As with many life sim games, the beginning of My Time at Portia sees you pulling into port in a new town after your estranged father left you his workshop and a letter detailing just how sorry he is about pretty much everything. Unsurprisingly the workshop is in somewhat of a mess and being the new owner, you’re tasked with renovating it and filing the rather large shoes your Pa has left behind.
Crafting starts off fairly simple, gather some wood and stone from the surrounding area, use them to make an axe and a sword, the usual. Something that sets Portia apart though is when you get to the bigger builds, you don’t just click on an icon in a menu causing the item to poof into existence as though it’s always been there, instead, you have the item up on an assembly station and you add in the different components one by one, it’s a small feature but seeing the build come to life before your eyes adds to the sense of satisfaction, especially when you’ve spent several days slaving over the hot furnaces.
A cornerstone to any life sim game is relationship building, by completing tasks for, chatting with, gifting and even playing games with the Portia residents, you can increase your standing with them and even get married should you really like them; but not to worry, if afterwards you realise you’ve made a terrible, terrible mistake, there’s an item that also lets you get divorced – being true to life though, it’s not cheap. Should four legged friends be more your thing, there are a couple of cute animals just waiting for you to coo over and become the best of friends with, I spent more time – and fish- than I care to admit trying to win over the aptly named Pinky who still doesn’t like me all that much. Later on, it’s even possible to ride around on some of the larger animals – if you can tame them first that is.
One of the first items I crafted for myself was a sword, however I was so caught up in crafting this, and gathering that, it took several in game days before I actually had to go out and use it- I needed some fur for a build and that meant taking out a few of the fluffy pink llamas that were harmlessly frolicking in the field behind my workhouse. The first kill was the hardest, but the regret dissipated quickly and soon I was killing the adorable creatures with heartless abandon harvesting their fur and bones for later use. The combat isn’t the most complex but you have several dungeons to work your way through, and the bosses make for a few interesting fights that will result in death if you don’t keep your wits about you and some handy healing items in your pack.
While the story in Portia is not the main selling point, there is a thread of mystery that runs just behind everything you do. There was some kind of apocalypse level event resulting in the age of darkness, and while little is known about it, we do know it was ended by a wonderful man named Peach, who’s statue now resides atop a fountain in the centre of Peach Plaza. As you harvest resources from the mines you’ll dig up long forgotten relics and data discs that can be handed in at the research centre in return for new blueprints for your workshop. Or, you can instead take the side of the Church of Light who believe that technology is what caused the age of darkness – stemming from humanities greed – and hand over the data discs to them in exchange for seeds for your farm… or you can play both sides and hope they don’t speak to each other very often!
The levelling system in Portia not only increases the base stats of health, strength and endurance, you also have three skill trees available to work through. Depending on your play style you can build fighting, gathering and social attributes to better assist you in game. No singular option is superior to the others, although I would personally recommend increasing your endurance as soon as possible, you’ll be doing a lot of running.
The time I spent in Portia was a very busy one, while there are very few deadlines imposed in game, between the events, side quests, gathering, fishing, farming, crafting, flirting, killing bad guys and just generally running from place to place my poor character barely had a chance to sleep. My Time at Portia isn’t the kind of game you will sit down and finish in an evening, I can easily see myself jumping back in time and time again for moths to come, spending the morning fishing, the afternoon crafting and then sequestering myself in the mines late at night collecting materials until 3am rolls around and I pass out only to find myself mysteriously back in my bed the next morning.
*Code kindly provided by the publisher for review*