- A Nibbled-to-Death Narrative
- Narwhals, Sea Behomths, and Sailors Oh My!
- Freaky Frozen Fish
- Bombastic Barritones and Chilling Chimes
- Finished Before Frostbite Sets In
- Curse of the Default Settings
- Frozen Forevermore?
- Overall Pros and cons
- Alternative Dredge-tastic Adventures for Your Consideration
- Play Log
- Score: 7 Good
I adored Dredge’s cozy nautical horror. Between comfortably fishing for monsters, dodging undersea terrors, and confronting the Lovecraftian mystery behind it all, I was in love with the relaxing, spooky delight.
Though the game had a few notable flaws in its late-game grinding and repetitive gameplay, I was thrilled for the announcement of its frozen DLC: The Pale Reach.
Set in the freezing glacial region south of the main town, the Pale Reach promised an entirely new island to explore, brimming with treacherous frozen passages, an evil pursuing Narwhal, and an ancient enigma waiting for our arrival.
However, though the game’s impressive new setting, gameplay, and music live up to its cold promise, I was disappointed with its increasingly short length and ran into many crashes that made the Pale Reach borderline unplayable for PC before fixing it in the settings.
And yet, even after the Pale Reach stole away mountains of progress, I was enraptured by its wintery landscape and enjoyed its fantastic new rewards and challenges.
Though it’s hard to recommend the Pale Reach as a standalone DLC, its low price point and new features and challenges offer an extra challenge for Dredge fans looking for one more island to explore. Regardless, I hope you brought a warm jacket for this cold review of the Pale Reach!
A Nibbled-to-Death Narrative
I was rather lukewarm about the Pale Reach’s frosty narrative. For our part, the Pale Reach tasks us with freeing several sailors from the 1800s, frozen in the ice, for trying to excavate a frozen Lovecraftian creature.
Though its giant creature buried in the ice drew me in, and the prospect of befriending these century-old sailors, I was sad to see this premise was the entire story.
Aside from reading these doomed sailors’ logs, conversing with their shadow forms, and reading the stones telling of an ancient primordial battle, the Pale Reach doesn’t build to a grand climatic finale; it just worldlessly ends and gives us new gear for our efforts.
Frankly, especially with the frozen monster at the island’s center, the Pale Reach’s brief length is unsatisfyingly short for a promised piece of DLC.
Though the other islands had at least built to something, like lighting a devout cultist on fire or giving an army man closure by killing brain bugs, we never have had the satisfaction of finally trapping the Narwhal or sharing a moment with an entombed monster.
All-in-all, I can’t recommend this DLC for players looking for an icy narrative to complement the main game. Though there is a slimmer of gripping eldritch horror to be found here, it’ll decay before you can return in time to sell it.
Narwhals, Sea Behomths, and Sailors Oh My!
Even if I was disappointed with the story, I adored a few of the Pale Reach’s new additions to Dredge’s gameplay. While the core fishing and traversal mechanics remain the same, the Pale Reach takes place in an enclosed set of tight, icy passages with a massive narwhal that chases us each time we enter the area.
Even with a fully upgraded boat, navigating through the icy passages is tricky, especially when the Narwhal decides to chase us down, so I was always on edge with every tight corner.
I will admit that getting chased by the Narwhal in broad daylight was more annoying than spooky and was slightly frustrating, especially dealing with several crashes before I could successfully appease the evil marine mammal.
However, compared to the other islands’ spread-out landscapes, I adored feeling trapped in this frosty wasteland and meekly returning to the fish merchant for repairs each time I survived a narrow encounter with the horned fiend.
Especially with the rewarding Radient Trawl Net and Aurous Anchor teleportation device, I enjoyed the DLC more as I no longer had to panic about returning to the pier in time and could catch more fish with each haul.
Overall, the Pale Reach offered a final challenge island for Dredge fans looking for one last island to test themselves with and an enjoyable cutdown on the late-game grinding.
Though the intermittent crashes prevented me from genuinely enjoying it after seeing my hours of hard-earned progress erased after a crash screen, the few moments of victory felt especially rewarding.
