I’ve never cursed at a shark. Not once. Ever. Despite the trauma they have brought onto my family (sometimes I still hear the shark laughter). But last night after three hours I called a Shark words I can’t repeat. All of it in a free-to-play game called Raft.
Resources in strategy-based games always fascinate me. Whether it’s digging out diamonds, collecting sunshine from the falling sky, or earning hard cash from slack-tongued cured patients, resource collection is always a fundamental corner-stone for strategy games. It’s facilitates all that is to follow in the game. Get it wrong and the game will fail. Raft has the most unique version of resource gathering I’ve seen in years in a game.
Raft is set on a four by four raft at sea. The player is alone, naked (never confirmed in-game but in my head it’s true), and stuck at sea. All they have is a hook line for comfort. It’s a bleak contrast to the luscious rolling hills of the plentiful Minecraft.
But the player is in luck. In the waters floating by are pieces of wood, scrap metal, and branches. It’s a never ending flow of resources coming from the B&Q warehouse that must have exploded just over the horizon. The player can use their hook-line to reel in floating debris, build a resource stash, and begin to survive.
Three hours later I looked at the clock and realised I had work in six hours. My eyes were burnt red. My tongue was dry. My legs had gone on holiday, travelled to Mexico, been beaten to death by the cartel, returned, and re-attached themselves to my body. But none of that mattered. It didn’t matter because I was filled with pride. In those hours I had crafted a raft that could host a P.Diddy music video. It had multiple floors, a restaurant area, a water purification plant, and a forest.
As I sat on the top deck of my dream raft snacking on a baked potato I thought back to how I got here. They key stages in my life on the raft that shaped the man I am. Building the automatic debris-catching basement floor was the point that marked my transition from dirty-castaway to eligible floating-home-owner. No-longer was resource gathering a chore.
Next was learning how to plant seeds, harvest potatoes, and cook baked potatoes. This was another turning point where hunger no longer became a threat. Similarly purifying water on a scale that would make Evian proud removed the fear of thirst.
And of course the first time I fought off the advances of Ed the Shark was a big moment. Throughout playing Raft there are only a few threats; Hunger, Thirst, and a Shark. But frankly fairly quickly in the game the player can combat thirst and hunger. Both go from starting out as genuine concerns to annoyances with in a small space of time. But Ed the Shark (named by myself ) never stops. He’s a relentless eating machine with death in his eyes.
Every so often Ed decides to mistake your raft for an extra large Big Mac and begins to eat a chunk of it. What follows is a hilarious routine of bopping Ed on the nose with a spear until he leaves. Ed is like a noisy neighbour who comes around once a week just to steal your stuff. He’s a constant pain as the damage he inflicts can bring a floor down. And no matter how long you play the game and grow accustom to Ed my reaction when I slip off my raft into the water is never changed from that ofa schoolgirl stumbling into a haunted house.
There is a reason why this isn’t a review I’m writing. Raft is free to play and currently sits in a state of development. Some graphics are a bit rough and there are a few control issues. There is also little progression other than to keep building and building. The challenge is quickly removed from the game and replaced by megalomaniac tendencies. But what this small team of developers have shown so far is just so exciting for a free-to-play not even out of Alpha game.
Raft takes a unique approach on the survival genre of games. Whereas Minecraft throws the player into an open world of exploration, Raft sticks the player in a box and tells them to get out. As a result the feeling of accomplishment is significantly different in Raft. Minecraft urges you to build a cathedral of glass to feel accomplishment. Raft delivers the same feeling but just building a wall. It’s a testament to what good games design can do for a genre. When others think to go big, let the player build engines, construct skyscrapers, and establish communities, Raft takes all power away from the player and leaves them to cry on a raft at sea. I cannot wait to see what the developer do next with it.
You can go get Raft for free right HERE.
And check out the trailer below :