My time at Portia follows a player’s journey as they start a new life, restoring Pa’s workshop to its former glory while building relationships with a host of quirky characters. Players will need to fill commissions by building equipment made from self-sourced materials as well as raising crops and livestock.
My Time at Portia (MTAP) on the surface looks like a typical rural landscape in which farming seems to be the most viable source of income, but it is quickly apparent that this has not always been the case. The landscape is littered with the remains of buildings and machinery and it quickly becomes obvious that this is actually a post-apocalyptic land. The game doesn’t have an epic flashy story to keep the players on the edge of their seats but is a more subtle tale in which the player learns the fate and foils of the previous generation through discussion with NPC’s, artefacts and exploration. This is a really lovely way to tell a story and encourages the player to speak to everyone and explore every nook and cranny, however the only downside is that the ‘story’ itself feels a little like a series of individual tasks with little tying them together. This being said, many games of this ilk have no story at all so this is easily forgiven, and it still feels like there is a purpose to completing tasks. In a nutshell, the prior inhabitants of the world were a fairly advanced race, technologically speaking but as with Icarus, flew too close to the sun and ultimately destroyed themselves through dependency on technology. The current inhabitants are divided in their options of how to progress with one half taking a more religious route, certain that investigating technology will result in the same outcome of utter destruction, and those taking a more scientific standpoint feeling like much can be learned from the old world providing they are careful. This manifests in a very clever system of what the player can do with the old-world technology that they find. It can either be traded with the church for rural items such as seed, before being destroyed by them or can be given to scientists who will use the technology to create new blueprints for the player to create mechanical items. I found this to be a simple yet incredibly well executed reason to trade away the items rather than just doing it ‘because you have to’. It’s the little details that make a game shine and fortunately, MTAP has many.
MTAP is played in the third person with the player taking control of a created character throughout. You start off with a small plot of land with a house, a workbench and an assembly station and throughout the game, can upgrade these in order to create more impressive items. Player will need to mine, farm and gather resources in order to create more elaborate machines that are capable of making more and more useful items. Although there are hundreds of options, it also feels like quite a simple and accessible system, which may turn off more hardcore fans of this genre, but there is still plenty to make. All actions in-game are based on a stamina system in which mining, chopping, gathering and attacking all deplete the gauge and it can be restored by eating or sleeping. Players gain experience from performing actions and completing tasks and can level up, earning skill points that can be used to activate perks that are beneficial in some way. The game works on a day/night cycle in which certain events happen on certain days or at certain times, standard fare for the type of game although I feel the game would have benefitted from giving the player some control over this feature. I found at times when there was a lot going on that the days were just not long enough (as you are forced to sleep if it reaches 3am) and at other times when I had perhaps a week to kill, they were too long. The ability to change the day length or to sleep/rest for days at a time would have made some of the events feel like less of a chore.
As well as machinery that creates items to progress the story, players can also make furniture and clothing, both to improve stats and fulfil tasks for NPC character resulting in friendships and rewards. By making friends with NPC characters and improving relationships, the player will gain certain perks from said character and can also continue to build the relationship into a romantic one if desired. The relationship mechanic is pretty straightforward, talk to them every day and give gifts to improve it and you can eventually take them on dates and then marry them. As a system, it works fine but I felt it was a very very slow process and the amount of interaction needed in order to eventually marry someone felt staggering. Combined with the day/night cycle mentioned earlier, there were days where it felt like all I did was improve relationships with a handful of characters (and a dog and cat) before being forced to sleep.
As well as the standard gather/build/repeat cycle of fulfilling tasks, MTAP also has a simple combat system used to gather enemy based resources or to loot dungeons. When I say simple, it is just that, with a handful of weapons to make, one attack button and one roll button. Although it works for the most part, it doesn’t seem particularly well executed in dungeons. There seems to be a small lag between pressing the buttons and the character completing the action, so when faced with a boss for example, rather than being able to hit, dodge and play with strategy, I found myself just hammering attack, getting hit, healing and repeating. There also seems to be little or no difficulty curve when it comes to enemies, it is a simple case of a higher levelled enemy hits harder and a higher-level player can take more hits but there’s little more to it than that. This is a shame as the combat could have been a lot of fun but is easily the weakest part of the game; that being said, the game is not a dungeon crawler at its heart, so it isn’t a deal breaker.
The aesthetic of MTAP is gorgeous and although a little rough around the edges a times, impressed me throughout my playthrough. The main fields are sprawling with beautiful vegetation giving off an almost ‘Breath of the Wild’ feel and the towns and ruins were also well executed. As for sound, the BGM is pleasant to listen to but at times felt a little grating as although there are many different tracks, I only seemed to hear the same one or two. I also feel it important to mention that I had a LOT of problems with the sound when playing on the PS4. There was a very noticeable break as the BGM looped which left my game in silence for several seconds at a time, which in hindsight may be the reason I found the loop so grating as I was made very aware of when it was repeating. I also had a huge problem with the cutscenes in my game in which they were completely silent or had music OR sound effects but not both. At first, I though nothing of it, just a glitch I was experiencing but after speaking to other players (all on PS4), each had the same issue. This combined with other small issues as mentioned throughout the review gives the game an almost unfinished feel at times and although the game is good, its small issues that stop it being great.
Overall, My Time at Portia is a beautiful game and a joy to play, despite some minor issues that take away from the experience. My one major gripe regarding the game is what feels like a massive lack of direction in the beginning, whether this is to force the player to explore or just an oversight, I found myself a little frustrated in the first hour or two as I felt I didn’t know what I should have been doing. It is also not the deepest in terms of freedom but has a good balance between giving the player a purpose but not being too restrictive and linear. You can tell that MTAP was made with love and was an ambitious project which for me, allowed me to overlook the minor flaws and just enjoy a wonderful relaxing experience.
- Beautiful style.
- Quirky style/characters.
- Easy to play.
- Rough around the edges.
- Poor combat.
- Very slow relationship mechanic.
My Time at Portia is a little rough around the edges but otherwise a beautiful game that is easy to pick up and play, with enough depth to keep you interested.