I wanted to like My Time at Portia. I really did. On the surface, this indie title is charming. But once you dig into the meat of it, it becomes clear that it’s all just one big tedious chore.
Drawing inspiration from a variety of games – Minecraft, Harvest Moon, and Animal Crossing, to name a few – My Time at Portia is part building game, part farming sim, and a small dash of RPG. This sort of a mishmash of genres should work, and it has in the past. It’s what makes games like Stardew Valley so special. It just doesn’t work very well here.
You play as a young boy or girl – you create your own character – who inherits a derelict workshop from your father in the seaside town of Portia. While everything looks cute and colorful, this is actually a post-apocalyptic land where resources are scarce and technology is viewed with suspicion. Still, the game looks more like Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker than Fallout; and unlike in Fallout, the NPCs in Portia are virtually harmless.
The overarching goal is to get your workshop in order and become the best builder in town. You do this through story missions, side missions, and taking on jobs at the local chamber of commerce. To make your creations and to advance the story – which includes helping locals rebuild the town – you will need to forage, chop, and pickaxe the resources that you need.
My main gripe with My Time at Portia is that none of its individual pieces are done all that well. The building mechanic can be confusing and cumbersome, especially with a console controller. It’s not all that clear how you do something half of the time. And even when you do begin to get the hang of it, the tedium involved will put you to sleep after a few hours.
That’s probably the worst part of the game. My Time at Portia is simply boring to play a lot of the time, and it doesn’t have enough charm to offset the simple fact that you will be tired of making the same rounds, running errands, mining, chopping wood, mindlessly interacting with Portia’s residents, and building each and every virtual day. It’s like virtually living the life of a workhorse. It’s not a life that you want to live, either in real life or in a virtual world.
To make matters worse, the game simply looks unfinished at times. Although it can be quite beautiful from a distance, once you get up close and personal with the environment, it becomes a lot less pretty with jarring, lifeless waterfalls, poor physics and hit detection, and hidden walls that impede your path. And while I haven’t played the PC version, I imagine that the controls are friendlier with a mouse/keyboard combo than they are with a console controller.
I will concede that this game just might not be for me, although I did spend countless hours playing similar games. A marriage of the cutesy characters from Animal Crossing with building and resource collection from Minecraft should be appealing, but it just feels very limited and repetitive in My Time at Portia. The sense of wonder that you get from games like Minecraft is not present at all in this game.
That being said, I can see this being a fun game for younger players. Parents should rest assured that this is a mostly non-violent game that encourages players to play nice with the town’s residents and animals and build to their heart’s content.