It’s the country life for me…
Among its cartoony visuals and charming setting, you’ll embark upon a journey to make the most of your new life in the small town of Portia. Surrounded by long abandoned skyscrapers and ancient relic’s, you’ll meet new friends, expand your ever growing workshop, take on an adventure or two, and become the number one builder across the land. Inspired by a myriad of life sim RPG’s such as Animal Crossing, Harvest Moon, and Dark Cloud; My Time at Portia is the very definition of charming, with only a few technical problems holding it back from standing alongside the greats.
My Time at Portia sees you inherit your pa’s workshop in an effort for you to continue on his legacy. It’s not exactly the most original concept, but it doesn’t really become the whole focus of the narrative and is only really touched upon a few times. You’ll make either a male or female builder and find yourself greeted as you arrive in the bustling small town. You’re immediately given the workshop and events are set into motion to have you embrace your new life in Portia. You’ll make a name for yourself as a master builder, travel to new and exciting places, defeat dangerous threats, and find that special someone to share in the married life.
The amount of content here is staggering and you are given a tremendous amount of freedom to do what you like. You can spend your days fishing, constructing various items for the townsfolk, growing crops, raising animals, interacting with a huge collection of characters, or just spending your days digging away in the mines attempting to uncover long lost treasures and trinkets. The game certainly has a cheerful and engaging feel to it, as well as a fun over-arching storyline, but the lack of any voices or its noticeable lack of certain sound effects can cause a lot of its charm to hit a ceiling that the game begs to rise above.
The town of Portia is filled with a wide assortment of personalities that will request a favor or two from you, or those you’ll seek out yourself when you’ve discovered something truly mysterious in the mines or have cooked them the most delicious meal. There are numerous cutscenes that will trigger your involvement in usually being responsible for building something the town requires, often placed in direct competition with your own rival, Higgins, or that of unleashing a fury of sword swipes at some nearby creatures. Yes, despite the relaxing country life suddenly bestowed upon you, the game features a fun array of combat encounters, complete with several boss-type characters and different weapons to craft and wield. For as much as you are safely mining away to find the resources you need for your tasks, much of what you need is found in dangerous territory, with numerous threats looking to cut you down.
It’s not long before you’ll enter into a somewhat consistent gameplay loop, one that has you waking up, taking on new jobs, tracking down massive amounts of resources, and making sure your various workstations are fueled up and ready to go, all before you head to bed and start the whole day over again. Stay out too late and your character will pass out at 3 am and then find yourself mysteriously back in your own bed. Who put you there? I have no idea, but some questions are better off left unanswered. While story missions and side quests will vary from day to day, much of the title is based on repeating many tasks in order to keep the money rolling in and forging relationships with the vast assortment of townsfolk, especially that of Pinky, the town’s cat who wants belly scratches and warm hugs. Feed them enough fish and show them enough affection, and that chunky pink furball will greet you every day inside your own home.
Throughout the four seasons, the town will undergo several events and celebrations that unlock new conversations, new items to collect, new events to take part in, and each of those events transforms several areas of the town with giant balloons, large colorful snowmen, and other themed decorations. If there is a member of the town you despise, like Higgins, then get ready to chuck a snowball at their face during the winter celebration. These events really make the town come alive, offering bite size activities that keeps the gameplay fresh and unique from season to season. It’s also the perfect chance to see the massive array of characters that this game has built for you to interact with. There are also meetings in town nearly every sunday night that can unlock new missions and story events that make you feel like a proper member of the community.
Your main objectives are story missions, side quests, and construction requests that will appear on a community board detailing the type of request, which will limit you to one of those a day, as well as the details per what and who the request is for. You’ll have to be quick to snap these tasks up as Higgins, your rival, can sneak up and snatch it away from you, even when you’re focused on the job board itself. These are objectives such as making something as simple as some leather, some traps, or four bookshelves, or more complicated requests like making more bus stops, or an irrigation system for a local farm. Your side quests vary depending on the person, but these have you constructing a vast water-wheel system near the tree farm, collecting a few baby chickens that have escaped, or simply delivering some flowers at a nearby grave. The main story missions are filled with several conversations, cutscenes, and are far more involving than any of the other mission types and are some of my favorite content in the game. There’s a particular questline that involves you tracking down the remains of something that has fallen from the sky that ends up turning into one of the more engaging quests. The only issue I have in regards to this quest is that the central character featured during this questline showed up during the animations at the start screen, ruining the surprise of seeing exactly what this character was. Had they been excluded from the start menu presentation, at least until I actually met them, then his reveal would have been far more impactful.
