Dredge: The Pale Reach Review – Narwhals, Narwhals, Swimming in the Ocean

Dredge, the breakout Eldritch horror fishing game from Black Salt Games, completely blew me away this year. The perfect mix of horror atmosphere, addictive gameplay, weird characters, compelling narrative, and onerous music captured my heart in a way few games have, landing Dredge near the top of my list of the best indie game of all time.

I was psyched for more content in the first expansion, The Pale Reach, and what I got from it was… exactly that. The Pale Reach is about two hours more of the same kind of content from the base game. While it was nice to revisit such an all-timer, the lack of distinctiveness from the base game bothered me more than the short length. 

dredge 2
Get you a woman who can sell fish AND fix your crab nets.

The Pale Reach is not extra story for the campaign, but simply a new island formation that appears on the south end of the map. Players can head there any time after clearing the first island, or, if you’re on a finished save file like mine, you’ll be transported back to right before the final decision. I made haste and crossed the sea quickly to see what new horrific delights the folks at Black Salt Games had dreamed up this time.

The answer is… not much. Upon arriving, you’ll meet your old friend the traveling merchant, who gives you the lay of the land. This frozen archipelago is haunted by a vicious narwhal-like monster that is constantly hunting whoever enters its territory. If the narwhal catches you, it’ll take out a piece of your ship (possibly including the engines) which is basically the worst thing that can happen to you in Dredge. Exploring around you’ll meet other familiar figures, including the Photographer and the Hooded Figure, each with short side quests.

Dredge 3
They keep calling this the narwhal, but last I checked whales didn’t have claws.

The main quest of The Pale Reach essentially boils down to finding and dredging up four pieces of an old machine to build an ice breaker onto your boat so you can explore The Pale Reach more freely. After doing that, you’ll find the four sunken ice picks, free the four frozen sailors, collect their souls, and deposit them into an altar to put an Elder God to sleep again. These things are all marked on the map so it’s exceedingly easy to find them all. Congrats! You’ve completed The Pale Reach.

This island is in fact about exactly as content-rich as the other five islands in the base game; I think the reason I feel a tad unfulfilled is that the narwhal wasn’t even a little scary, and that the story of the four lost sailors was much more boring than anything in the base game and also completely disconnected from the main story. There’s about a dozen new types of fish and crabs as well, but it took me less than two hours to 100% this area (not counting getting all aberrations).

This Elder God looms over The Pale Reach but does nothing to interact with you.

One thing that made this much less fun was that I already have the Banish ability from late game – every time I saw the narwhal coming, I simply used Banish to stop it. It only actually hit me once during the course of my playtime by sneaking up on me while I was fishing. It ended up barely being a threat, and the wispy red lights that appear at night to slow your ship were very much my greater enemy.

Overall, I think The Pale Reach is priced fairly for its two hours of content, and the Steam description is very upfront about how small it is. I 100% completed this DLC in one sitting, and while I enjoyed being back in the fantastical world of Dredge, some of the spark from the main game was missing here. I did enjoy The Pale Reach, but if I had to rank each of the six regions in Dredge, this icy biome would come dead last. If you loved the base game as much as I did, it may be worth it to kick in a few bucks for a few more hours back at the helm. However, there are more expansions on the horizon, and you’re probably better off waiting until they’re all released to really sink your teeth in again.

Nirav played Dredge on PC with a review code.

Notify of

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments