In a gaming landscape littered with building/farming/life sims like Stardew Valley, Harvest Moon or Minecraft, is there a spot for another game eager to suck endless hours of grindy time from your life? Of course, that’s a matter of choice, but My Time at Portia would like it to be your time sink of choice.
Anyone who is marginally familiar with the building/farming genre can make a bold prediction about My Time at Portia: it will be filled with gathering, exploring, and crafting tools to make gathering and exploring a little more efficient. There will be cute, quirky and (hopefully) entertaining townspeople with whom friendships and possibly romances can develop. If there’s an endgame, it will be way down the road and pleasure is found in the moment.
To My Time at Portia’s credit, it takes the familiar formula and moves a seam here and adds a bit of material there, but not too drastically. Starting with a basic premise — you inherit your father’s workshop, go build stuff — the game’s “lighthearted” post-apocalyptic world and warring religious and scientific factions, monster-filled dungeons and bright, colorful art style help it stand a little bit apart from the pixel art style of so many of its kin.
Farming is not the main task in the world of My Time at Portia, which takes the workshop and completion of commissioned projects as the core of activity. From bridges to traffic control, your character will take on a lot of civil engineering jobs, all of which involve many, many sub-tasks and grinding for materials and tool upgrades. I suppose there are gamers for whom this slow, zen-like drip of progress is heaven, but there will be many who become annoyed with My Time at Portia’s languorous pace and the extensive downtime as materials are manufactured in the workshop. While there is some combat as you fight the denizens of the mines and dungeons, it’s pretty simplistic.
Some of My Time at Portia’s exploration is interesting, some is just tedious, which actually summarizes the game as whole. Certainly, the game’s biggest strength is its fully 3D world and vibrant palette and the cast of characters with whom you interact. The game has a gently humorous attitude and nothing is taken too seriously, though there are certainly hints of some darkness and conflict under the surface. As crafting game narratives go, this is one of the most fully realized and there are plenty of one-off events and seasonal celebrations to look forward to.
As competent as some of them are, I’m a little weary of the pixel art crafting games so I welcomed the chance to dive into My Time at Portia’s more vibrant world. This is a game with a ton of content, but too much time is spent in less rewarding downtime or grinding for materials in environments that simply aren’t that fun. It’s obvious that My Time at Portia would love to be both a dream game for the building/crafting fans as well as offer a substantial narrative. The slow pace of the former undercuts the momentum of the latter but My Time at Portia does offer a legitimately different variation on what has become a pretty formulaic genre.