Review – My Time at Portia

We live in funny times when it comes to slice of life games. The Harvest Moon games aren’t as acclaimed as they used to be, and the less we talk about that Animal Crossing for Wii U the better, but we have been graced with excellent indie titles to cover those absences, such as Little Dragons CafĂ© and Stardew Valley. We haven’t had a stopgap while we wait for the inevitable release of the Switch’s version of Animal Crossing, however. Turns out that Team17’s My Time at Portia might just be that missing piece of the jigsaw after all.

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Turns out my character can walk on water just like good ol’ JC himself.

My Time at Portia‘s main focus lies on carpentry. You create a character and are sent off to the titular city to inherit your father’s workshop. Not long after that, you start accepting jobs from locals and are free to explore a big island to gather more materials to create more sellable objects, in true Animal Crossing fashion, but without a psychotic raccoon throwing you into an eternal slave-like contract.

Even though your main focus is to scout the land for new materials in order to build and sell more elaborate pieces of furniture, there are many other gameplay elements in here. Some of them are well-designed, but another good chunk of them are as shallow as can be.

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Final Fantasy this is not.

Exploring the huge map and looking for new materials to craft new stuff for your clients is pretty fun, as well as exploring some small dungeons in order to get some more valuable ores. The game basically allows you to dig anywhere in these dungeons, retaining a Minecraft-ish feel. It’s great to just randomly dig the dirt under your feet and find a ton of valuable minerals there. Sadly, while there’s a lot more to do in this game, all of those elements are poorly fleshed out.

There is a relationship meter just like older Harvest Moon games, but there’s not a lot of depth and payoff to them. There are farming elements, but that’s far from the game’s focus. To be fair, I don’t even know why such elements were added to the game to begin with, as the whole carpentry aspect of My Time at Portia is already a lot more interesting from the get-go. Finally, My Time at Portia features some very janky action RPG elements, such as combat and health meters, and I honestly don’t get why they were added to the game. They are not fleshed out at all, they just feel like an afterthought. Carpentry and exploring are, by far, where the game shines.

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Waiting for the town’s bureaucrats to actually do something. That sure is realistic.

When it comes to its technical aspects, My Time at Portia is a mixed bag. This is a game that’s equally gorgeous and horrendous. I do appreciate its art style and its usage of color, as well as its gorgeous landscapes, but this game looks dated even for PS2 standards. My Time at Portia looks like the typical budget game you’d find on a Wii shovelware bargain bin. Poor character design, over-reliance on spritework even on the overworld, and near nonexistent lighting effects. It runs as poorly as one as well, with noticeable framerate issues whenever you attack an enemy or do something as mundane as chopping down a tree. Add in the faulty camera controls with the unreliable framerate and some occasional input lag issues and you get an exercise of patience as a result.

The same can be said about the sound design. It’s equally great and terrible. The soundtrack itself is not bad at all: it’s mostly comprised of chill piano tunes that are well-suited for the game’s relaxing nature, even when you’re “fighting” monsters. The sound effects, on the other hand, are barely here. Not only they are scarce throughout the entire game, but they are also poorly mixed, meaning that you can barely hear the few effects that are actually in the game itself.

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Mining for loot ended up being a great experience.

I had quite a bit of fun while playing My Time at Portia, but I can’t ignore the fact this game felt like it was meant to be released for a console from a decade ago. Its production values are beyond dated, and its gameplay brings absolutely nothing new to the table. It does excel at being a construction-focused slice of life game, but it fails elsewhere. My Time at Portia will most certainly please fans waiting for the next proper Harvest Moon and Animal Crossing titles, but don’t think this will be the next Stardew Valley.

 

Graphics: 5.5

My Time at Portia is equally gorgeous and hideous. Its landscapes and usage of color are fantastic, while its character design, nonexistent shadow effects, and textural quality are what you would expect from a low budget PS2 game.

Gameplay: 7.5

The commands are, for the most part, simple and easy to learn. There are some input lag issues, as well as a faulty camera system, although you can fix that issue a bit by dialing the sensitivity down.

Sound: 6.0

The soundtrack is calm and appropriate for this type of game, but the near missing sound effects are downright embarrassing.

Fun Factor: 7.5

Some elements are well-thought and entertaining, such as exploring dungeons and building furniture. Other elements, such as waiting for something to be crafted or the combat mechanics, are shallow and unappealing.

Final Verdict: 7.0

My Time at Portia is available now on PS4, Xbox One, PC and Switch.

Reviewed on Xbox One.

A copy of My Time at Portia was provided by the publisher.

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