Since the arrival of Stardew Valley, the ‘farm-life’ genre has taken off in a big way. Slime Rancher, Staxel and Graveyard Keeper have all tried to replicate the formula with various twists, some more successfully than others. You’d be forgiven for taking half a glance at My Time At Portia and thinking it was a ‘Stardew Valley 3D’ cash-in, but you’d be doing Portia a disservice.
The Stardew Valley and Harvest Moon influences are all over Portia, and while there are many similarities, developer Pathea have decided to take a different route. Portia is full of ruins, and it just so happens that instead of being a farmer, you are a builder, and you have inherited a workshop. Your job is to turn this workshop into a successful career.
Resource collecting isn’t anything new for farm-life players: trees can be chopped down for wood, rocks mined for stone. Resource gathering can be a time consuming process in any game of this sort, which can be off-putting to some players. Luckily, resources respawn overnight, which, while unrealistic, means you don’t end up travelling miles across the game world just to find a tree.
Tools are crafted at a crafting bench, and while they start off basic, being only able to chop down small trees or hack through small rocks, eventually you can build stronger tools to take on thicker trees or bigger rocks, which in turn gives you more resources. It is also used to create weapons.
One thing that My Time At Portia has tried to do differently is add in RPG elements. Other farm-life games feature combat, but Portia ties its combat and RPG elements into ongoing plotlines which stitch the story together. While other farm-life titles do have storylines, it’s nice that Portia has a main quest, which involves you going from a nobody to the best builder in the land.
Portia has a number of dungeons for you to take on and you’ll encounter various hostile enemy types and even bosses, but it isn’t the case of “hit the monster with stick” in the vein of Stardew or Minecraft. There’s the ability to dodge attacks, giving you much more freedom of movement and allows you to plan your moves. While the combat system isn’t up to the standard of dedicated RPGs, it does certainly beat the “stand still and hit the thing” mentality of many of its peers.
Much of what you do grants you experience: whether it is making friends, building or gathering, it all helps to gain that tasty exp. Health and stamina both increase when you level up, as well as three of five combat dedicated stats: attack, defence and critical chance. Other combat stats are determined by weapons and equipment. The endurance stat is not increased in this manner, and requires certain points to be spent in Portia’s skill tree to increase.
The adventuring aspect is all well and good, but personally I found it hard to tear myself away from the building in this game. The workshop allows you to build various items at the assembly station or work table. The work table allows you to build generally smaller items, from tools to parts to some basic household furniture, while the assembly station allows you to piece together parts, allowing you to build everything from furnaces to bridges, and even a vehicle.
Both the work table and assembly station are upgradeable, which adds a mind-boggling amount of stuff that can be made with them. In addition to the building process, there’s the refining of resources. Furnaces can be used to process ore, grinders can chop up resources into lengths, or skivers to make cloth. The building aspect of Portia is very comprehensive.
Also, if you’re close enough with residents, then why not have them come help at the workshop? Basic instructions can be given to keep people busy while you are away, but first, you’re going to have to make friends. The friendship aspect of Portia doesn’t particularly add anything new, and is rather similar to other titles.
Chatting to people opens up an options menu of ways to interact with them. Chat, give them a gift or play rock, paper, scissors are three common options, but there are a number of other options, many of which open up when you get to know people better. Chatting to people and offering gifts improve your friendship, and it is possible to date and even get married in Portia, but to be honest, it’s nothing new to the genre.
My Time At Portia is not an ugly game, but it’s a little uninspired. Character models are bold and colourful but aren’t particularly exciting. Again, the town and scenery is perfectly well designed, but it doesn’t feel particularly special. The graphics are perfectly serviceable, yet lack flair.
The game has a particularly strange effect when the weather is overcast. The world naturally looks much duller, but at times it was proving hard to see what was going on — it felt like I was playing Portia with sunglasses on. Eventually, I had to adjust my television settings to see even slightly, even with this I was straining to see through the murky day.
Sound wise, there’s not much going on: chopping trees and the like is very much how you imagine it. There’s little else than a few sound effects. The music is gentle and easy going. Sadly, there’s only two main map theme songs, which are both similar and only last a few minutes each, so they manage to get rather repetitive.
The presentation of My Time At Portia lets the game down somewhat, not by being bad, but by being painfully average. That being said, if you can look beyond its Wii level graphics and repetitive soundtrack, you’ll find a solid building game, with some great RPG elements and main quest line.
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My Time At Portia is a great alternative to those farm and living games that are everywhere at the moment, but is just let down by bland presentation.
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