Raft: you'll find no shortage of sharks here

Raft: You'll find no shortage of sharks here!
A Raft first impression game review.

I've had Raft on my wish-list for a couple of years, so I decided to pick it up (this Steam Winter Sale after the 33% discount - frugal much?). Raft is a survival game with building and crafting mechanics where the player is left drifting on a small 2x2 raft on the vast ocean. You'll need to stay awake on the first in-game day to gather resources; I felt super lonely in the dark while drifting on the ocean. I understood immediately that I would need to gather my materials first in order to survive, before expanding my Raft and then pursue the story. I've been able to get the hang of it and stabilize my hunger and thirst needs after my first two hours on the standard difficulty.

Here is my computer specs:

CPU: Intel(R) Core(TM) i7-7700k CPU @ 4.20GHz
RAM: 16 GB DDR4
GPU: Nvidia GeForce GTX 1070x2 8GB GDDR5
Display: 27" MSI Optix AG32C 165Hz

Raft is fun and having another person do the slave work for me is funner. Here are my few first impressions. The game is still in Early Access and expect more updates to come. But I like what I have right now.

PROS:

CONS:

Easy to pick-up and building is easy. (top)

You'll need to hook or grab floating materials that drift near your Raft and it becomes a chore real fast. Should you dive and swim for a material, Brucey will take a chomp out of your health. I learned these two on the onset of my play. But the build menu gave me a clear direction on what I needed to complete immediately.

The first set of materials I needed were planks, leaves, and plastic -- then some more planks. I found myself needing more ropes and I learned the hard way after grinding through barrels and hope it has some ropes; I noticed that I could craft ropes instead from leaves but I was too stubborn and lazy to browse through the menu. After two hours of gameplay, I've come up with enough resources to stabilize myself with food and water. Aim for a fishing pole, a grill and a water purifier, and you'll be able to tide your needs. Then build a sail and a couple of small garden plots. I decided to stop at this point, so I can think about how I would expand the Raft.

Walls snap on the sides of the foundation similar to Fallout 4. You can do it with roofs and floors too. Anything else can be manually and carefully placed inside your raft. Once you have the foundational equipment up and running (those tier that satisfy the lowest level of Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs), this is where you'd start thinking on how to expand or increase productivity of your Raft. For example, deciding whether to build more garden plots or water purifiers, but once you've secured a steady supply of food and water, it's time to let your imagination fly.

I do hope that the game would let you move placed objects around without destroying/removing them completely.

Maybe I should light a fire somewhere else.

It's not too punishing on the standard difficulty (top)

Take note that the game has a wide array of difficulty level including a Creative Mode. On Easy, while I was hungry and thirsty, it's funny how I respawned on my Raft after Bruce chomped the life out of me and left me on a better state. Constant saving the game world definitely helps. I've also made some some silly mistakes such as pressing 'Q' which threw my current item into the ocean. FPS gaming convention state that Q is the key for cycling through your equipment. Anyway I tried diving for it, but I found myself disoriented and hounded by Brucey. It's nothing big and I can remap the keys anyway. Standard difficulty is well-- standard. Thirst and hunger decay at a manageable rate, and I don't see much difference on Easy. Since it's my first playthrough, I don't see any sense on playing through Hardcore mode. Hardcore Mode sounds fun too with another Rafter - similar to the other side of the spectrum which is Creative Mode, its sandbox mode.

Single-player is fun, but throw in another Rafter (top)

There's no doubt that Raft is playable on single player, but efficiency is increased with two Rafters. One can focus on gathering materials and looking out for Brucey chomping away on your Raft, while the other can focus on food and water preparations. With its easy building mechanics, anyone can build the most realistic Raft in the game -- whatever that means. Maybe make the whole world a Raft.

May trigger motion sickness (top)

Now the cons. I'm not sure how, but I don't get motion sickness easily on first person games. However, I can imagine how this game can trigger motion sickness since the Raft is swaying with the current. The waves get bigger during a storm, so the Raft will sway some more -- but work doesn't stop, so while I'm out grabbing nearby planks, my Raft is constantly swaying and I got dizzy. Perhaps playing on a 32-inch display is responsible for my motion sickness. I could imagine that a significantly larger Raft with a larger surface area can stabilize the view and hope that I don't notice the constant bobbing on the ocean.

The fix is to turn on the Anti-Motion Sickness Mode via the Settings to turn off that swaying. But I wonder if there's a way to leave the swaying on (since it's natural), but not induce motion sickness.

It's a grind for one person at first (top)

There's no denying it. You'll be hooking and reeling a lot of barrels before being able to generate more materials. But grinding is half the story. It's tiring though. So if you happen to have another buddy that thinks Raft is interesting -- go for it!

Hook them bad boys like Captain Hook.

Bugs are expected (top)

Since the game is still Early Access, I've encountered a few bugs which is understandable. I haven't run into any game breaking bugs since I'm still a couple hours in. But on one instance, I couldn't use my water purifier. I tried to see if there was a cup of freshwater standing there, but it was empty. The item worked eventually after a few retries.

Bruce will harass you early and for a while (top)

Looking at that gorgeous sunset? Bruce will chomp your Raft. Hooking a Barrel? Bruce will chomp your Raft. Decide to take a swim? Bruce will chomp you... Then your Raft. Bruce never sleeps. Bruce never tires. Bruce always chomps like clockwork (every five minutes). Once you get your Wooden Spear, stab him three times so he can go away. Wipe that sweat off your forehead. Bruce will chomp your Raft. Gonna' craft those shark baits and I'll eventually hunt you down, Bruce. Mark my words. Although, the ocean is full of Bruce.

Can you stop doing your shark thing please? I'm sure the ocean is big enough for both of us, Bruce.

Conclusion

Raft is a fun game which is both a sandbox and a story-driven game. It's visually appealing, but it can trigger motion sickness at some point. The game may become a chore for one person, so bring a buddy. But if you're into building and crafting and survival and stuff like me, it's safe to give it a try. I give Raft a positive feedback, a 4/5!
THE HARVEST GAMER
Sam1, a portmanteau for someone, is an aspiring novelist in the romance, comedy, and horror genre. He is a university graduate with a degree in Business Administration and Applied Computer Science. He is an indie game-developer on itch.io and also an avid gamer. He currently works as an Exams and Adaptive Technology Coordinator.

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