My Time at Portia relies on the time old formula of games like Harvest Moon, Stardew Valley, Animal Crossing, and other slow-paced life simulators. You play as the new person in town, who has just returned to Portia to take control of their late Pa’s workshop and restore it to its former glory. To do this you will collect resources, craft items, and fulfill the various requests of the townsfolk from traditional fetch quests and crafting items, to filling commissions for large projects.
Though it is early in its development, Portia as a region feels surprisingly well realized. Already, the environment seems sprawling and well thought out. In addition to the town of Portia there’s a lively port, farms, workshops, and storefronts operated by villagers each with their own interests, jobs, and voice acting to boot.
You can see NPCs going about their work, gathering for announcements in front of town hall, attending church, and minding their stores. When I was by the river a group of brothers would often fish after I finished crafting a fishing rod for one of them. In the forest I encountered a survivalist and his adoptive bear-dad scavenging. It seems like around every corner there is something happening. Because of the amount of care put into the environment I quickly felt a sense of wonder as I played.
Making Pa Proud
When you first arrive at your workshop, your have a house in disrepair, an assembly station for building crafting stations and large items and nothing else. After following a short introduction quest you craft your first pickaxe and axe, the two main tools of the game, and you are off to the races.
In Portia, workshops occupy an important spot in the daily lives of the villagers. The workers who operate those workshops – builders – are responsible for creating all manner of objects, chasing down materials, fighting monsters, and solving folks’ problems through the power of ingenuity. As a builder, the player must obtain commissions from NPCs, a quest board, or their mailbox, and complete these within an amount of time, typically three days.
Unlike in most games in this genre, these quests are where the lion’s share of your money comes from. They also contribute to your Workshop’s ranking. Workshops in Portia fulfill requests and compete to accumulate the highest point value to earn rewards. Starting out the game, there’s no chance you’ll be competitive. But as you build your workshop up and fulfill more complex requests you begin to crawl up the leaderboards.
In the absence of a storyline and other than the pleasure of play, the Workshop ranking is the primary reward for your hard work. While the rewards don’t seem worth it even if you only play casually, you’ll end up making progress without aggressively chasing the cloud.
The Art of Crafting
The crafting system makes or breaks a game like Portia and I’m happy to report that it’s pretty clean if not a bit simplistic. All crafting happens either at the assembly table or any number of crafting stations. In the beginning, materials are easy to come by. Picking up a couple of twigs and stones here or there turns into harvesting trees or boulders. These go into a few basic crafting stations. From there you refine materials by going to a station and processing them over a set amount of time.
Say I wanted to make some wooden planks; I would need to take them to my civil cutter and invest the materials. Then when I come back later, pick them up and continue on my merry way. Luckily refining materials is the only crafting on a timer. Once you’ve got the materials to make a usable item or furniture you make them instantaneously at your workbench.
All of the refining and crafting items culminates on the assembly table where large projects are dealt with. You start with a translucent outline of the completed item and take each component to fill it in one piece at a time. This makes keeping track of what needs to be done on multi-day projects super manageable. Overall, the crafting system is simple yet satisfying enough to spend some happy hours on.
A Little Bit of this, a Little Bit of That
My Time at Portia has a lot of ideas. Probably too many to discuss in a preview. There’s a Stardew Valley-esque social system, which has yet to be fully fleshed out, mining, some simple combat, and interactive festivals. There’s potential in everything I saw but it’s being incredibly ambitious and that worries me.
It’s very early on so things are barebones. Though there are all of these rich systems introduced some of the smaller details were lost. You can’t rearrange your workshop. Though you can, in theory, make a concerted effort to make friends with the villagers, there’s no real gameplay benefit. And the voice acting may have been better off excluded with its current quality.
Should You Buy it?
There’s a certain lack of restraint when it comes to My Time at Portia that is fascinating up front. The stunning visuals and the upbeat music is pleasant. The crafting is decent, and the foundation is solid. But there is a ton planned for the game that seems like it may have been held back from even an EA release.
But one thing done amazingly is better than a hundred done decently in my book. For what it is, My Time at Portia is shaping up to be pretty good if it can buckle down and focus on the small stuff. There’s a free demo available. I recommend messing with it before you buy the entire game but My Time at Portia is definitely a game to look out for.