If floating on a raft in the middle of the ocean, catching fish, staying hydrated, and avoiding shark attacks is your cup of distilled water, then “Raft” is the game for you.
“Raft” is an open-world sandbox survival game. It was developed by three Swedish students from Uppsala University as the studio Redbeet Interactive. First released as a free download on the indie platform Itch.io in 2016, it became very popular, and was released as an early access game on Steam on May 23, 2018 by Axolotl Games. The game is playable as single player or cooperative.
Instead of land, you’re on the ocean on a tiny little raft. Your only tool is a plastic hook with a rope attached. You can use the hook to gather resources from the water, like planks, palm leaves, plastic, and the occasional barrel or crate.
Thirst and hunger are big obstacles in the game. You start out with your thirst and hunger levels at full, but you’ll need to solve your thirst and hunger problems before doing anything else. If you don’t drink or eat, you will eventually die.
As if that’s not tough enough, at timed intervals a shark will attack the boat. He’ll come by and nom on one of your raft squares, and you can choose to try and defend your raft with a sharp stick, or just wait and rebuild it after he goes away. The shark will also attack you if you get in the water.
The game is mostly on the open ocean, but sometimes you’ll find an island to explore. After you make yourself an anchor (because your raft will drift off if you don’t) you can get off the raft and explore the island and the shallow water around it for more resources.
I eventually had to turn off the sharks because I kept having anxiety attacks every time I fell in the water, and gaming is supposed to be fun.
Raft has four gameplay modes. In Hard Mode, if you die, you have to start over. Regular Mode allows you to resurrect on the raft if you die. If you build a bed, you’ll be resurrected with more health. Peaceful Mode is the regular game, but without being attacked by animals like sharks and bears. Creative Mode allows you to build with unlimited resources, but you won’t be able to go anywhere.
Eventually you’ll have enough resources to create a way to distill your own drinking water. You learn how to build tools and weapons. You need a fishing pole to catch fish, and you’ll need to build a little grill to cook your fish. Expand the raft with planks and plastic and armor the edges so the shark can’t chew up your raft.
Build a larger grill to make a bunch of food (and cook the larger fish,) build a cooking table and have fun assembling recipes from the ingredients you find, even build a smoothie machine to use up all that fruit you’ll be gathering. Some recipes give you health bonuses that give you a boost when exploring or fighting.
You’ll become a farmer because you’ll need a sustainable source of food. Collect seeds from the foods you gather to plant them. You can capture animals for milk, wool, and eggs, or hunt them using a bow and arrow. You can even grow trees so that you have a source of wood.
One of the most fun, yet useless things in this game is that it’s also a raft design game. After a while you stop needing to grind for more planks, palm leaves and plastic. You can expand the raft, put more floors on, put engines and a fuel system on it, and decorate it with various objects from the destinations in the game.
RAFT STORYLINE, PUZZLES
As you progress through the game, you’ll learn how to build various items. One of the most important components is the receiver. It tells you where large islands are located. It also starts the “story” of the game. Soon after building the receiver, you’ll find an island with coordinates for a radio tower. You’ll pick up clues that will go into your journal to lead you to the next destination. As you solve the puzzles and find more clues, you’ll learn about the fate of the planet, hear stories of other travelers trying to survive on the open ocean, and encounter other characters that are playable in the game.
The puzzles in this game are pretty decent but aren’t all that difficult. Most of them fall into the move this box, move that box. But there are a couple of puzzles that require agility and accuracy, and I find that kind of gameplay incredibly annoying. If I had agility and accuracy, I would be outside playing basketball. It’s the Lara Croft Tomb Raider problem — to solve some puzzles the character has to jump up a series of platforms, and with one wrong step they’ll fall and have to start over, or worse yet, die, requiring you to reload the game from that position and try again.
So, I look for loopholes within the game. With an open-world system, there are multiple solutions to some of the puzzles. For example, instead of navigating a path by jumping, I’ll find the rock wall behind the path, and figure out a way for my character to jump to the top of the wall, and then jump into the next environment and skip it entirely.
I finished Raft a couple of months ago. I first got Raft as part of their Early Access in 2018. They finished creating assets and environments for the game in 2022. I loved the discovery of the new environments, sailing or motoring up to the location and cruising around it to see what it looked like. Now I have seen all of it, there is nothing left to discover, and I’m kinda bummed. I still play it just so I can go fishing or work on the raft. It’s now a three-story monstrosity with plants, trees, a llama, a goat, and two chickens. And a piano.