RAFT Hands-On Preview

Raft is a pretty barebones game. And right now, that’s not a bad thing. With a decent environment, and simple gameplay which enables creativity, Raft has got a decent grasp of itself and its genre. Adding itself onto the ever growing, crafting and survival genre, it sets itself apart with a pretty interesting setting. There’s nothing to explore and (as of now) no island to land on. It’s just you, your raft, a vast ocean with floating debris, and an ever ominous shark waiting to attack.

That’s where Raft gets it’s unique feel. In many other crafting games, you would simply start exploring and run off into the sunset. While here, you’re confined to a tiny raft which you’ve found yourself stuck on. It’s very much worth noting that this game is still being developed, and the developers are still currently working to improve and expand the game. This preview is simply over it’s most current build, 1.05.

It’s up to you to pick up passing by debris and use it to expand your raft and build on your tool set. This adds kind of unique feeling of isolation and stress to the game. The game is constantly set on your ability to grab debris, build your raft, and defend against a shark who’s trying to destroy your ship and eat you. During this juggling act, you must constantly monitor your thirst and hunger  meters. Currently, as I mentioned, the game is fairly simple. There’s not a lot of tools, and there is a pretty decent set of building options and concepts, but overall there isn’t a ton of things to do. But for such a small team, and for a free game, it’s actually pretty incredible.

The team obviously has put hours into the game, and they are constantly updating it. You can tell it’s a labor of love which is awesome to see in this day and age. The team is constantly putting out updates, keeping the game fresh, while also keeping the game free with only the option to donate if you want to help out the project. The game developers have their heart in the right place. And with time, this game could be great, but until then it’s not up to par with some other games in the genre. Of course, that is to be expected with this kind of, “always open to play development cycle,” so here’s what I think of the current game build, 1.05.

It’s entertaining enough, the beginning of the game is always the most fun. When you’re first start off gathering plenty of materials and gaining some traction, it’s really fun. But as you sort of start exhausting your options of building, the game gets kind of stale somewhat quickly. You can set up so that the materials come close to you and don’t fly by with the use of nets, so the constant grind of materials becomes somewhat useless. Along with that, the building options on the raft get kind of slow and pointless. The shark becomes just annoying and not a real threat later on, and your food and water situation becomes quite easy to control. The game’s early content is decently entertaining and a little stressful in a good way, but too quickly do you reach an “endgame,” where you don’t really have to worry.

The graphics like I mentioned before are decent, but by no means fantastic. The addition of a day and night cycle add to the aesthetics of the game, but really don’t add enough to make the graphics anything to write home about.

The gameplay, although quickly entertaining at first, quickly becomes repetitive and kind of mind numbing at times. The addition of nets on your raft makes it a bit better, but also takes a large part of the game, the actual gathering of materials using your hook, completely out of the game.

The sound design leaves a lot to be desired in my opinion. The lack of sound in a game about being stuck on a raft in the middle of nowhere makes sense in a way, you should not expect the typical hustle and bustle of other games. But there’s a weird lack of that lonely ambiance you’d expect to hear. You don’t hear distant seagulls, you don’t hear waves splashing or bumping into your raft, you don’t hear much. There is of course sound effects for certain events, like a shark biting your raft, and you using an item, but it just isn’t enough to immerse you.

The gameplay can get repetitive, the environment, understandably so, can’t start to get a bit boring on the eyes, and the lack of sound makes the game feel oddly too lonely. That being said, the developers are kind, talented people, and with time, can turn this into a very strong game that I personally look forward too. This is something worth keeping an eye on, I know I will. If you’re still interested about Raft, you might want to check out a quick, comedic trailer I made over it on my YouTube channel.

You can download the latest version of the game for free here.