In a world of rpg life games such as Stardew Valley or Harvest Moon, My Time at Portia carves out it’s own little island to stand out from the crowd. The game looks and plays great. And while it’s not without some faults, the overall experience is relaxing, meditative, and satisfying. To top it off, My Time at Portia has interesting world building you don’t always see in this genre. I definitely enjoyed My Time at Portia and am excited to find the rest of the secrets the game holds. It’s a great way to relax at the end of a long day and if you’re into this kind of game, I highly suggest this one.
It’s a Post Apocalyptic World
My Time at Portia starts off as many games like this do. After a character customization screen, the game starts and you find out you have been passed down a house by your Pa. It’s up to you to bring it up to snuff and help the town out in the process. In this case, the focus is on building instead of farming. But the concept is still the same. One thing that makes this game a little different is the setting. My Time at Portia is set in a post apocalyptic world.
The evidence is all around. Just take a step outside your house and you’ll see the horizon lined with towering, broken down buildings. When you are mining, you’ll come across ruins that hint to the world before. This all gives off a vibe of being set quite far into the future. Over 300 years in fact. There are even two factions in the town, both vying for the data discs you can uncover underground which are related to the how the apocalypse happened.
One is the Church of Light, who want to destroy all the discs you find because the info on them potentially contain information that started the apocalypse in the first place. And the scientists at the Research Center, who want to pry the data from these discs and use them make advances in the world. You get to choose who you want to help. There might be a small message here.
This kind of world building is interesting and makes for a great backdrop. Most of these types of games don’t have this kind of world building and I found that refreshing. That’s not to say the story line gets real deep of course. That isn’t the focus of the game. But I did appreciate the setting. And just because the setting takes place in a post apocalyptic world does not mean it’s a drab affair either.
This Looks Awesome… Oops.
My Time at Portia is quite beautiful to look at in all its weirdness. I found myself taking a moment to scan the horizon more than a few times. Sometimes I caught a setting sun and the lighting is just gorgeous. If you take a step behind your house, you’ll find a flock of mult-colored llamas hopping about. The denizens of Portia, while strange looking at times, are all unique and match the art style of the game. Monsters and other critters are all interesting to look at. Oddities such as giant birds with glasses or urchins floating around on umbrellas are just the beginning. The oddness of everything works well for the setting.
The game isn’t without its issues though. While everything looks pretty good, there are some technical issues. Mainly in the clipping department. Objects clipping through one another is a very common occurrence. Tools in your hands can clip through your character, running through small trees is always interesting, and biggest of all, is the ability to look through walls by clipping through them with the camera. These didn’t ruin the experience for me though. In fact, it was quite amusing at times. But the game definitely could have uses some polishing up in this area. It feels a bit neglected.
Best Builder Ever!
Unlike other games in this genre, My Time at Portia is less about farming and more about building. And it can get pretty complex too. You start out with a worktable and assembly station in your yard. The assembly station is essentially a large platform that you use for large projects. The first big project you receive is a commission to build a bridge that grants access to an island. You have to build three parts to make the bridge complete. Sounds easy right? Not quite.
Before you can even set the blueprint for one piece of the bridge, you’ll need to use the assembly station to create a few other machines that can create the components that you need to build the bridge. So, you’ll need to build a stone furnace, grinder, and civil cutter first. And in order to make those you need to gather materials. Materials can be gathered from the surrounding area or in the ruins. Or if you happen to have a lot of money, you can also buy many of them in town from NPCs.
As you can see, big projects are just that, projects. It takes a lot of time and effort to build some stuff, especially later in the game. The game loop is basically this; gather materials and fuel for your machines then use those to create components to build your projects. While waiting, gather more materials. It sounds like a lot and in a way, it is. But that makes it all the more satisfying when you do finish project. While slightly unbalanced at times (waiting on stuff) it does feed into that “one more day” mentality.
