectively than some other rods of its size. Captain your fishing trawler to explore a collection of remote isles, and their surrounding depths, to see what lies below. Sell your catch to the locals and complete quests to learn more about each area’s troubled past. Outfit your boat with better equipment to trawl deep-sea trenches and navigate to far-off lands but keep an eye on the time. You might not like what finds you in the dark… Game Features ● Unravel a Mystery: Captain your fishing trawler across a collection of remote islands, each with its own inhabitants to meet, wildlife to discover, and stories to unearth ● Dredge the Depths: Scour the sea for hidden treasures and complete quests to gain access to strange new abilities ● Study Your Craft: Research special equipment and upgrade your boat’s capabilities to gain access to rare fish and valuable deep-sea curios ● Fish to Survive: Sell your discoveries to the locals to learn more about each area, and upgrade your boat to reach even more secluded locations ● Fight the Unfathomable: Strengthen your mind and use your abilities to survive trips out on the water after dark