Raft is a survival game by Redbeet Interactive and published by Axolotl Games. It started as a student project in 2018 and has since gained popularity fast. The game is set on the ocean, where you start with just a small raft bopping in the waves, armed with nothing but a grappling hook to fish out trash from the water to use as materials for expanding your raft or crafting tools. Survival on the vast ocean means taking care of hydration and hunger and scanning the waters for trash. Eventually, you come across small islands surrounded by coral reefs and derelict rafts that you can explore to find more supplies and new materials. If you play in single-player mode, only other living things besides your character are seagulls and a shark following your tiny raft and chomping off pieces of it (or you, if you stay in the water for too long).
One thing I liked was how the game doesn’t bother with tutorials and instead throws you right in, leaving you to figure out the basics on your own. After getting the hang of survival skills, collecting trash, and stopping by at islands the first couple of in-game days, the game starts to feel repetitive. Sure, you can upgrade your tools and decorate your ship, but practically, you are constantly reeling in planks and plastic to build and rebuild something that the shark bit off. The shark added to the game to “create a sense of urgency” is more annoying than it is a threat. Killing it only summons a new shark after a minute a two, so there isn’t an element of surprise in the attacks.
Then there is the problem with the story. There is apparently an actual storyline in the game to explain what has happened, why everything is underwater, and where everybody is. Still, disappointingly it takes several hours of playing to reveal that the story even exists, besides a teaser of a possibility to build a radio antenna and a receiver. Until then, you just drift from a small island to small island, gathering materials hoping to find the minerals needed to open upper crafting tiers to advance the story. Going into the game without reading anything up beforehand undoubtedly affected how fast I advanced in the game. Still, after clocking more than eight hours in-game, I am yet to gather enough minerals for the antenna and receiver.
Despite all this, I can see why Raft has gained such popularity: The graphics are visually pleasing: Everything is cartoonish and colorful. The soundtrack works well with the overall atmosphere. For players who like to get into a zen mode by slowly drifting by and doing repetitive tasks without a sense of urgency, this is a game worth buying. I can also see the appeal in the creative mode the game offers as well, where you can focus on building substantial seafaring vessels and not worry about survival. Playing co-op also breathes much-needed life into the game. But alas, if you like games with a story that your goal is to advance, Raft might not be for you.
Published: May 23rd 2018
Developer: Redbeet Interactive
Publisher: Axolot Games
Genre: survival game
Platforms: Microsoft Windows, Linux
Photos: Header photo from Raft Presskit.
Other photos screenshots from the game, taken by the author.