Need to know
What is it? A life sim whose slow pace overshadows what it does well.
Expect to pay: $30/£25
Developer: Pathea Games
Publisher: Team 17
Reviewed on: Windows 10, 16GB RAM, Intel Core i7-5820k, GeForce GTX 970
Link: Official site
My Time At Portia is slow. Achingly slow at times. So slow, in fact, that it sometimes feels like it should be an idle game and I have to fight the urge to tab away and check back later. The game is a sandboxy life sim in the mould of Stardew Valley or Animal Crossing. It sees you take over your dad’s dilapidated workshop and attempt to restore it to prosperity, one commission at a time.
So far so familiar. But My Time At Portia oscillates between being just enough of an engaging take on a comforting genre to draw you in, and an infuriating me-too whose glacial pace steals more of your time than it deserves.
After the usual tutorial-type gubbins, the first significant commission you receive from the mayor is for a bridge to connect Portia to Amber Island; a little spit of land near your workshop. You’ll need 2 Wooden Bridge Heads (basically the on and off ramps for the bridge) and 1 Wooden Bridge Body. You can construct one segment at a time using a crafting platform called the Assembly Station.
But the Bridge Heads need 3 copper pipes and 5 hardwood planks each. Hardwood comes from the big trees nearby, but the axe you crafted for the tutorial isn’t strong enough so you must smelt copper and tin (obtained via mining trips to the abandoned ruins or hacking away at stones) to make bronze bars and buy an expensive (for this stage in the game) upgrade kit from a local store. You now have the ability to get hardwood!
But you need hardwood planks not hardwood, so you’ll need a cutter. Cutters need 2 copper blades and 5 stone bricks. You go back to the furnace to make the bricks, but the copper blades come from a grinder, and a grinder requires 2 old parts, 3 copper bars and 2 grinding stones. So it’s back to the ruins for old parts, copper ore and stone, then to the furnace and worktable to refine some of the materials into a usable format. Don’t forget you’ll need extra copper ore to refine into the copper bars which can then be ground to form the copper pipes. Oh, and you have to fuel the furnace and the grinder so you’ll need a whole lot of wood (as distinct from hardwood) and power stones (from the ruins).
After this, the Bridge Body is relatively straightforward, although still a slog in terms of the time and energy it takes to actually craft everything. Obtaining each of these parts teaches you how the game’s production loops work, but calling it one mission instead of about eight separate missions is the problem. It means spending hours and hours in the early game, chipping away at a monumental task without a drip feed of encouragement.
Outside the crafting missions and commissions, the systems are a mixed bag. The fighting is dull - slash, slash, slash, dodge roll is pretty much all you need. The villagers aren’t very engaging, so I have no desire to cultivate friendships or romances. The farming is… fine? Seasonal celebrations are fun but involve minigames of variable quality. And the home decor and fashion are too tied to stats boosts for a decorative approach to really work.
By being so slow, My Time At Portia both repels and appeals. It offers a kind of gaming oasis, making few demands and just pootling along. That type of thing can be a place of respite for the right player or the right mood. But when I wasn’t in the right mood progress felt artificially slow - like it was being throttled by resource requirements, forcing you to play longer than feels good.
To give you a sense of this, I’ve put about 40 hours into my save and I think I’m less than a third of the way through the main questline. I’ve spent some of that time completing secondary quests, taking on workshop commissions and so on. For the right player, that will feel like phenomenal value for money. For everyone else I suspect the busywork will eventually prove too much of a bore to stick with it.