Very few things disappoint me more than slice-of-life games. For whatever reason, I am drawn to them. I’ve played many different versions of Animal Crossing and Harvest Moon. I’ve spent days toiling in Stardew Valley. Inevitably, I succumb to boredom before I can really enjoy the fruits of my labor. Inevitably, I’ll buy the next one that crosses my path.
My Time at Portia caught my attention because it described itself as Post-Apocalyptic but all the promo media has bright colors. Normally when you’re playing a post-apocalypse game of any kind you’re greeted to a grey and brown world that hates you. My Time at Portia subverts all of this with hits happy vibe and sunny world. And I don’t know about you, but I need a break from all the bleak visions of the future.
Gameplay consists of you arriving in the town of Portia and quickly taking over your father’s abandoned workshop. You then take contracts to build things for the town or individual NPCs. To build things you roam around an open work collecting and harvesting materials. You then put the materials into forges, grinders, and the like to make components. Once all the components are made, you’ll assemble them on your project space. Sounds simple right? Collecting what you need is anything simple.
To collect wood you’ll need an axe, but the first axe can only handle chopping down bushes and the smallest of saplings. You’ll need to upgrade it to cut down mature trees that contain the stronger hardwood you’ll need for many projects. To upgrade your axe and get any earthy materials you’ll be needing you to need to go into the Abandoned Ruins.
When I first entered the Abandoned Ruins I was surprised. The ruins are an underground mining area that has reactive terrain. This is probably through the use of voxels, but I can’t say for certain. Unfortunately, the novelty wears off when you realize you’re just in a destructible underground cube and spamming the pickaxe is going to be the next ten minutes of your life.
Once you’ve got your raw materials its back to your workshop where you’ll stoke the fires of your forge and wait for an entire in-game day for the bronze bars to come rolling out. This is a truly baffling mechanic to see in a single-player, paid PC game. This isn’t an online game where waiting is part of the balance. Nor is My Time at Portia a game where you can speed up the process through microtransactions. You’re waiting for the sake of waiting it seems.
I believe the game designers intend for you to build dozens of forges to get your production engine going. But who has the time? Building forges, grinders, and saws require the same resources you need to make the thing you’re trying to make in the first place.
The feeling of “why is this game like this” seems to permeate many of the experiences in the game as well. The game has a leveling mechanic as there are monsters to fight, although they seem more adorable than deadly. Personally, I constantly forget about my level as dodging is easy and the skill trees don’t affect combat nearly as much as your gear does.
To its credit, My Time at Portia has an NPC dating mechanic. One that doesn’t restrict gender pairings. While this is becoming rarer in modern games, My Time at Portia is the first game I’ve seen that has more potential husbands than it does wives. It’s not enough to keep me in the game to the end, but I would be remiss if I didn’t point out.
My Time at Portia’s problem is that it doesn’t know what it wants to be. It does a lot well and better than many of its competitors, at the same time it massively lacks focus. While your progress seems fast due to the variety of what My Time at Portia has to offer, all of it has you wondering why you’re doing it in the first place. I suspect the game would be much better if it had some amount of multi-player. The word is huge and there is a lot of work to get done. I wish I had the will to do it on my own.
My Time at Portia was developed by Pathea Games and published by Team17 it is available on Windows, Playstation 4, Xbox One, and Nintendo Switch. For its price, I would recommend getting Stardew Valley and playing with a friend.