Even though it only hit Steam in 2018, and has only existed in any form since 2016, Raft feels like one of those survival games that has been in Early Access forever. That’s not a criticism, it’s just very much the mood the game has. It’s one of those ones you’ll play a bit of, forget about, and then look back a year later, only to find it’s grown a whole story and pigs you can fight. That gradual accretion of stuff is fitting, I suppose, as it’s exactly what Raft is about: gradually accreting stuff.
The premise is pretty simple – you’re on a raft. It’s small to start with, but as you honk wood and stuff out of the sea you add to it, and make it bigger. Via the bizarre magical shorthand we’ve all come to accept from the term “crafting”, you conjure your accumulated trove of flotsam into more and more fancy objects, including nets that automatically honk wood and stuff out of the sea for you. Sooner or later, your raft will be an improbable floating palace, with farms, a lounge area, and – if you’re anything like me – loads of barbecues.
Of course, there’s a shark, who’s always having a swim nearby and making himself a nuisance. He’ll have a chew on your raft, mangle you if you spend too long in the sea, and generally stop you from relaxing long enough for the game to lose its pace. Raft is good in itself, but I suspect it’s the shark that turned it into a megahit. Because if one thing attracts shouty YouTube men to a game like October wasps to a pint, it’s sharks. Still, bless the shouty men – because I learned about Raft due to endless thumbnails on YouTube (BIGGEST Raft Base EVER?, SHARK ATTACK! ( — he’s HUNGRY!!!)), and you probably did too.
When I played, it was largely just a game about making a very large wooden platform while occasionally being troubled by a fish, and it was a good way to pass a few hours even then. Now it seems to have land exploration, SCUBA diving, and buckets and buckets of lore. And since it’s still in Early Access, it just keeps coming. If you like survival games and you’ve somehow not given this one a try yet, now might be the time.