My Time at Portia – Review
I discovered My Time at Portia (MTAP) after trudging through Animal Crossing: New Horizons, a game that left me contemplating the merits of ritualistic disembowelment. By comparison, MTAP is a wonderfully charming game. The gameplay loop is pleasantly addictive, it has an abundance of characters, interesting content, and more importantly, the game doesn’t run in real time. Thank fuck for that.
At the start of the game, you travel to Portia to take over your absent father’s workshop. He worked as a builder and your fully-voiced, if overly-chirpy, character is to take his place. The titular Portia is a small rural town caught in a standoff between two factors. The first are a progressive group who want to use ‘data discs’ to build technology and improve their quality of life. The second is a disapproving religious group, referred to as ‘The Church’, who are adamantly against technology.
As a builder, you can take on a variety of commissions from the Guild. Successfully completing a commission increases your relationships with individual townspeople, gains you money and improves the reputation of your workshop. Each commission requires different resources and equipment (which you may need to build or upgrade), and some story commissions allow you to unlock different areas of the map (e.g. by building a bridge, a lift, a bus). Outside of building, you can farm, mine for ore and relics, socialise with the townspeople (and even have relationships). You can also adopt a pet and explore the hazardous ruins, where you can fight hideous beasties.
It’s an unexpectedly deep game. I was anticipating a mix up between Stardew Valley and Animal Crossing, but the end result felt like something entirely different.
Jack of All Trades
What I love most about My Time at Portia is its depth. It’s not just a life simulator, it’s not just an RPG. There’s crafting, collecting, house building, social activities, adventure and exploration (real exploration, not just wandering around a limited space). The game is a true jack of all trades, and the variety of content provides endless entertainment.
There’s story content, which often unlocks new regions of the map and a seemingly endless supply of commissions to complete. Many of these are physical structures that become part of the game’s landscape. There are also mini games, social events (like the annual snowball fight/martial arts tournament), relationship building, animal adoption and more.
It is constantly engaging. On multiple occasions, I have played this game for eight hours straight and not been bored for a second. I’ve put more than 50 hours into MTAP so far, and there is STILL new content to unlock. Madness
I have to mention how much I love the art style in MTAP. It’s simplistic, but not overly so, colourful, but not gaudy. The character design is creative, the landscape is rich and varied. There are trees, hills, deserts, caves, post-apocalyptic ruined buildings and bodies of water. Every scene changes with the season, the weather is unpredictable – rain, snow, thunderstorms and sunshine. It really brings the world to life.
Murdering cute critters
Now, this is going to make me sound like a bit of a sadist, but in video games, killing things makes the world go round. My usual game of choice is an MMORPG, so murder is my bread and butter.
Given the lack of negativity in MTAP, I expected to grow bored of the cheerful characters and whimsical storylines. However, I do find that the adventure aspect of the game somewhat soothes my murderous soul. In the hazardous ruins, there are plenty of monsters to murder – and in my favourite gala suit (which is in no way suited to fighting), with my giant nova sword, I feel like a fucking Valkyrie.
While soul-soothing, critter killing does provide important crafting resources. Llamas – cute, cuddly pink and purple critters with massive eyes – are one of the only sources of worn leather in the game, so naturally, bloodshed ensues. It’s very satisfying, especially the squeaky noise they make as they’re dispatched.
Intricate crafting process
The crafting process – whether for story missions, commissions or just for the hell of it – is wonderfully intricate. All diagrams are made up of individual components that need to be crafted themselves and it’s wonderfully realistic. For any given diagram, you might need to craft wire, rope, planks, pipes, bearings and other components with which to produce the overall project.
Materials need to be sourced from animals, farming, shops, ruins, mining or cutting down trees. Every project is unique and interesting in its own regard.
MTAP is replete with in-depth, unique characters with their own stories and aspirations. Unusually for this type of game, all characters in MTAP are fully voiced by actors. There’s no silence or nonsense speech (looking at you, The Sims/Animal Crossing), and this feels rather novel. It helps the characters feel like they actually inhabit the world.
The social aspects of MTAP are familiar. You have a relationship bar that you can improve by talking to people, gift-giving, completing missions, and hanging out. Each person has their own gift preferences, and giving their preferred gifts is worth more relationship stats. There is also a skill tree for you to improve your social skills and the speed at which you build relationships. Later on, you can date, marry (which is pleasantly not restricted by gender – M/M and F/F pairings are fine) and even try for children with the partner of your choice (nice try MTAP, even in a simulation, I prefer to stay childfree).
Crafting and Resource Gathering
Some of the commission materials are found in the various ruins around the map and it seems to be pretty random what you’ll get. This happens until you upgrade your scanner and can actually see what the drops are. This can be extremely frustrating if you’re looking for X amounts of a resource, especially if the commission has a deadline. There are countless times where I’ve had to spend whole in-game days scrabbling through the ruins for a resource. This can cause you to miss the deadline, which has an impact on your workshop’s reputation and your relationships. If I needed that kind of stress, I’d return to the real world.
It takes too long to make certain materials
While this is realistic, and it annoys me less than having to wait days for my house to appear in Animal Crossing, the construction time for some materials feels a bit excessive.
Carbon steel bars – I’m looking at you. I love the intricacy of the crafting and the from scratch style, but honest to frick, these take a long time (2-4 in-game hrs PER BAR).
Some diagrams require a vast amount of resources and having to wait whole in-game days to create one component is irritating and detracts from my enjoyment of the game.
One of the things that has caused me the greatest rage with this game is the ability to take on commissions that are impossible to complete.
This happened several times where I didn’t have the right tool for a component and had to spend ages making that first. Worse still, you can accept commissions requiring materials which only spawn in regions to which you currently don’t have access.
This wasn’t an issue if the commission didn’t have a time limit, but for those that did, it was infuriating. I’m not sure why they couldn’t have a warning, or simply restrict commissions so that you can’t make diagrams with region-locked materials. Either way, this was more than a little rage-inducing.
Notifications for events are pretty ineffective
I cannot tell you how many times I’ve missed a meeting or an event, hell even a date, because the reminder has popped up once and then disappeared. Even my alarm clock has the good sense to have a snooze function. I am a scatty moron, and I need more than one reminder for things. I wish the reminders would just stay on one side of the screen, or remind you closer to the time. There are so many times that I failed a commission because I didn’t pay attention to the deadline or get a reminder. Sort it out.
I need more negativity
Maybe I’m a bitter cynic, but I desperately need people to be less cheerful and helpful in this game. People really aren’t that nice – and yeah this is escapism, but I’m not looking for a safe space. I wish the characters were a little more realistic and less smiley.
Even your rival builder (screw you, Higgins), compensates you after cheating you out of resources, and FFS, just be an unapologetic dick. Maybe I just have people issues.
MTAP is a great game, if hampered slightly by some logistical issues. It combines the best aspects of recent life simulators to create a broad game with something for everyone. There is seemingly boundless content, and the constant expansion into new regions provides hours of gameplay, while providing a nice sense of progression.
There’s also a DLC, which I will 100% be buying soon. There are a few aspects that the developers could work on, but on the whole, I would definitely recommend it (especially if you’ve burned out of Animal Crossing). It’s also remarkably cheap for the amount of content, so it won’t be a massive blow to your wallet.
Verdict: Buy It – Buy it now.
My Time at Portia is a simulation RPG from Pathea Games and is available on Switch, PS4, Xbox and PC.
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