My Time at Portia Review – Don’t Make Me Leave
My Time at PortiaJanuary 15th, 2019 (PC); April 16th (PS4, XB1, NS)
The setting of My Time at Portia really surprised me. While I was expecting another delightfully colourful and relaxing game like Stardew Valley, I wasn’t expecting to see the ruins of skyscrapers looming over the horizon. My Time at Portia is a lovely game that feels capable of competing even with the titans of the genre.
If I had to try and find a comparison for My Time at Portia, I would probably say that it was the unlikely lovechild of Stardew Valley and Horizon: Zero Dawn. There was an apocalypse in this world, but what remains is a pleasant and peaceful existence in the shadows of the ruins. I’ve got to say it wasn’t a setting that I thought would work when so much media is dedicated to showing us how bad the world would look after we’ve gone, but My Time at Portia’s simple lifestyle simulation and hopeful message almost immediately won me over.
I say “almost immediately” because I did struggle a bit at the beginning. The tutorial felt long and slow and I wasn’t sure if this was something that held my interest. But when a game is as wide and whimsical as this one, a little time in the beginning is nothing to flinch at. I’ve put in nearly one hundred hours in Portia at this point, building my farm and the surrounding community, gathering resources and continuing to discover new things.
There isn’t much story in My Time at Portia, which is a shame. Your reason for being in the town in the first place and helping it expand is almost at odds with the rest of the game as it feels quite selfish. You’re determined to become the best builder, and that is you’re only real motivation. While I had much more fun playing as an easy going tinkerer, merrily discovering new things and building everything with that same sense of wonder, the game occasionally reminds you that this isn’t your actual goal, however much I wanted it to be.
Luckily, that doesn’t stop you enjoying the game however you want to. The beautiful graphics of the game had me exploring just to find the nicest views, sacking off the constraints of the timed assignments and the longer grinds. The whole game has this almost washed out feel that makes each landscape you come across look like an old and worn postcard from someplace nice. And it’s adorable little characters and creatures only add to that almost Disney-like charm. But once you’ve gotten used to the scenery it’s time to get to work.
Portia is less of a farming game and more of a building one, but they share a similar foundation. Players will have to find and harvest a bunch of raw materials before constructing whatever it is you’ve been asked to build. As the game goes on you can begin to make this easier for yourself by introducing small farmlands to your home, letting you get to and harvest some of the common ingredients more easily. Although farming isn’t exactly profitable in the game, it is quite nice having a few animals wandering around past your window as you get to work, and with such a huge map to explore, you’ll never mind setting off on an adventure.
A lot of the game lets you explore the desecrated corpses of the cities that came before, and often have randomly generated dungeons and monsters to explore and fight. Maybe I should have mentioned this sooner, but there is an RPG and combat system tacked on My Games at Portia. Much like Stardew Valley’s mine, this game lets you get your hands dirty, but unlike the mine in Stardew Valley, this is a much bigger focus of the game. These ruined sections offer a lot of useful resources you’ll be needing and you’ll have to find your way to get to them. But fighting is fun, the enemies add something interesting to the landscape and never feel out of place. It’s all a bit simple, but that adds to the fairly easy going experience that Portia is obviously trying to cater to.
What I’ve always hated about resource management games is actually managing the resources. From the dungeon crawlers to the latest games as a service titles, any game that has me constantly wading into the menus and inventories to try and find that one resource, weapon, or pair of pants I need can become extremely frustrating. Luckily, the developers of My Time at Portia seem to share my pain and have removed all of these tedious aspects. Using your workbench gives you access to all your inventories and storied materials at once, which means you don’t have to randomly drop or replace half your inventory just to undo it all a minute later. It also makes it much easier to organise and find what you’re looking for through a remarkably user-friendly menu.
But when you’re not busy building or exploring, you’ll probably be socialising in the town of Portia. There is a lot of charm here too, with characters that change their outfit to match the season, but this isn’t quite as well reflected in the dialogues as other games. Stardew Valley had such memorable characters with distinctive personalities but here, I still struggle to tell some of the characters apart by anything but appearance. Even so, soaking up the small town vibes is still delightful and charming.
Of course there's a wide variety of bugs that are constantly interrupting your experience, but as a game to unwind and enjoy, My Time at Portia is hard not to fall in love with. It's a game that calls to you after a bad day, a true example of escapism in almost every sense and a chance to feel proud of small achievements. I have been playing it for a long time now, and still look forward to coming back to my little hamlet and losing myself in a world that doesn't feel cold and hostile, just for a little while.
Reviewed on PC (code provided by the publisher). You can get the game for Steam via Green Man Gaming.
My Time at Portia is a beautiful, relaxing experience. With the charming art style and plenty of activities to go through, players will easily lose themselves in the game's pleasant setting for hours and hours.
- Looks amazing
- Feels delightfully charming
- Something for everyone
- So much to do and see
- Bugs of every shape and size occasionally burrow up
- Some farming products are almost completely pointless
- Timed assignments can add stress to this most unstressful of games.