I mentioned it earlier on in the review, but My Time at Portia has no voice work attached to its cast of characters, and several aspects to the game doesn’t contain any audio apart from the music playing in the background, if there is even a track playing at all. In fact, when that strange object is falling from the sky, the only audio present was the running water from the nearby fountain; no explosion, no sound of a crash, nothing. This creates a huge disconnect from the events that are occurring and while your character does have on-screen dialogue, the lack of voice work and absent environment audio feels sorely missed here. Obviously the amount of voice work required would inflate the budget of the game dramatically and I can’t fault the studio for not going that route. The basic need of sound effects; however, that is something that shouldn’t be excluded. There is audio provided to the cries of various enemies when you strike them with your sword, when you smash a box or two, or the strikes of your pick axe or cutting axe when they strike their intended resource, but that’s largely it. This is made even more known when, for example, you are locked in battle with a giant Rat boss in the sewers and while your sword attacks have audio to them, his giant bashes and smashes are devoid of any sound whatsoever, despite previous bosses having audio to all of their attacks. There is expected to be an upcoming patch to the game in the coming weeks, so hopefully these issues are addressed in the near future. The audio issues are not game breaking by any means, but do stand out as a missed opportunity and something that does need to be talked about.
Almost all of your time in the game is based around crafting a wide assortment of items and the very machines to construct them, that and harvesting dozens upon dozens of various resources. While the crafting can at times become a bit overbearing, especially during massive jobs requested by the town, every job is very doable if you manage your time and resources correctly. Some jobs, for example, may result in your need of having half a dozen of the same workstation just to keep up with the demand of needing dozens upon dozen’s of steel plates, or whatever else it is you’re required to have on hand. Crafting is handled in such a way where certain requests may require nearly every machine you have at your disposal, and even one’s you have yet to unlock or upgrade. The more you dig into the game, pun intended, the more machines you’ll have at your fingertips. As you dig around in the mines, you will discover ancient discs that contain blueprints for the very workstations you’ll need to use to stay atop the construction game. You’ll take those discs to the research facility and in a few days time, you’ll be presented with something new to work with.
Speaking of these ancient discs, there is a taboo centered around them. My Time at Portia has a history where humanity was wiped out during an apocalyptic event, most likely due to the world’s obsessive reliance on technology. While everyone in town is aware of this event, there are those who wish to see that technology remain undiscovered. While the Church of Life will reclaim the discs and destroy them, their path won’t continue the story further. To push through the narrative, you’re required to use the Research Center in order to earn the blueprints needed to make the machinery required of the main questline. Because of this setup, there is little incentive to side with the church, apart from a few key items from their shop that assist in crafting some crucial items. Upon crafting your first rifle, you’ll lose favor with the church, but you can easily earn it back with just a few discs; no harm no foul. It would have been very interesting to see the story proceed through a less technological path and kept with the themes of technology is thought to be largely evil, something that is baked into the backbone of the game’s lore.
As you spend days alone digging away in the mines, you’ll collect dirt, sand, stone, and other items such as copper, tin, iron, and numerous other materials that will range depending on the type of mine you’ll pay a small fee each week to use. You’ll also find fans, engines, parts of items that you’ll need to construct at the Research Center, as well as pink couches as far as the eye can see. At first, your options can feel limited, but it’s really not long before you have access to a wide range of interesting places to go to and discover, each containing unique items to keep your furnaces burning. If you’re ever stuck looking for an item or the place to find it, check out this wonderful walkthrough Wiki, here. It was incredibly essential during my playthrough. Keep in mind it is based on the PC version which does contain a bit more content than its console counterparts, at least currently.
If I had to critique one aspect of the process of crafting, it’s the annoyance of having to hold the item in your hand to then apply it to the design. Building a complicated device, with numerous parts, can take a bit to get constructed when you have to keep applying the ingredients to your quick bar, jumping in and out of numerous collection chests and menu’s, and then positioning yourself just right for the prompt to apply said item. When you are crafting any core-item at the nearby workstations, which is not to be confused with the construction pad, it will pull from those collection chests automatically and it allows those items to be a breeze to make. Had this been applied to the construction pad itself, then it would make the experience far more intuitive.
