Having an entire game themed around building things at your own workshop is a great idea. The act of putting things together and then seeing your handiwork about town is a great motivator. My Time at Portia definitely knows how to use this hook to keep people invested, but is it enough to create a standout in the life sim genre?
I’d been keeping an eye on My Time at Portia for quite some time before playing it. The wide, open areas and the promise of a satisfying day-to-day experience absolutely had my interest piqued. The game starts off as those in its genre tend to. You’re new to town and your relative has left you a house for you to set up shop in. You then get to work improving and building things for the town of Portia.
The game is definitely not focused on plot, but there’s enough to keep your interest. The storyline generally progresses when a new project starts in town, such as building a bridge to get to a nearby island or developing a truck stop. Towards the very end of the questline, the story does come to the forefront in some surprising and satisfying ways. Mostly, though, the focus is completely on your character’s life.
The Game Is Visually Pleasing But Filled With Clipping Issues
Graphically, the game looks good. The game world is fairly large, with a good draw distance and attractive colors and use of foliage. The first time I walked across the large field outside Portia to an orange setting sun, my breath was taken away. The day/night cycle really looks great, as does the way the grass blows in the wind. A lot of the textures and geometry are very simple, but it works well with the art style.
However, the character animations are awkward and stilted. I shook my head every time I walked into the mayor’s office, only to see him awkwardly get out of his chair and then sit back down again. Bosses and enemies can get stun-locked, but some don’t actually have any stun animations. They instead just freeze in place while you whittle their health down. I also found that most anything can clip through a great many walls at any given time. In ruins, I’d knock entire enemies straight through a wall and have to wait for them to walk out. One of my favorites is the animation when you pet your horse. Your horse’s head just clips right through your own, every single time. Overall, the game looks good, but it’s very unpolished in a lot of ways.
Crafting, naturally, is where the game’s focus is. Your character accepts commisions to build things. You have to obtain resources, whether it be via chopping down trees or mining for ore. You then use those resources to build machines that allow you to expand what you can produce. Over time, these projects become bigger and neater. Once you have all the necessary components, you follow a blueprint and assemble the item you need. These can be other machines you can use or items made for your commissions.
The Commission Board Is Great Early On For Money And Points
Commissions in My Time at Portia aren’t just questline-related, either. You can also pick them up at the commission board. Completing these rewards you with gold, workshop points, and friendship points. Being one of the top workshops has both monthly and yearly rewards to boot, but you’ll generally be on top as long as you do the main quest anyway. These optional commissions have a rank attached to them to indicate their complexity. You can only accept a maximum of one at a time and only one per day, though. This is fine early on, but after you massively expand your production capabilities, it feels far too limiting.
Your character has health and stamina that are tied to your level. Most activities accrue experience points that level up and increase your base stats and health/stamina pools. You also get points to put on your character sheet to unlock new perks. Some of these perks are very nice to have, but a lot of them are borderline useless. It’s great to get a chance to double your resource collection, but not great to invest dozens of points just to train your horse faster, especially when that takes no time at all without it.
The various activities My Time at Portia offers are generally fun as well. As stated previously, you can chop down trees for wood and other resources, which is a nice way to pass the time. Mining is a personal favorite of mine, though, as it tends to a happen in a single massive ruin and the area you mine gets bored out in real time. You can also fish, raise animals, ride a horse, befriend Portians, fight monsters, and go to festivals. The game truly seems like it has a lot to offer. And it does. For the first 40 hours or so.
My Time At Portia Is More Of A Waiting Simulator
In the beginning, I was hooked on this game. Early on, you don’t have much stamina and there’s a ton of stuff to do and build. I was enthralled and always eager to jump back in and get some more work done. At this point, I’d barely unlocked any of the other parts of the map. You unlock those by completing story missions. The first small area I unlocked had an interesting assortment of things it came with: more large trees and a new fishing spot, plus a couple of new places to interact with townsfolk on dates. The second, however, just contained one or two new types of resources to gather and a ruin you go to literally twice.
Before unlocking the game’s most substantial additional area, the desert, the number of things I needed to do massively dried up. I had all the resources I needed, some of the best equipment in the game that I easily got from the church, and the story missions were taking forever to roll in. There are times when you have to wait an entire week or more to get the next mission to show up. This specific line of missions had to do with building a bridge to get to the desert. You build it little-by-little, and it feels like it takes forever.
My Time at Portia has a rhythm to it at this point. You have nothing to do, so you sleep or wait around until you get a mission. The mission requires you to process a lot of materials, so you wait days and days for all that to finish. Once you assemble what you need and turn it in, you’re back to waiting for the next mission. Most of my time playing this game was spent getting up, doing one or two things, and then going back to sleep a minute later. The mission structure is pure carrot-and-stick. You have barely anything to occupy yourself with, but you just hope that the next thing you unlock will somehow change the wait-and-sleep nature of the game. Unfortunately, it doesn’t.