Freaky Frozen Fish
Though no sight, in particular, stood out, except perhaps for a massive frozen monster and a few fish aberrations, the Pale Reach still managed to match Dredge’s level of satisfying surreal visuals.
Frankly, it’s hard to be wowed after exploring the bioluminescent Stellar Basin at night and curiously making my way to the center, only for a giant squid to tear me apart.
Even so, the new frosty setting’s cast of icy sea horrors is still as satisfyingly creepy as before, and though the nighttime blizzards never seemed spooky, they usually put me in situations with the Narwhal that made me fear for my life.
I’ll admit, however, that the Yeti-Narwhal design was somewhat out of place for Dredge (i.e. giving fish arms and a lion roar felt wrong), though the frozen, monstered sailors and aberrant fish remained a surreal delight.
Overall, the Pale Reach visuals were more of Dredge’s terrifying fish sights but with a frosty touch that offered a new flavor of horror to enjoy. Some of the spooky Frozen mountains even made me long to abandon my boat to explore their frozen secrets.
Bombastic Barritones and Chilling Chimes
To realize the frozen visuals, the Pale Reach boasts a horde of music and creepy sounds that transported me to the evil North Pole setting.
Between the new soundtrack’s haunting baritones and chimes, it was hard to resist the island’s oppressive atmosphere, feeling as though its icey caves contained a cold, uncaring horror that would tear us to pieces lest we disturb it.
Even if I was a little annoyed with the evil narwhal lion roars, the icey whispers and satisfying clicks of a giant monster closing its eyes were a welcome complement.
Beyond that, the Pale Reach more of Dredge’s pseudo-ASMR fish sounds with superb slimy plops each time a fish is moved into our cargo, leaving you feeling ever uneasy each time you stick a fish in the cargo.
All-in-all, if you liked listening to Dredge’s assortment of fishy sounds and haunted tracks, you’ll be right at home with this assortment of sound effects and music. I don’t know if I’ve grown to enjoy the slimy fish sounds, but it’s hard to resist a little satisfaction each time a delightful “shlop” sounds in the cargo.
Finished Before Frostbite Sets In
Despite my grievances with the short narrative, I appreciated progressing through and eventually opening up the Pale Reach with new equipment and rewards.
Though we’re locked from initially exploring most of the biome’s paths and will have to travel a narrow tunnel with each trip cautiously, we eventually earn an icebreaker that opens up new sidepaths and can explore every inch of the frozen island for new treasures.
Frankly, I appreciated the game for gradually making me work to open areas and then over-reward me with powerful new gear that trivialized fishing and made me rich beyond my wildest dreams.
Chief among my favorites was the Aurous Anchor reusable teleporter to the manor that let me escape a tight situation for repairs or selling fish without losing my position and the crystal trawl net that regularly caught colossal squids and aberrants.
Frankly, for Dredge fans looking to cut down on the money grind of gathering fish and wanted to catch aberrations more efficiently, these additions were a welcome find for late-game completions or early-game players looking for a gamble to make the rest of Dredge a piece of cake.
Overall, even if it only took me a few hours to finish the Pale Reach and all its sidequests, I relished every inch of progress and powerful new item in the area. Even with the mystery gone, I’m still itching to catch that last aberration variant and 100% the Pale Reach for my collection.
Curse of the Default Settings
My biggest gripe with the Pale Reach that almost led me to quit the experience entirely was the intermittent crashes I experienced that took away mountains of progress. Pro-tip for PC players: do not run the Pale Reach in Windowed Borderless mode; if you’re anything like me, you will experience crash after crash until you almost call it or discover a solution.
Luckily, I ended up experimenting and switching to Fullscreen mode, which prevented any further crashes, though experiencing up to 20 of the ruinous events was enough for me to almost write off the Pale Reach as a pale imitator of the main game.
All in all, as long as your PC is set to the appropriate settings, you should have a flawless time running the frozen DLC without issue. If not, then may the cold ocean have mercy on your icy soul.
Given the Pale Reach’s short length, it’s hard to say I’d have much to look forward to a second time around. To be fair, I would like to try my luck early on in a new playthrough and push for the crystal trawl net to forgo worrying about money and have a panic button with the Aurous Anchor teleporter.
