My Time At Portia is a delightful, easygoing homesteading game that allows you to indulge the desire to grow crops, build machines and own property. It’s the kind of game that you could easily and happily lose hours to. Unfortunately, the game’s console version is marred with issues that dampen this joy.
Like its forebears Harvest Moon and Stardew Valley, My Time At Portia starts you off with a small plot of land, a rural community to befriend, and wholesome activities such as foraging and fishing to fill your days. It’s a calming, positive setting full of opportunity.
However Portia is unique in that rather than fixing up a farm, you’re fixing up a workshop.
In lieu of parenting, your absentee father has bequeathed to you his old, rundown workshop, which you must now turn into a successful business. Using your dad’s Workbench and referring to his Workbook full of construction plans, you fight, fish, forage and farm for materials to construct items both for your own use and to fulfil requests from locals.
Delivering requested goods earns you cash and experience, and improves both your reputation and your relationships with the villagers. Progression carries on in this way, as you upgrade your equipment, buy more land, make friends, and get married and have kids if you so choose.
My Time At Portia’s open world gives you a lot of freedom in deciding how you want to play. If you enjoy farming, you can build Planter Boxers for crops. If you want livestock, you can build a Coop and a Shed. You can even ignore most quests and run around punching innocent llamas if you so choose. The world is yours to explore.
Even so, Portia feels more structured than other games of its ilk. Though it does not have much in the way of plot, its quests are given a fair bit of context in comparison to Stardew Valley‘s. Both are timed, but Portia’s tend to be harder to complete and carry a higher reward.
I felt a greater sense of urgency completing My Time At Portia’s Commissions, primarily because I wasn’t the only Builder in Portia. Other workshops will compete with you for jobs, as well as the top spot in the monthly Workshop rankings.
As a result, I didn’t progress at the leisurely, investigatory pace I’d expected. Instead, I was racing to the Commerce Guild’s noticeboard at 8:00AM every morning to grab the best jobs before they were claimed. This may have been slightly excessive, but I once had to watch as my nemesis Higgins literally snatched a job right out from under my nose. Never again.
It felt good to always have a purpose. I haven’t yet had a single moment in My Time At Portia where I’ve had nothing to do, no goal to achieve. There’s always a ton to do, and doing it rewards you with a satisfying sense of achievement.
At the same time, My Time At Portia has some irritating design flaws. The game’s vital Workbook can be difficult to parse, the attempt at a charming, freeform layout resulting in confusion. Often I’d find myself staring at its pages, trying to figure out exactly what I needed to collect and where to make certain items.
Commission requirements also weren’t always clear. For example, one Commerce Commission quest asked me to collect two Catfish for local fisherman Qiwa. Easy – I already had a number of them stored at my workshop. However, after I accepted the quest, I was informed that I’d need to bring him Emperor Catfish rather than regular Catfish, throwing off my plans for the rest of the in-game day.
These are comparatively minor frustrations. However, they’re exacerbated by the fact that My Time At Portia’s entire control system on PlayStation 4 is a complete shambles.
My Time At Portia was released on PC in January, but just came out on PlayStation 4, Xbox One and Nintendo Switch today. I recommend forgoing the console version. The core of the game is a lot of fun, but playing the PlayStation version makes it obvious My Time At Portia was made for PC.
Navigating menus on PlayStation feels frustrating, and few things do what you feel they should. Looking through plans in Workshop Handbook requires you to use the right thumbstick to turn the pages, the D-pad to confirm a plan, and the left and right triggers to move between catalogues. When sorting through your inventory, you need to press square to pick up an item, and X to put it down. You also need to press X to use items.
Further, the only thing indicating what object you’ve selected is a thin yellow outline around its icon – far too difficult to make out considering the distance between the player and the screen. It may be adequate when you’re sitting at a computer, but on console, it’s practically invisible.
The control problems arose even when I was first creating my character. Using the jerky thumbstick controls to navigate the colour wheel was such a hassle that I eventually shrugged and went, “Eh, good enough.” This issue also came up in the fishing minigame, where the fine control required to catch more difficult fish was absent, and when placing furniture in my house.
On top of this, My Time At Portia‘s loading screens feel onerous. Loading screens pop up whenever you enter or exit a building, and average around 20 seconds. This doesn’t sound like a lot but feels like forever, especially when they happen so frequently.
Every morning there’s a loading screen taking you from one day to the next. Then when you leave your house, there’s another loading screen. Head to the Commerce Guild to pick up a job, another loading screen. Choose a job and leave, another loading screen.
Some quests had me go into a building just to speak to one person, then immediately leave, earning me 40 seconds of loading screen to maybe 10 seconds of gameplay. I dreaded going indoors, and avoided it when I could.
The plethora of fiddly and frustrating controls and poor console optimisation put a severe damper on what would otherwise be an engrossing game. I haven’t played My Time At Portia on PC, but it’s clear it would be much improved with keyboard and mouse. The console version is also absent the voice acting present in the PC release. I don’t miss it, but knowing this makes the console version feel even more deficient than it already does.
My Time At Portia is a charming game, and if its port to console were better I’d say it’s a perfect game to unwind to. It would be easy to spend a lazy, wholesome afternoon on the couch, mining caves and punching llamas.
But its port isn’t better, and instead, it would be very easy to put My Time At Portiadown and never pick it up again.
I will say that the more time I spent with the game the less annoying I found it. Once you push through and get into the swing of things, you can very quickly spend hours fulfilling commissions in My Time At Portia. Even now, I’m keen to go back and do more building.
Nevertheless, it’s like getting accustomed to a cold bath. Why put yourself through that when you could just have a warm one?
My Time At Portia is fun. But if you want to check it out, grab the PC version.
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