There’s something about starting a brand new life in an enchanting town that will always get me excited to play a game. Releasing on PC earlier this year (and even before that if you happened to play in the Alpha or Beta), My Time at Portia is now arriving on home consoles for the first time. Trying to avoid any and all information on it until it finally hit the Nintendo Switch, I kept hearing small tidbits about it through social media channels. For someone like myself who loves all things farming and simulation-style games, I’ve been eagerly waiting to play! So far, it’s been hard to put down. I was told by someone it’s a lot like Animal Crossing. Well guess what? It isn’t. And that’s okay! My Time at Portia is for the fans of old-school Harvest Moon, Story of Seasons, and more recently, Stardew Valley. If those games sparked your interest at all in the past, what are you waiting for?
Title: My Time at Portia
Developer: Pathea Games
Available On: PC, Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Reviewed On: Nintendo Switch
Release Date: April 16, 2019
Game Provided By Team17 for the Purpose of This Review
Right away, you’re dropped into the character creation system. While it isn’t in-depth as I would have preferred, there are still some unique decisions that can be made, like how high you want your nose to be, how big of lips does your person have, or how long of hair you can grow. Choosing between a male and female character, the similarities between the two are extremely high, as when all is said and done, there just isn’t that many choices to be made when designing who you want to play as. Everyone also starts off with the same clothing, but fear not. In the town there will be a clothing store and a barber shop which will eventually unlock and give you a bit more customization options.
Now I can’t go any further without mentioning the next thing you’re going to immediately notice. As of the time of posting, the load times are still excruciatingly long when first starting the game, at least on Nintendo Switch. There was a Day One patch that was supposed to address the load times, but it doesn’t appear to have fixed the initial load before you begin playing each session. From my own personal experience, and watching Kyle stream the game on launch day on Twitch, the starting load time can be almost 5 minutes, which is insane. At least the team is aware of the issue, and hopefully a proper fix will be available soon! The silver lining at least, after that the load times seem to go much quicker. Just be aware that when starting the game for the first time each play session, you’re going to sit through a very lengthy wait period.
Set in a post-apocalyptic world where humanity has scaled back a bit and simplified their actions, the game begins with not much else in terms of backstory. You find out your character has inherited your Pa’s workshop and it needs fixing up. Because your character doesn’t have any experience or skills necessary to undertake this responsibility, you have to prove yourself to the Mayor of Portia while also helping out the other citizens. Accepting and turning in commissions becomes a task you’ll constantly be doing to build relationships and earn currency in the initial hours of the game.
Which brings me to another point. The first several hours, perhaps up to the 8 or 10 hour mark, are extremely slow-going in terms of progression and getting into the juicy parts of what makes My Time at Portia a charming and endearing adventure to play through. It feels overwhelming initially with everything that is available to do and this wide open area to explore, but really, 90% of the stuff is locked off to you even though you can actually see it. You’ll need to spend the first several real world hours gathering materials, introducing yourself to everyone in town, mining like crazy in the Abandoned Ruins, and completing whatever commissions you can to earn money and unlock more inventory space.
If you feel overwhelmed initially, just pick a few tasks you want to accomplish each day and set off. You can go around gathering materials and kicking trees to find items (hey maybe this is like Animal Crossing after all), explore the caves, talk to people in town, fight different animals for supplies, and so much more. Take advantage of the full day system! After repairing your workshop so you can get a good night’s sleep, you should be staying awake until between 2am-3am. There is no need to go to sleep early, as there isn’t a benefit for it. You can use the extra in-game hours to explore more, find things to do the next day, or if you’re able to salvage some stamina for that night, keep exploring those mines and gathering material! Your stamina is going to play a big part in what you can and cannot do each day, so try to manage it properly!
You need a lot of different machines and parts to make one thing. For example, you can go around and cut trees down and even pick up tree branches off the floor but if you need a wooden board you’ll need to make one machine to make parts to complete another machine so you can then use that machine to make the machine for you to make the wooden boards. Sound confusing? It was at first. Who knew so much work went into making something so simple? It can feel tedious and at some points a little overboard in my opinion. Probably because every time I made one thing and got that job done I would have to make a few other machines to then finish the next. And until you start making good money your little area starts to feel so cramped with machines everywhere.