After Dozens Of Hours, It Becomes Obvious How Empty The Game Is
I was excited to finally unlock the desert too. “I’ll finally have some more content to dig in to!” And for a few in-game days, it was true. There were a couple of new monsters to farm resources from. Some new stuff to harvest. But after a while, I pretty much had absolutely everything I’d need from the desert for the entire rest of the game. Just to clarify, I was about 40 hours in at this point and bored out of my skull. It took over 100 hours of waiting and sleeping to get to the end of the story missions.
I also absolutely have to mention the other big areas you unlock along the way. Each one has generally one-to-two story missions and a single new harvestable resource. A very late-game questline opened up the entire northernmost point of the map. But there was nothing there. Just trees and a single new enemy who didn’t drop anything I’d ever use. Most of the game’s map is completely barren. I spent all that time wondering what cool stuff was over there, only to find that it was nothing.
Similarly, the town’s fisherman told me all about a place called Starlight Island. Late in the game, you get a mission to build a boat to get there. And guess what? It has a single mission set in a ruin you can only enter once and three useless resources. There are new trees, rocks, and assets, but you can’t interact with them. Starlight Island is just as empty as the rest of the game. So, yeah, I wasted dozens of hours in this game to unlock new areas with nothing in them after having seen all the worthwhile stuff in the first 40 hours. But the ultimate insult wouldn’t come until the end.
This Endgame Quest Was A Giant Slap In The Face
About two game years and 100 hours into My Time at Portia, there is a mission that requires you to grind an absolutely massive amount of the game’s two rarest materials for a mission. Now, the game has things called Hazardous Ruins, which are randomly-generated dungeons with multiple floors. You get through these and fight a boss, and it rewards you with rare materials that you almost never need. This mission wanted me to go through one of them 30 times. It wanted me to spend 6-8 hours grinding with the game’s horrible combat to get enough of a single material to complete this mission.
The combat is just the worst. You have a single combo and, despite the game telling me I could, I couldn’t lock onto enemies using my controller. The fighting has almost no feedback. Attacks don’t feel like they connect, whether they hit you or an enemy. And there’s no recovery time when you take damage, so an enemy can just obliterate your health in no time before you even know what’s happening. It just feels awful.
Now, My Time at Portia absolutely hates to explain things. The entire time I played, I almost constantly had to have the wiki open. Oftentimes I’d need to build a new thing, but the game wouldn’t tell me how. Or I’d need to build a specific material and the game wouldn’t tell me where. The wiki was great for getting started early on upcoming missions while I waited and waited for them to become available. On the wiki, that one super rare material I mentioned was said to be most easily got by growing a specific tree. So, I figured I’d just grow a bunch of trees and sleep through the growth period and do it that way.
This Is Definitely One Of The Most Boring Games I’ve Ever Played
Unfortunately, despite pretty much all of My Time at Portia‘s other main missions not having a deadline, this one did. I slept through the deadline only to find that the trees only RARELY give you the material I grew them for. I assumed it was okay, though. Surely, the game would give me an opportunity to do the mission again after waiting for a bit. Wrong! I slept through two weeks and couldn’t trigger it again, so I didn’t get to do a mission that was over 100 hours in the making.
I could talk at length about everything in the game, as there’s more to talk about. But almost all of it is pointless. Making friends with the townsfolk is tedious and not at all worth the time. You can get married, but the characters have a tiny amount of things to say and barely have anything to them, so it’s meaningless outside of doing it just because you feel like it. Late in the game, you can even get a factory that allows you to massively speed up production. Plus, there’s an upgrade that lets you mass produce assembled items, but there isn’t any need for them since you can still only take one commission at a time. In fact, almost everything in My Time at Portia feels as empty and pointless as Starlight Island.
If My Time at Portia was a 40-hour game, I could very easily recommend it. When the game is at its best, it’s a great time. But it decides to pad itself out in such a supremely awful way that my eventual experience with the game bordered on agony. This is without a doubt one of the most boring, disappointing games I think I’ve ever played. If you’re the type of gamer that just likes crafting things and decorating just because you can, there’s probably a lot to enjoy. But for anyone who actually needs content and incentives, this game absolutely does not respect your time. And MY time at Portia? It was a giant waste that ended with a massive slap in the face. Play at your own risk.
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Andrew Farrell has an extreme hearing sensitivity called hyperacusis that keeps him away from all loud noises. Please do not throw rocks at his window. That is rude. He loves action and rpg games, whether they be AAA or indie. He does not like sports games unless the sport is Baseketball.