I’ve recently started playing Raft again. The original crew I got into the game with no longer plays it, and it’s not exactly fun to play alone once you’ve progressed through most of the plot (or even as you’re progressing through the plot, given that fighting a bear alone sucks). Recently, though, I managed to convince some friends to give the game a shot and while the tedium of early survival sure hit hard, it was fun to hang out with my friends and play a cooperative game.
Which, honestly, just sums up the game as a whole. Raft is about surviving while drifting across an ocean on a raft you build as you continue to drift. You can fish plastic, wood, palm fronds, scrap metal, and occasionally food out of debris floating in the water, all of which is essential to your basic survival. You need to find a way to produce fresh water, produce and cook food, and defend your raft against the shark that circles it and occasionally eats a piece of it. All while continuing to collect supplies, explore islands without loosing your raft, and try to figure out what happened to the world that left it in such a state.
Playing with multiple people means there are more people around to attend to the various tasks of staying alive, but it also puts a lot of pressure on the available resources because you don’t get more trash floating buy just because you have extra players on your raft. It is less of a problem later on when you’re collecting everything thanks to collection nets or just a big enough raft that you can reach everything with your trash hook, but those early days are tense as everyone is on the verge of dying from hunger and thirst, the shark is eating too much of your raft, no one knows who has the spear, everyone keeps tossing their hooks into water (dropping the item, not fishing for trash), and somehow the seagulls are making your life worse because you just decided to try out farming and didn’t expect to be on twenty-four hour seagull watch.
Once you slowly accumulate enough food, water production, and raft space, things start to calm down. There’s still the frantic impulse to hoard, but eventually you start actually filling the chests you made. Then you can move on to bigger things like harvesting metals, clay, and sand from reefs near islands for making better gear, bigger containers, and an upper deck to your raft. Or just simply making a metal fishing pole that lasts longer, catches bigger fish, and actually helps you make some headway against the constant tide of hunger.
As long as you have multiple players, though, you will need to continue actively collecting food and water. While you can stockpile enough to be able to go long periods without producing more, there is no good way to fully automate those processes and the game does a pretty good job of keeping food and water as relevant concerns no matter how long you play. It really emphasizes the survival portion of the game.
Once you’re stable, though, you can start to investigate the plot and put together why things are the way they are. It paints a pretty interesting picture that I’m not even going to hint at, but it does make it clear that the flooding of the world isn’t even the most recent problem. There’s more going on and all you can do is try to put together what has happened from the information you find as you drift (or eventually sail) your way through the game.
No matter how long you’ve been playing, there’s always something to do. If you’ve got a destination in mind, there’s fuel to collect or produce. If you’re looking for something, you need to navigate on top of collecting or producing fuel. And even if you’re just drifting along, you need to keep those food and water stores topped up just incase something happens and you can’t produce for a while. The further you get into the game, the more there is to do as you drift. Even if it can get a bit dull and repetitive after a while, the game makes up for a lot of it with gorgeous sunrises, relaxing music, and just enough variability to make most islands worth exploring.
If you like survival games and want a chill one to enjoy with friends, I heartily recommend Raft.