Oceanic survival game Raft is one of the biggest Steam hits of the year. Now that many players have arrived at its Early Access ending, we’re on the hook for new updates. Last week, indie developer Redbeet posted a teaser for new additions, featuring a scary looking bird. But it’s likely that any new update will include a lot more new stuff.
Raft began life as a 2016 student project in Sweden, which was posted onto itch.io as a free demo, gaining a significant following. Last month, a paid version of the game was launched on Steam, where it currently sells for $19.99.
The game quickly became a hit, selling more than 400,000 copies in its first two weeks, according to Steamspy, and reaching number three in the Steam charts. It’s been tearing up YouTube with Let’s Play videos amassing hundreds of thousands of views, while also being picked up by big YouTubers like The Family Gaming Team.
But as players pass the current in-game finish line, its popularity has dropped slightly. It is currently selling around 40,000 copies a week.
So what’s the big deal with Raft?
Raft is a first-person survival-crafting game set on a raft, bobbing about on the ocean. I can play as a single player, or as part of a multiplayer team. A creative mode is also available, for those who just want to build magnificent seafaring structures.
In survival mode, raft occupants use a hook to collect passing debris, like plastic, wood and palm fronds. These items form the basic crafting units that are used to build survival items, so I can eat, drink and rest.
In the meantime, the raft is under regular attack from sharks. If I fail to deter or kill them (using a spear) they will bite off parts of the raft, including the stuff I’ve built.
Staying alive is a matter of choosing between various urgent problems, such as lack of food, while following interesting opportunities, like expanding the raft or building new tools. In time, the emphasis moves to the latter, as an ever-more complex crafting tree opens up new building branches. The raft can also be decked out and personalized with fittings and furniture.
Raft’s game world is also dotted with small islands and abandoned vessels, which can be explored and looted. Once I’ve learned to create shark bait, I can also go diving in the shallows, looking for metals and other items, that can be used to make advanced electronic equipment.
In short, Raft is one of the best crafting and building games out there, which creates a compelling world and a constant churn of things to collect and achieve. It’s a nicely balanced mix of managing learned systems, while exploring new content.
As the game progresses, the player is engaged in building navigation and radio equipment that offer a lot more control over the raft’s movements and the game’s exploratory capabilities.
Currently, the top of the tech tree is a complicated rig comprising antenna, batteries and a radar screen. Once completed, this leads to player to an abandoned, semi-submerged scientific facility. Here, we discover a whiteboard containing clippings that the ice caps have melted, submerging continents and generally wiping out much of the human race.
The whiteboard teases a new location, called Utopia, where humans can safely gather, presumably to make a comeback. But Utopia is not in the game, yet.
So what’s next?
In the last few weeks, a new bow and arrow has been added to the game, as well as some minor fixes. The addition of new tools and weapons, as well as items and enemies, is pretty much a given. We don’t know when any new update will arrive or what it will include, but we have a few clues.
The developers have already stated that new creatures will be added to the game, such as the bird we saw on Twitter. I’m hoping for some gargantuan squid action as well as other marine life to fight, plunder and otherwise use. Perhaps there’ll even be ways to tame these creatures.
One of the best parts of the game is underwater exploration, and I’m hoping this is going to be expanded, with new and interesting locations to explore, as well as items to craft.
Islands in the game are currently small and of only marginal interest. Larger islands with more opportunities to explore will be welcome. A popular request is that these islands can be settled and owned by players, although this would make it less of a sea-going game.
And then there’s Utopia, which has tickled the curiosity of players. The only image we’ve seen is of a group of skyscrapers emerging from the ocean. The search for this place is likely to be at the center of any story going forward, but whether or not it can be found remains to be seen.
I sent Redbeet an email, asking for more information on future updates, most particularly timing, and will update this story as soon as I hear anything.