Quality of Life
One thing I’d like to mention that this game does very well is certain quality of life aspects. In a game like this, managing your inventory is a big, and oftentimes, complicated affair. Trying to organize and search through your plethora of chests can be a chore. Especially later in the game. My Time at Portia has a couple solutions that, frankly, are probably going to spoil me for other games.
When creating items in your machines you don’t have to make a trip back to search through your chests for ingredients. If you have the chests in the same area, it will automatically use the items you need in the chests. You still have to have items on hand for the big projects but this still makes a huge difference. Speaking of chests, you can access all of them by checking in one chest. Instead of opening and closing each chest until you find the right one, you can simply click R2 or L2 and the menu switches to the next chest. If you have ever had to manage a large inventory, you’ll see how beneficial this is. Now you can hoard all the items and finding things is still a breeze.
When You Aren’t Building
Of course, building isn’t the only activity to do around the town of Portia. It doesn’t take very long before you have a long list of things you need to accomplish besides commissions. You’ll spend quite a bit of time in the ruins gathering materials for building, finding discs, and adding decor to your house (which adds stats to your character). Or you could go dungeon diving. Just make sure you bring items to heal yourself and a good weapon. Or you could start mingling with the locals.
You also level up as you complete objectives and you can even earn skill points. This aspect is very much in line with the rpg portion of this game. As you level up, things become easier and adding skill points can make a huge difference in various aspects of your character. It gives you the opportunity to focus on different areas as well. Even early skill points are well spent. Such as costing less stamina to mine.
Lots and Lots of Friends (And a Few Enemies Too)
There are also a lot of people that live in Portia. And they all play different roles and have different personalities. You can interact with them in several different ways. Many times there will be someone who needs something made for them. Gifts can be given. You can even spar with some of them or play rock paper scissors with others. As expected, they all have friendship points that will add up over time as you interact and help people out. Eventually you can even pursue someone to marry.
Doing large projects earns you respect and points for everyone as well. There are even other builders that, of course, are your competition. Although it’s not hard to become the best builder in town. Just follow the main missions and everyone will start coming to you for all their needs. All in all, the denizens of Portia are fun and entertaining. Some are pretty strange but don’t seem too out of place in the setting. It can be a bit overwhelming at first but it doesn’t take long to start chumming your way into everyone’s hearts.
Life in Portia Gets Exciting
There are also events that occur at certain times of the in-game year. These are pretty interesting and can even benefit your stock of goods if you get involved. One of the earliest events has you, and the rest of the townsfolk, following a blimp around town. It’s drops presents all over the place and you have to be quick and grab them before someone else does. Another is a karate competition that you can win prizes from.
The only downside is that after you have done them once they aren’t much use. When the events come back around the next year, you already have a large stockpile of the items you can earn from them. There isn’t much of a point to doing them again besides rubbing elbows with everyone. It definitely helps breath some life into the world though.
Being a Builder Can Be Tedious
While the game does give you a lot to do, it can get a little boring at times. The core mechanic of the game is building and there will be days when you might simply be waiting for your stations to finish whatever they are producing so that you can continue building. Some players might even be tempted to skip some days by sleeping just to finish projects. This can be remedied by careful planning, of course, but it is something to consider and an issue I ran into a few times.
My Time at Portia is a very solitary affair. There is no online or multiplayer component to the game. Personally, I don’t mind that but I can see how some folks might get a little bored. It’s not really different then other games of this type though. The difference here is that it feels like this game should, or could, have some type of multiplayer function but it does not.
My Time at Portia is a great addition to the genre. It’s not perfect but it is unique. There are times when the game drags and while it looks really good and interesting, clipping is a pretty big issue. But it does have some cool world building that I haven’t really seen in the life sim rpg genre. There is a lot to do in the world and having building as the main focus is a nice change from farming. The game is borrowing from a well used formula but changes it just enough to make itself stand out from the crowd. If this genre is something you’re into, definitely give this one a go.