And yet, having to dodge the Narwhal again or slowly make my way through the claustrophobic narrows sounds like a frustrating path to follow, and I’d mainly pursue this DLC again for the rewards rather than to make the most of the challenging content.
In short, while it’s hard to consider forgoing the Pale Reach on future playthroughs for its bountiful rewards, I doubt I’ll enjoy the novelty of its rewards or frozen climate on a second playthrough.
Overall Pros and cons
- Rewarding Teleporter Stone and Trawl Net
- Challenging Tight Passages and Narwhal Chases
- Gorgeous Winter Biome and Atmosphere
- Elimination of Late Game Money Grinding
- Extremely Brief Content to Explore
- Easy to Crash on Wrong Settings
- Unfulfilling Eldritch Narrative
- Narwhal isn’t Spooky
Alternative Dredge-tastic Adventures for Your Consideration
To be honest, Dredge: The Pale Reach may not be your cup of tea. The short length and lack of a compelling narrative are major letdowns for Dredge fans expecting more from the frozen DLC expansion. Luckily, several other cozy horror games offer a more comprehensive Lovecraftian narrative, a more terrifying frozen wasteland, or other fishing adventurers to get into.
If Dredge the Pale Reach doesn’t sound up your alley, I highly recommend the titles below:
- Subnautica: Below Zero
- The Long Dark
- Dave the Diver
- Outer Wilds
JT Spent 4.5 Hours getting chased by an evil narwhal, collecting a mountain of frozen fish, and freeing the Pale Reach from the influence of a dead Eldritch beast. He’s obtained nearly every new fish and aberration, completed every sidequest, and outfitted his boat with some of the most high-tech fishing equipment on the high seas.
Though he’s still scouring the frozen content for the last goblin shark aberration, he plans to fish on the icy content for a bit longer before taking his Aurous Anchor back to the lighthouse and feeding himself to a sea monster to end his experience.
Afterward, JT plans to return to the Pale Reach and challenge himself to complete the frozen DLC on stream with the most ramshackle boat available to cap off his wintery adventure.
Question: How Long is Dredge the Pale Reach?
Answer: Dredge the Pale Reach takes about 1.5 hours to complete, though it may take longer, depending on your experience and the type of boat in your arsenal. For those looking to 100% the DLC, Dredge can easily add another 2 hours to finish the remaining two sidequests and collect every fish.
Question: What Should I Do After Obtaining the Aurous Anchor?
Answer: Looking for the Ice Shaper, fulfilling the whims of the Figure in White, and putting your frozen hearts into the rock slab will complete all quest content for the Pale Reach, allowing access to its bountiful rewards.
For players more interested in achieving 100% completion, you can go after every remaining ice fish and its aberrant variant to effectively complete the Pale Reach.
Question: Where is the Ice Shaper?
Answer: The Ice Shaper is in one of the golden puddles on the South Western passages blocked by ice on the island. After giving it back to the merchant sisters, the duo now sells frozen ice to keep your fish from decaying onboard your ship.
Score: 7 Good
All-in-all, even if I had a few issues with its short content or its brief few crashes, I was satisfied with every ounce of the Pale Reach’s icy eldritch horrors and terrifying gameplay additions.
Overcoming the tightly packed narrows and gradually uncovering the Pale Reach’s treasures was a welcome find, especially when I grew weary of the late game’s grinding for money, materials, and aberrations.
Though I would have been outraged if the developers charged the Pale Reach as a standalone DLC as there isn’t enough content to justify such a purchase, $6 for a worthwhile island was enough to leave me thoroughly satisfied with my time without feeling like the Pale Reach was empty or missing.
Every new addition, from the Aurous Anchor teleporter to the bountiful radiant trawl net and ice for fish decay, felt like the developer’s answer, an unspoken new request I made with a mechanic that made the whole of Dredge more rewarding.
All-in-all, I can recommend the Pale Reach for Dredge fans looking for just one more island to explore as a DLC that precisely meets that promise without falling short or exceeding expectations. Despite cursing the DLC every time it crashed and took away precious, I grew to appreciate and adore the Pale Reach as Elditch winter vacation like no other.