My Time at Portia by Pathea Games
Welcome to the post-post-apocalypse! After a long period of darkness, humanity has emerged, thanks to the heroic efforts of Peach. This revered hero helped found what became the Free Cities, one of which is the titular Portia.
I arrived on a ship, knowing nothing about the town except that my father once ran a workshop there. My goal was to make use of Pa’s land, find friends within the town, and hopefully build a fulfilling life for myself.
There is a lot to love about My Time at Portia, but the path of true love never did run smooth. In its attempt to tackle a number of genres, there are some laudable hits and some pretty egregious misses.
Home is Where The Assembly Floor Is
Fans of games such as Stardew Valley, Animal Crossing and Dark Cloud 2 will find a lot to unpack. The main action of the game involves building various machines and items for the townsfolk, with some engaging social interactions between missions. After a couple of introductory builds, Gale, the town’s mayor, reinstates your Dad’s workshop.
The Commerce Guild is where most of the work is distributed. Though some folks may ask directly for items during interactions, most will post official requests for various creations. Larger projects issued by the Mayor will also appear, and completing these helps to advance the main storyline.
Regardless of the type of commission, only one can be taken at a time. Once an order is finished, another can be picked up the following day. Completing a task quickly will earn approval with the citizen who posted it, some money, and a boost in your workshop’s rank points. Failing to complete one in time has the opposite effect.
Initial projects are smaller and can be completed by gathering items lying around. After a simple ax and pickax are crafted, trees can be felled, and larger rocks can be broken down. The pickax also allows for mining in the Abandoned Ruins.
The ruins are giant caverns filled with various ores, data disks and buried relics. To find these, a relic detector and jet pack are loaned. The detector can pinpoint the location of relics and mark its depth. After getting positioned over a buried item, simply dig down until it is uncovered, and then use the jet pack to fly back up to the surface. The tunnels can get a bit unruly after a few items have been plundered, but checking the in-game map allows for a quick return to the door to the ruins.
I Need A Data Decide
Data disks pose an interesting conundrum: the Church of Light will happily exchange data disks for seeds and green tech that helps to grow crops. They feel that all things to do with the old world and its technology should be destroyed. On the other hand, the Research Center hungers for the disks to learn from humankind’s technical prowess. Submitting disks to Merlin and Petra will reveal diagrams with instructions for creating more advanced machinery and equipment. More advanced tools open up the ability to create larger (and more profitable) commissions.
A Time to Build Friendships
While completing commissions for the townspeople will improve your relationship with them, there are other ways to get into their good graces. Conversations, games of Rock Paper Scissors and even some friendly sparring matches can help to boost your standing with people. Each character also has preferences for certain gifts, and finding the right one can boost your standing with people quickly.
As relationships strengthen, new options become available. Going on friend dates involves meeting up with a character and engaging in mini-games. Some characters can also be romanced once a high enough relationship level is reached. Reaching these new levels will also automatically increase your standing with the people closest to your friends/paramours.
Besides potentially finding a spouse, engaging in social interactions can open up the backstories of the many townsfolk. It’s time-consuming, but it all adds to the depth and richness of the experience.
Eye Love View
Portia is a delight to take in, visually. I was immediately struck by how bright and vibrant the landscape is even with the cartoon-like style. The blend of quaint cottage town buildings juxtaposed with the grand wreckage of the apocalypse is especially striking.
The year is divided into four months, each of which is an entire season. Trees are adorned with dense green foliage in spring and summer, while warm reds and oranges take over the branches in fall. Even winter, lightly dusted with snow, maintains a quiet beauty to it. The music changes with the seasons, and each track conveys the tranquil feel of life in a sleepy little town.
The character designs were not immediately my cup of tea, but I came around. They are bold, and diverse, like three-dimensional caricatures. If anything, my initial reaction was fitting for a stranger trying to start a new life surrounded by new people. Once I’d been around a bit, the strange melted away, and I could only see that these were my people.
