My Time at Portia begins when you unexpectedly inherit Pa’s workshop on the mysterious island of Portia. Now, it’s up to you to fix up the house, get your builder’s license, and help the townsfolk improve the town and their lives. It’s set sometime after an apocalypse wiped out the previous civilization, but that part is quite vague. It really only comes up when you speak to members of the Church of Light or with the researchers, who have opposing views on past technology that you may find buried in the local ruins.
My Time at Portia looks pretty good. It’s not as crisp or vibrant as I would have liked, but it certainly doesn’t look bad. The scenery is a vaguely European seaside village, and doesn’t look to special or inspired. The map is fairly large though, so there is a lot to explore. I do wish the town had more hints to its post-apocalyptic setting. As it is, it just looks like any other farming simulator.
The character models really grew on me. When I was creating my character, I wasn’t too impressed. But once I got into the game, I started to really like them, There’s a decent about of diversity among the residents’ style and appearance which is nice. The animals are also adorable and varied from the pink cats to the giant Mr. Ladybugs!
Sound Effects + Music:
The background music in My Time at Portia is alright. There definitely aren’t enough tracks though, as I immediately noticed the loop in my short first play session. The music also abruptly cuts off whenever there’s a load screen. I’m not sure what could been done about that, but I know in other games the music either continues or fades out, not simply muting.
Gameplay + Controls:
My Time at Portia is a life simulator with RPG elements. The focus is heavily on collecting and crafting. Collecting is easy enough as collectible materials are laid out around the map and sparkle when you approach. Other items can be collected by interacting with the environment such as trees, large rocks, the ruins, and fishing. There are a ton of materials and items to collect. Even on my first day my inventory was full to bursting!
Crafting is extremely involved and I like that. You don’t just walk up to your workbench with the required materials, select what you want to make, and make it instantly. Well, that is how it works for the workbench, but you also need a furnace to forge raw materials into other usable forms, and the assembly deck to combine crafted objects into something new.
You don’t get eased into the complications of collected and crafting either. Aside from your first two missions to create basic tools, you’ll immediately have to make a bridge which has several steps to it from collecting the material to making other tools to transforming some materials and eventually crafting the bridge pieces. It was a bit overwhelming at first, but it also forced me to explore and learn right off the bat. No down time in Portia!
My Time at Portia does use an XP and HP system, so you can’t do everything in one day. You use Stamina for every action you perform which limits the amount of activities you can do in one day. I actually never fully depleted my Stamina even though there is a ton to do, mostly because it takes time to get anywhere and figure out what needs to get done. Meanwhile, you’ll earn Experience for each action you take as well, which levels up your character. For each level, you get a skill point which can be used to select upgrades on the rather expansive skill tree.
The game also appears to have a curfew. Time runs differently on Portia. If you’ve played any of The Sims games, you’ll be familiar with the approximately one real world second to one in game minute passage of time. So while it may seem like you have a long day ahead of you, it’s gone in a flash since you’re constantly so busy. However, even if you have more Stamina, the game gives you a warning that it’s late and you need to go home. If you don’t go home and get into bed, you pass out, but just teleport into bed and wake up the next morning, losing about 5 hours of in-game time.
The game only saves when you get into bed, so I can kind of understand it requiring that you head to bed each day so you don’t lose progress. But couldn’t it have implemented periodic autosave or even a manual save button? I don’t like having time stolen from me when I can still get things done. You can’t pull an all-nighter by managing your stamina by eating food, since the game will just send you home.
There are a lot of controls and menus for this game. The basic controls, which are shown through a tutorial, are easy enough (walk, run, jump, attack, pick up). But there were a few times in my first play sessions where I had no idea what to do. Like how do I select an item to use from my accessibly inventory? The tutorial didn’t say and neither did the help tab. I figured it out after pressing every button (it’s the left/right D-pad, you’re welcome). I also didn’t know how to mine, but pressing a few buttons helped there as well. There’s also no way (that I’ve found) to “put away” an item that you’re carrying unless you leave an empty slot and select that. Otherwise, my character was always running around town wielding an axe.
This game really does not hold your hand, focusing on open exploration. Sure, it regularly gives you missions to complete and commissions so you have stable income. But it never tells you exactly where to go or what to do. There will be markers on the map showing you generally where to go to accomplish your current tasks, but it’s up to you to find what you need. By my second in-game week, I had fallen into a nice routine mixed with missions, commissions, and exploration.
One thing that annoyed me from the very beginning was socializing. You can make friends, date, get married, and even have kids in My Time at Portia. That’s all great, except it seems like getting there will be tedious. When you chat with a resident, you get +1 in your relationship, but only once per day. If you try to talk to them again, they say the same exact line. This is very limiting and frustrating. I wound up not focusing on socializing very much. If I saw someone I liked, I’d do the one interaction, but I wouldn’t seek them out each day.
My Time at Portia is one of those games that can go on forever past the final mission. Upon starting over, you can have an entirely new experience based on the choices you make. But I don’t think it’s a game that I’d start over when I finish. I’d prefer to just keep going, since those early days are pretty rough.
I enjoyed my time with My Time at Portia. It didn’t hook me as much as I thought it would, but it’s a fun game to pick up and play a day or two at a time.