Let’s be honest; I’m in a firmly monogamous relationship with Stardew Valley.
It’s my go-to game when I get that farm-life itch. There is no Stardew Valley sized hole in my chest that needs to be filled, we’re very happy together, thank you for your concern.
Well, at least, we were…
Enter My Time at Portia. A crafting sim with RPG elements and Studio Ghibli vibes. You’ve just inherited your father’s run-down workshop and a small plot of land. It’s up to you to build it up and to leave your mark on the pretty darned delightful land of Portia, a post-apocalyptic idyll.
You can choose to accept daily commissions or head off to do a spot of mining, dungeon-crawling, farming, fishing, socialising, or even dating.
My Time at Portia Review
You’re immediately thrust into the role of a builder in competition with the other already established town builders. The game does a nice job of easing you into what’s expected of you, guiding you through your first simple commissions and introducing you to the game’s mechanics. Which is great news, because there is a heck of a lot to do in the world of Portia.
You kick off with just a worktable and workshop handbook and take it from there, gathering whatever materials you can find along the way to help you build whatever you feel like building. I had a bundle of fun with some of the really complicated commissions that involved tracking down and crafting lots of items and contraptions. Often it became a real cascade of crafting one beep-boop in order to create a part for another beep-boop.
It took quite some time and I sometimes got confused about what I’d been planning to do and where exactly I was in the process, especially if I was working on more than one commission at a time. The handbook does lay out the schematics nicely though, so it’s quite easy to figure out where you got up to. Townsfolk will also kindly contribute a tricky part or schematic every so often, making life much easier.
Choose Your Own Adventure
Unsurprisingly, there’s a huge emphasis on gathering and on smart resource management. At first, I found myself collecting so many items that I often wondered if could sell this? Do I need to hang onto this? Will it later turn out to be a super-rare drop that I vitally need? You’ll also find yourself spending a lot of time refuelling forges and making sure you constantly have ore smelting on the furnace, which can become rather tedious.
However, this is where the Switch port of My Time in Portia really shines. It’s so easy to drop a few minutes into it while on the train, or lying in bed, or during your break at work.
In my 50+ hours of play, I didn’t spend very much time actually farming as I was so taken with crafting all of the intriguing and quirky contraptions that my handbook had to offer. The cool thing is, your creations directly influence the town and its inhabitants. For example, one of your first big commissions is to build a bridge which opens up access to a previously unreachable island, and further commissions and new conversations with friends result from these new areas being explored.
Another great feature that becomes possible is faster travel to other previously unreachable areas via buses and mounts. And the world of Portia is big, let me tell you. You’re really going to want to use this fast travel.
Mining is likely something you’ll spend a lot of time doing. The mines are a little drab to look at but made interesting by the ability to scan for mysterious relics rather than just mindlessly hacking away. Combat against zombies, rats, and cute bosses livens things up a bit; but the combat is a little simplistic.
Usually, a couple of swipes and a fast roll here and there will do the trick. And guess what, did you know you can actually die? I found this out the hard way when I was one-shotted by a llama. Yes, really.
Pink Llamas on Parade
Which brings us to animals!
The animals that dwell in Portia are impossibly cute. You can adopt pets, tame the aforementioned deadly llama, and keep farm animals and mounts. Vibrant prancing llamas inhabit the meadows near your home, which I guiltily killed for their fur.
And for their feces; honestly, what is it with videogames and poop?
The backstory of Portia is really interesting and relayed in dribs and drabs through conversations with its inhabitants and via commissions that progress the storyline. Some sort of technological apocalypse occurred at some point, driving humans underground, who eventually emerged to rebuild their world. A few of the characters have a lingering distrust of technology; particularly the church folk, who ducking hate tech.
There are tantalising references to darker times and to Peach, the town hero, who even has a statue erected in his honour in the town square. Relics from these apocalyptic times abound in the mines and can be turned in for information or for profit. It’s a shame the plot wasn’t more fleshed out as it’s quite compelling; however, the focus of My Time at Portia is almost certainly on crafting.
Likewise, the characters’ backstories don’t feel as elaborate or nuanced as those of Stardew Valley.
Staying true to real-life, I didn’t spend much time socialising or pursuing relationships with my Portian acquaintances (except Arlo, what a babe), but you can explore friendships and gain points via conversations, fulfilling commissions, or giving gifts.
Gaining friendship points feels like a bit of a grind at first particularly as it’s not obvious what gift any given character might want to receive. However, this process is helped along because when you finally do make a friend, you gain a friendship point from their friends too.
If your friendship with anyone grows enough, you get the opportunity to go on dates and even to get married. My Time at Portia is delightfully inclusive; you can marry characters of any gender. And marriage is super useful as your spouse will help you out around the workshop, which makes life a lot easier for you.
Compared to its PC counterpart, the graphics of the Switch My Time at Portia are understandably a little pared down and voice audio has not been ported across. I experienced some frame-rate lag and occasionally a character would get stuck in one spot. I once got stuck in a mine and had to transport myself back to the entrance, then retrace my path to get what I was after.
The controls on the Switch felt a little clunky and inconsistent from menu to menu and I had some trouble with the sensitivity on the colour wheel during character creation. Whilst perusing the handbook, the PC version will tell you where to find materials if you hover the mouse over each part; but the Switch version doesn’t, leaving you a tad in the dark. Fortunately, the handbook still tells you a lot of what you need to know, and at the end of the day—wikis are a thing.
It currently takes well over a minute to load into the game initially, and the loading screen upon leaving your home for the first time during your play session also takes quite a while. However, Pathea Games has been super responsive to feedback from their fans and dropped a ton of work into smoothing this out, so they’re the only time you can expect lengthy load times. The rest of the loading screens have been pulled into line with the PC version, and Pathea Games hopes to issue further updates to improve the graphics.
Overall, it’s a wholesome gem and a worthy rival to games like Stardew Valley and Harvest Moon. I had a fantastic time chilling out over a spot of spelunking and working on some neat commissions; but if that’s not your scene, go do something else! Because there really is something in this game for everyone.
I’ve certainly had my head turned.
My Time at Portia was reviewed on Switch using a digital code provided by Team 17.
Game Title: My Time at Portia
Game Description: A charmingly wholesome crafting sim with Studio Ghibli vibes.
Gorgeous 3D graphics with a Studio Ghibli feel - 8.5/10
Charming characters - 8/10
Abundance of activities to pursue - 9.5/10
Perfectly to suited to the portability of the Switch - 9/10
Some lag issues, inconsistent UI controls - 6/10