“Jumping into a new world and its environment can be rather scary. It’s an overwhelming experience… and getting lost on what and what not to do is something we all know very well.”
Taking inspiration from the likes of Stardew Valley… or Harvest Moon if you really prefer to keep it old-school, My Time in Portia pushes you into an adventure of a lifetime. The very moment I got off the ship and learned that I’m about to be in charge of a broken down workshop already put tons of ideas off my head like “Who’s that fat guy again?” “Where’s the bathroom?” and “Do I even bathe?”
The game starts us up with the most basic of basics. It’s a world that has been swallowed whole by mankind’s greed and thus the post-apocalyptic world has been rebuilt and its relics and technological advancements lost in the rubble. As a builder of the many workshops in Portia, we live by taking commissions and requests from the citizens like providing simple tools for their daily needs to the most complex creations for transportation and infrastructure. But what makes it a rewarding experience is to see the town improve in such ways making each and every project we take, a moment to remember.
“Putting freedom as the game’s core value.”
But while we do have our goals, the plot itself is centered towards your own. Catering into the freedom to pursue whatever interests you be it starting a family with the many candidates of Portia or putting Higgins back to his place as a second-rate workshop owner. So while most days starts you off with the daily chore of making sure the crafting stations are in working order or the plants and livestock are kept in check, everything else is up to your own volition. And it’s that kind of freedom which makes each and every day of the month feel less repetitive than it originally is.
You could grab a pickaxe on your first few days and spend your week on an abandoned ruin for ores or you could visit an area filled with trees to chop some wood. Each one is a viable option to start with but fishing can also be a very rewarding experience that has its own merits as a mini-game and as a means for your starting income. There’s tons of things at play here as well which makes the game a bit more than it looks. Market prices for example is one thing that I haven’t notice until much later. As prices tend to fluctuate making some days a good day to buy stuffs while others are the best days to sell loads of it.
But a town is never complete without the many events placed towards the months of the year. Be it a festival to celebrate the sun which has you running in circles trying to snatch as much presents raining down from the sky along with the other Portians or martial arts contests and snowball fights towards the winter.
“But if you think that’s a lot, wait ‘til you see the bugs.”
I really love the game to the point I realized I’ve already clocked in at over 60 hours without ever finishing the main storyline quests. “And yes I still haven’t finished it.” Mainly because I just love improving my workshop and changing its layout as I gain more space everytime but also because of personal reasons that rendered it impossible to focus on gaming for a short while. But even my love for the game isn’t enough to keep myself from talking about the bugs which makes my entire experience go from hero to zero. And it has a lot of that too.
During the first week of its release on consoles, it does have a slightly lengthy loading time. Going from six seconds to enter a small building like Albert and Gust’s Construction Building while clocking at twelve to thirteen seconds to exit out and back to the open world or when entering an abandoned ruin for mining ores. Although the updates managed to drop them down to a five to six second load time which is still quite long considering you’ll be going in and out of them quite a bit. Although that’s not exactly what makes the game a little frustrating… it’s the enemies from the dungeon in the sewage plant. It’s annoying nature of teleporting enemies to the roof… like literally. Since the gate won’t open until all enemies are defeated, it makes the consumed three to five in-game hours when entering wasted as you come back out and possibly in again to try a second or third try wasting even more time than you’d want. There’s also things that would fail to load properly like your workshop or some trees making them invisible but the more annoying parts is where your livestock leaves their quarters for the entire day. Meaning your cows won’t give you milk while your chickens won’t give you eggs until tomorrow morning. “But maybe animals deserve to have their holidays too.”
But when it comes to its core mechanics there’s also quite a few hiccups here and there. First of it being the combat. It felt unresponsive and mostly fails to connect unless using a sword. Using stuffs like a hammer or the gloves would mostly miss its first shot at a regular sized enemy making it more of a weapon that best fits a large boss that you’ll never fight as much as you would’ve wanted. While getting hit by an attack freezes you in place for a short while instead of pulling out a fitting animation for it. Renovating your workshop area is also one of its greatest problems, as you’re not allowed to move crafting stations, planter boxes or chests from the A&G Building, you’re forced to plan out before heading there or put them all back to your inventory which provides its own set of problems. “Sleep to save” is a rather awkward way to end the game as well. There’s never a good time to stop at that point and feels like you’re forced to do so. It also felt like a game stuck in a previous generation where you’ll have to scroll over to your different tools in your hotbar before you could chop a tree or mine ores. Instead of providing an item wheel to seamlessly switch from one tool to the next.
Visually it’s a pleasantly cartoon-y game that has its share of diverse areas from grasslands, mountainous regions, desert wastelands as well as changing seasons but lacks some good character animations as well as voice-acting. Making each and every cutscene and screen text dialogue a completely silent read. Still, its charm is there whether you’re dressed to impress with the few outfits you could unlock through the power of money or bought from event badges as well as the accessories and hats to make your Portian unique which helps me get even more invested into my character’s progression.
I can’t say I’ve finished the game… because I still haven’t done that and it’s already the first day of May in case you’re curious as to when I wrote this. But as far as story and progression goes, it has its fair share of slow days such as waiting for the research results needed to progress the story. However there are many things, mini-games included that helps bridge the gaps of progression and fun all in one sentence. Its colorful world is pleasing to the eye even more so than dating Merlin for her so-called “research” purposes. My Time in Portia, despite its shortcomings always feel like you’re progressing. And maybe because you really do. Whether you’re chopping a tree nearby or whacking at a boulder in the distance, it gives you experience points to level up and earn new abilities to help you in battle, gathering or socializing.
But there are little things that can clog up the waterworks and its quality of life improvements is what I really wanted to see here. Sadly there’s a couple of things… “quality of life improvement things” I wish that would’ve been available from the get-go. Making less visits towards a wiki page or less scribbles on my notepad for materials needed for my next build. It definitely looks and feels like a good game and one that can improve as time goes by in Portia. If you’re looking for a game to scratch your itch for the likes of Stardew Valley, then look no further just keep in mind that the game feels like a work-in-progress than a complete game.