Your farm is going to be something you’ll going to invest a great deal of money and items into building and expanding. You’ll have options all around you for expanding the space you’re given, dishing out substantial sums of money as you add more space to your farm. You also have a house that you can stuff full of couches, chairs, toys, lights, a massive aquarium, and other items that are both cosmetic, but can also buff your attack, defense, health, and more. You can customize the layout of your farm, add structures such as sheds and coops, and change up the overall look of your fences, but the implementation of doing this is a bit more time consuming and complicated than it should be.
To upgrade your house, construction pad, and add a few non-workstation structures, you’re going to need to visit the construction company building next to the town hall. This, like every building in Portia, has a somewhat short loading screen. Inside the building is a catalog that also has its own loading screen as you enter it and exit it. Should you open the catalog and discover that a small item or workstation is in the way of your upgrades or expansion, you’ll need to exit out of the catalog and the building, each with its own loading screen, and race to your farm and move the required items, praying you didn’t miss anything else and then have to do it all over again. Were you able to move all structures and objects within the catalog menu, then my issue with this setup would be rendered fixed and increase the pace of expanding your farm greatly.
As you level up and earn skill points, you’ll imbue certain passive skills to your character through the skill catagories of Battling, Gathering, and Social Skills. Most of these are pretty typical and self explanatory as Battle Skills are based around your attack damage, defense, and your overall effectiveness during combat, and Gathering Skills are based on how much you harvest through your efforts with lumber, cultivation, mining, and fishing. Since each action you take during those efforts uses stamina, Gathering skills are also based around ensuring you have the energy to do so. Lastly, Social Skills are focused on your interactions with the townsfolk, boosting your earnings through relationship interactions, and dating, which can lead to marriage, should you invest heavily into that special someone. Dating, or simply making friends with many of the people in town can offer up perks to make your life in town that little bit easier.
While My Time at Portia is not a visually groundbreaking title, it does have a fun and enjoyable visual design in not just its cast of characters, but the town you’ll traverse for well over 100 hours. The town is full of color, with seasons dramatically changing up the look and feel of the town, seriously, the environments look gorgeous in the winter, so there is always some excitement when the next season rolls around. I love the designs of the workstations, your home, the animals you’ll take care of, to the villains you’ll do battle with. That said, I do wish there were more variations in the bosses as you’ll encounter many of the same types over and over again.
My time with the game has been largely positive, but there are several technical problems that do hold the game back, many of which I’m sure will be addressed in future patches. The game does stutter occasionally, and there are moments where the game will lock up for a few seconds after I’ve beaten a boss or when a cutscene is about to trigger, but this didn’t really bother me to the point of annoyance. Probably the only thing that really annoyed me was the way the game registers the analog stick being let go. When you approach a workstation, or door, or anything you need to interact with, letting go of the stick will have your character usually turn around, facing away from the very thing you’re trying to interact with. From a graphical standpoint, I’ve encountered several invisible buildings, tree’s, missing textures, and various graphical glitches, but these were all things I could work around. While the Nintendo Switch version has seen a patch to address loading times, the loading times present on the Xbox One are still a tad too long considering the frequent in and out nature of buildings and your own home.
My Time at Portia is a very enjoyable, albeit rough around the edges experience. I’m fully convinced that many of the title’s issues will be ignored by those looking to simply get lost in its world of farming and construction, which is very easy to do. What the game does so right is by letting you have a tremendous amount of freedom without forcing harsh time limits on you. Building your farm can be a bit frustrating due to the mechanics of how you move it around to fit the upgraded space, but when you do, and you see the labor of your efforts first hand, there is a sense of pride at what you’ve accomplished. I’ve spent days alone just in the mines, listening to a few podcasts while I chip away at the procedurally generated rock, loading up on minerals and relics to fuel my dreams of affording the costs to expand my farm further, or purchasing that shiny new outfit at the shops with the hefty price tag, and I know I’ll spend even more time diving further into this world and crafting and owning everything I can get my hands on. My Time at Portia may not be the next generation Harvest Moon, or Animal Crossing, but it’s a game that I’ve been obsessing over, often not realizing I’ve played till 2am and I have to work in 6 hours. Seriously, you will lose sleep over this game.
A review code of My Time at Portia was provided for the purpose of this review.
All screenshots were taken on an Xbox One X and Xbox One S.