Another thing that jumped out to me while I was out completing tasks are the random drops in framerate that My Time at Portia currently suffers through. I noticed it most when interacting with tools while cutting down trees, or exploring in the Abandoned Ruins. It isn’t a deal breaker by any means, but the drops in framerate cause several of the animations to just appear off, and it looks a little jarring at times. Also, the menu system is definitely optimized for PC. It could have used some extensive tweaking to make it feel a bit more natural on home consoles and when using a controller.
When you need to take a break I like to go around and explore the town. Something that was interesting at least for me was that the people in town do not sleep where their place of work is. Everyone actually has a little internal schedule that they follow like a real person! So a lot of times you can catch them walking around. I really enjoy when a development team gives each character some individuality and has them lead an actual life, even if it is a virtual one. You can watch a character walk to work in the morning, observe them throughout the day while working, see what they do after, and then all the way back home. Now don’t be a creeper and just follow one person around all day, but it makes the world of My Time at Portia feel that much more alive and personal.
If you’re able to overcome all the initial obstacles that stand in your way from really blowing open the experience, you’ll be rewarded with a deep life simulator that is actually quite fun and addicting. Featuring a plethora of villagers to interact with, you can give them gifts, spar with them, play “Rock, Paper, Scissors”, or just chat with them initially. As the relationships progress, you’ll eventually be able to unlock the dating options, which is a lot of fun! Dates include things like going for a walk by the water, shooting off fireworks, going to dinner, going for a ride in a hot air balloon, stargazing, hot springs, and quite a bit more. The team didn’t skimp out at all on the dating options, which is super refreshing! Play your cards right, and this can eventually lead to marriage and kids, which will again change up the way you play the game.
A similarity this does share with Animal Crossing is the festivals and events that take place in Portia on certain days. You’ll always want to check your mailbox every day, as anytime something important is going to happen or a fun event is scheduled, you’ll be notified. Things like a Fishing Event, an event where items are dropped out of an airship and everyone in the town runs around trying to be the first to grab the items, a ghost hunting adventure, Autumn Harvest Festivals, and of course, snowball fights in the winter! There’s almost always something to look forward to on the calendar, be it an event, a birthday, or just an upcoming date.
Who wants to talk some combat? You can go into different caves to fight monsters for their loot, or you can simply walk out your front door and go into the open land to fight enemy monsters. Now do take in mind for the most part these are peaceful creatures. And what I mean by that is that they won’t really attack you unless you attack them first. Which is easy enough except that most of the monsters are so adorable! That’s right! They are cute! So of course when I had to beat up my first rainbow llama it was a little hard. I mean I know it’s a game but did they really have to make them look like a stuffed animal? Even the ugly animals had adorable qualities to them. I guess that just helps with the cutesy art style of the game.
Which brings us to the graphics. Featuring a colorful art palette and a sort-of style that feels inspired by The Wind Waker, My Time at Portia is a very cutesy game. The environments and actual world itself look quite a bit better than say the character models do, but everything comes together nicely. Even the soundtrack is meant to be slower, melodic tunes to be just in the background while you get the day to day tasks done. Certain tracks again feel inspired by The Legend of Zelda or maybe even hints of Animal Crossing. I’m curious to discover if there are any new ones after completing more tasks.
My Time at Portia already had my attention, but now that I’m actually deep into playing it, I’m obsessed. But don’t let that distract you from the fact that there are several issues that you’ll need to overcome to also get to that point. From the slow moving progression of the first 10 hours or so, to the weird framerate issues, long initial load time, to the feeling of being overwhelmed. The good news? You’re guaranteed to never be bored. Pathea Games put a lot to love and enjoy in the experience. With a little tweaking and updating, this could definitely be something special. For now, it’s a great game to get lost in and enjoy a little time in the town of Portia.