For the longest time, I didn’t think life simulation or farming games were my thing. I’ve always been into gameplay over all else, and titles like Harvest Moon seemed to be more about the atmosphere. I’ve dabbled with Animal Crossing and spent some time breeding in Pokemon, but I never thought a dedicated game about life out in the country would grab me. MY TIME AT PORTIA taught me to expand my horizons. From my first dive into the underground, I spent hours at a time building, growing, and canoodling with fellow villagers. While the slew of mechanics can seem overwhelming at first, everything falls into place quickly once you get things rolling.
My Time at Portia Review | Setting up your workshop
As is the case with most of these games, you play as a villager arriving from a far off land. Your family owns a long-abandoned workshop just outside the town of Portia. Your goal is to patch up the old operation and get it running again, helping the small city thrive with your mechanical skills. New story beats arrive ever so often, but everything takes its time. Much like real life, you’ll have a few different goals to accomplish at any one time, and you need to balance tasks with your daily needs.
Thankfully, this doesn’t involve hunger meters, but you will need to spend time gathering resources both from nearby trees and the caverns that dot the city center. While you’ll get lots of base components from day to day, each gathering activity also gives you a chance to acquire rare items as well. Digging for copper may unearth a fan for your house, and kicking a tree could dislodge a jar of royal honey. In this way, Portia turns regular maintenance into gathering loot, making my hoarder instincts light up at every turn.
My Time at Portia Review | Portia Dig
My Time at Portia intelligently focuses on a different aspect of country life. You’re not a farmer, as you often are in these games; you’re a craftsman. For whatever reason, the idea of building structures and items appeals more than growing 30 varieties of melons for the local market. You can grow your own crops on the side and even adopt some baby animals, but it’s definitely a side activity when compared to the sheer number of things you can weld together from raw materials.
Simply put, if you got into Pokemon simply because the prospect of collecting 151 monsters seemed like a thrill in and of itself, My Time at Portia should be on your radar. New items popped up constantly, each yielding additional gameplay options or opening up new activities. Home decorations are nice, but they also each give you different stat boosts during other activities. The same goes for raising relationships with various townsfolk via conversations or gift giving. By giving players bonuses for engaging with these systems, Portia encourages you to play like a real citizen instead of skipping through repeated dialogue to get to the next gameplay beat.
My Time at Portia Review | Timers and tabloids
In fact, tedious conversations aren’t a problem at all. Even at the start, Portia has a sizable population. Each character has fun and interesting traits, and they go about their days in ways where you recognize routines if you pay attention. You’ll want to do this too because there’s no easy way to find a specific person at any given time. Much like real life, you’ll need to take advantage of chance encounters to keep relationships going to the point of friendship or even marriage. It’s not the most convenient thing in the world, but it is pretty realistic.
Realism is also a factor in crafting and building. Tasks take hours or even days to complete in-game, meaning that you’ll always need to have several missions running simultaneously if you want to keep busy. This definitely stretches out Portia‘s gameplay to the limits, and not always in the best way. You want a game like this to last a long time, but spending 100 or more real hours to experience any game is a big ask. There are some genuinely good moments and characters here. Unfortunately, you only get to experience them if you can manage a whole heck of a lot of waiting around.
My Time at Portia Review | Extracurriculars
If you ever do find yourself with nothing to do, you can always just go mining. Since Portia isn’t a voxel-based game, you might expect a run of the mill mining system. Instead, it was one of the more impressive aspects of the package. Chipping into a solid wall reveals authentically deforming rocks. You can go in any direction you please, jetting around with a jetpack as you hunt for relics and rare minerals. When you run out of stamina for the day, your excavations stay put for your next dive, giving players yet another way to slowly chip away at completion. While this and other menial tasks can be mindless, they’re also strangely relaxing after a long day of work in the real world.
If you’d prefer to frivolously whittle away your free time, there are plenty of mini-game activities to take part in. You can build a fishing rod in time for the annual Fishing Day. Throw darts and shoot targets at the local watering hole. Play a round of bowling after you craft your own toy alley at home. There seems to be something new around every corner, and it takes a long time before you’re out of weird discoveries around town.
My Time at Portia Review | Taking it all in
While My Time At Portia does stretch a bit too far into the realm of realism, it also offers an accessible entry point into this style of gaming. It’s constantly surprising how much fun it is to sit down, turn on a podcast, and farm for hours. It’s got a quirky charm and some engrossing gameplay loops that will likely hook newcomers and possibly some genre veterans too. Everything feeds back into progression, meaning that you have encouragement to reach out and meet the local bakers and candlestick makers beyond their cool phrases. By the time you’re hours and hours in, you want to hear what they have to say without prompting. That’s when you’ll know that your time at Portia is time well spent.
GameRevolution reviewed My Time at Portia on Xbox One X with a copy provided by the publisher.