The combat mechanics never quite work out. Whether I was sparring with townsfolk (as one does) or slugging it out in the dungeons, it essentially boils down to a button-mashy mess. This is especially true in dungeons, where some ridiculous collision detection issues also crop up, and frequently.
Once within range, attacking with a melee type weapon opens with a dash attack. After that, just keep hitting attack. So long as the target is getting hit, it’s going to stand there, stupefied, as its life force is hacked into oblivion. There are also no reaction animations, save for the damage indicators that appear above the target.
Though there are impassible walls in the game, you can strike enemies through them, and vice versa. I’ve knocked enemies through walls. I’ve also had enemies start levitating after striking them.
Frequently the flow of attack drives foes into poisonous areas. This forces a decision between continuing the attack mash and taking poison damage, or taking damage from the target foe because the offensive barrage has subsided.
If it weren’t necessary as a means of finding relics and machine parts, I’d skip these dungeons entirely. As it is, I sucked it up and considered it a grind towards a goal.
Puff Out Your Chest
Some of the design choices also create some head-scratching moments. Several of the creations required for commissions are quite large, such as the water wheel. Instead of having the item picked up from my workshop, I could just stick in a single spot in my inventory and run with it. If it’s the active item, a smaller version of it even appears about the character’s head. No space left in the inventory? I’ll just drop this feather. There, now I have room for this giant Ferris-wheel-looking-thingy.
The same applies to storage solutions. While attempting to create some order in my collection of chests, I found that I had three calves and six chickens in there. Punch some holes in the lid I guess? It would make more sense to not be able to receive these “items” until the proper building is in place to facilitate them.
A Bridge Too Far
In my game, a major construction project came to town, which meant A-rank commissions. I snatched one from the board and set about my preparations. After getting my various furnaces and cutters processing the required raw materials, I tucked in for the night.
When I awoke the next day, a notification told me that my commission was about to expire. But that didn’t make sense; I had only picked it up yesterday, and the posting said I had seven days to complete. I convinced myself that I had mad misinterpreted the message, and continued with my construction.
Sure enough, I had failed the build. I gathered up the completed materials, but to my chagrin, I couldn’t turn them in to the target character. I opened my mission log and saw a big ugly red X stamped on the contract. Looks like that jerk Higgins would win this round.
But that wasn’t the worst of it. Dragging my heels, I went back to the Commerce Guild to grab a smaller contract, only to find that the mission I failed was still posted. I tried to take it from the board but was unable to do so. The earliest reports I found about this indicate that players were encountering this months ago, but there isn’t a fix (at least in the PS4 version). The devs suggested going back to a point before taking the mission and trying again. The same result greeted me.
The mission eventually cleared itself after a few in-game days had passed. It was a great relief, as my instincts were telling me that my journey had come to an end. Even with my Worktable at level 3, I found it hard to repair the fourth wall after that one.
My Time at PS4 Port-ia
I initially started playing the PC version, but some technical mishaps (totally on my end) led me to download the PlayStation 4 version to complete my review. I immediately noticed that the characters were missing their voices. I’m not sure why this choice was made, as I was enjoying the vocal interactions on the PC version. The voice acting wasn’t stellar, but I’ve certainly heard much worse, and it did add some depth to each of the denizens of the sleepy burg.
The Sum of Its Parts and Flaws
While assigning an overall score to a game is almost never easy, there are games that make the task almost impossible. Though far from a perfect gaming experience, there is something captivating enough about My Time At Portia that kept me playing. As a reviewer, I can’t ignore the flaws mentioned above, but I also feel the need to insist that despite the score, this is one of the most enjoyable games I’ve played in a long time.
My Time At Portia covers familiar ground and combines tried-and-true genres, and the results are largely mixed. It also manages to convey a warmth that could have easily been lost or overlooked. Think of the denizens of Portia as your new family, and you’ll come to love them, warts and all.
Come to town. Stay a while. You’ll be richer for the experience.
My Time at Portia is available via the Sony PlayStation Store, Microsoft Store and Steam.
Watch the official trailer for My Time At Portia below: