Raft (PC), 8/10
During the most dry time of the gaming calender in terms of new releases, one must sometimes resort to the dark arts of Early Access reviews.
Generally, Early Access games are given a wide berth by reviewers, primarily due to their unfinished nature and the fact that these games are subject to major changes at any time.
As a quick illustration of this point, take Rust - a survival game that, just after its first year of Early Access, was completely redone inside a new game engine, ushering in huge swaths of new features, problems and bugs in its wake and nullifying the opinions of any unfortunate journalists who appraised it.
Despite this, every once in a while a game so exciting hits Early Access that it warrants a review, despite its unfinished nature. Raft is one such title.
Of the myriad survival simulators released in the past few years of gaming history, none has tickled my curiosity so much as Raft. Whereas the lion's share of survival games pit you against other players in an open world setting, Raft encourages teamwork above all else, pitting you and your comrades against the environment rather than each other.
Standing you atop four wooden pallets and thrusting into your grasp a hook on a line, Raft leaves you bobbing haplessly through a trail of debris on the open ocean, at the mercy of thirst, hunger and the ever-present sharks.
The objective in Raft's current iteration is simple - survive. To do this, you must research and build ever-more elaborate means of defending and expanding your raft, feeding yourself and quenching your thirst.
Raft delicately balances micromanagement, base building and action in such a way that neither chore ever feels overbearing, or conversely, underchallenging.
While it is certainly possible and even enjoyable to play Raft alone, playing with friends is both more effective and more fun. Raft encourages teamwork but also encourages individual autonomy within a team, meaning that each member will always have a role, no matter their strength.
Raft's development team seem to be introducing new updates to the game with a stunning regularity and depth of content.
If you are to be excited for the future of any survival game at the moment, Raft should be the one you expend your efforts on.