Despite the extremely positive feedback that I’ve seen surrounding this game ever since it released on Steam’s Early Access program, I must admit that I was rather skeptical about it. While I’ve enjoyed other games that share similarities with this one, I never really found one that managed to get me hooked for more than a couple of hours. Surprisingly enough, I found myself having spent an entire afternoon playing this game the other day, and I’ve been playing it in my free time ever since.
For those of you who’re oblivious as to what My Time At Portia is all about, the simplest way to describe it would be as a grand mixture of elements that you can find in various other games, most notable games like Harvest Moon and Stardew Valley. The game starts off with your arrival at the land of Portia, where you inherit the workshop of your father. From there, you’ll have to build up your reputation, build and craft all sorts of different stuff, farm, mine, fight, explore, socialize, complete quests, all while managing your time in each day in order to make sure that you make the most out of it.
While you start off with pretty much nothing, you’ll quickly find yourself getting new and more exciting stuff. Completing commissions from the Commerce Guild and some of the characters in Portia will allow you to unlock new blueprints, as well as access to some new areas. As you execute tasks, you’ll also gain experience which, upon leveling up, will allow you to assign a skill point to one of three different skill trees, all which correspond to different aspects of the game, battling, gathering resources, or socializing with other people. These are essentially just stats upgrades, things like increased health, damage with certain tools, increasing the chance of gaining double the loot while harvesting a certain resource, or even reducing the cost of certain actions.
Most of the things that you can do in this game are pretty basic, with things like combat and harvesting natural resources requiring barely any effort, but as you get deeper into the game you’ll see that the crafting and building aspect, which is necessary in order to progress, adds a lot more to the game as it forces you to plan your days in advance if you want to make the most out of each one. Everything that involves using resources can only be done in the confinement of your workshop, but the actual process of harvesting requires you to go out and explore. With that said, while at first, the map seemed kind of big for me, once you fully explore it, you realize it’s really not. I soon realized that the fact that your character moves rather slow is what actually makes it look bigger than it is, which is only aggravated by your sprint meter.
There’s another major activity in the game, which is actually the one that I enjoyed the most, and that’s exploring ruins. These are explored by one of the factions of Portia, so you have to pay a weekly fee for each one that you want to access to, so that also brings along another element of planning into the game. Some ruins are just places that you can mine freely for ores, abandoned relics, and other treasures, while others are actual dungeons with several floors, enemies, and bosses that you have to defeat in order to get the most loot.
There is also quite a surprising amount of background to the world. The Church and the Research Center in town are often disagreeing with each other about what they should do with relics found in the ruins, relics that come from a time before Portia existed. Supposedly, there was either a great war or some cataclysmic event that devastated the world and left the surface uninhabitable for a couple of hundred years, and the game takes place about another couple of hundred years after that.
Tied to the game’s time management system is also the fact that your character has limited stamina. Every time you complete an action, whether that be playing a mini-game, fighting, harvesting, or building something, you’ll consume stamina, and the only way to recover stamina is either by sleeping or eating. This makes it so that you can’t really just keep playing, as the game forces you to sleep no matter what – 3 AM means it’s bedtime no matter where you are on the map! -, which is also useful when you want to visit someplace which is only open during a specific time of the day.
While at first I felt like the game was purposely limiting my playtime in some artificial way, as my stamina pool increased, as I leveled up and as I decorated my house with furniture that grants you stats boosts, I felt like this was a really natural way in which the player was able to see how they actually progress. You have to decide how much time you want to dedicate to harvesting certain resources, or if you’d rather go explore a dungeon and see if you can get some valuable loot that you can use. The game gives you plenty of freedom in that respect, even if you tend to always have some sort of quest to help you progress through the game.
There are also town events, meetings, festivals, and other things that can take place, and you’ll be notified about anything new through your mail each day after you wake up. While you can completely ignore the other people who live around you, the game is certainly made with a strong social aspect in mind. By talking with people, aiding them when they ask for your help, and even gifting certain items, you’re bound to increase their likeness towards you, which can eventually even lead up to a romance.
At the end of the day, the core of the game revolves around grinding, so if you’re not into that you might not find yourself enjoy this title that much. Still, as someone who despises games that require you to grind in order to progress through the main content, I have somehow found myself surrendered to Portia’s charm. Nonetheless, I do feel that this is one of those games that will only appeal to a very specific group of people. I also think that it’s worth pointing out that the game has also just received a major content update that added a new dungeon, livestock, horse riding, a museum, as well as a handful of new additions to the relationship system, and judging by previous patch notes, it’s very clear that this isn’t one of those Early Access titles that receives sparse updates.
The game certainly isn’t without its faults, even if you don’t count the heavy grinding element. The performance of the game really leaves quite a lot to be desired, as I struggle to run this at above 50 frames per second on open areas with a pretty decent rig that can manage other games that provide a much higher degree of graphical fidelity than this. The game also only saves whenever you sleep, and each day can take up to 24 minutes in real life, and I’ve also found myself losing an entire day of progress because the game crashed, all because it was almost bedtime and my last save was in the morning. In terms of controls, there are also times in which it feels like they have a slight delay whenever you execute an action, but perhaps this is deliberate, but one thing that I must say is that playing this with a controller while attempting to manage your inventory is kind of hard sometimes, as the game seems to move quite fast compared to how long you hold down a directional key.
Right now, My Time At Portia seems to have its major core systems already in place and, having played the game for quite a few hours, it really managed to grab me and keep me engaged even though there are plenty of clear signs that this is still a work in progress. With that said, while I’m having a wonderful time with this one, I can’t help but shake the feeling that this might be something that would end up being much more enjoyable if you play it once it’s fully released, as right now you’re bound to run into a moment where you have nothing left to do, but you also haven’t really completed the game. Nevertheless, I can’t wait to see what further updates this game will receive leading up to its release. If you’re into games that revolve around farming, crafting, developing relationships with other characters, and managing your time, I think you’ll have a wonderful time at Portia.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary PC code was provided to Bonus Stage for this Preview. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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