Over the past few days, I’ve put several hours into playing My Time at Portia, a game that feels a little unsure what genre of game it wants to be. It’s part Stardew Valley, part Harvest Moon, has notes of action RPG, and at times reminded me of Dragon Quest Builders.
It’s a mash-up of a number of different genres all competing for focus, and it’s a slow game to get into, but once you get into its rhythm, you’re rewarded with a sweet world that feels worth investing in.
The core premise of My Time at Portia is that, after an apocalypse where technology destroyed civilisation, you live in a small community working as a builder. The community is understandably fearful of technology, with an entire church dedicated to the evils of machines, but you’ll spend your time nonetheless slowly constructing equipment to help try and better the lives of those around you.
Where Harvest Moon and Stardew Valley are primarily about farming crops, My Time at Portia is about mining materials for construction. It might be tools to build a new axe, or wood to build a bridge to a nearby island, but it’s all about construction. The actual mining and building process is slow – it’s much better suited to a second screen experience than a focused one.
I’d highly recommend playing this on a laptop (or Switch when it releases later this year), because all the time spent looking at rocks and mashing a button to mine is not necessarily stimulating.
Building big projects once you’ve gathered the materials is a slow process too, but this feels a little more by design than the slow grind of mining. While a construction project is being built you’ll have plenty of time to get out into the world and meet its inhabitants – who are thankfully all charming to talk to.
They each have a unique fashion sense, set of morals and desires, and their own dialogue quirks. By completing tasks for the townspeople, you can slowly grow relationships with them, allowing you to spend time with them outside of merely making things for them – and even eventually date them.
While the laborious timers for building and mining do slow down the ability to work quickly through those kinds of projects, it does encourage getting to know more of the people in town than you might otherwise bother with.
Additionally, there are combat dungeons around the world, which can be explored to collect electronic scrap materials for more ambitious mechanical projects. These are much more gameplay-focused and engaging than caves full of ore, with actual fights to keep things interesting. These combat areas can be pretty brutal, but it’s nice to have occasional bursts of a tougher challenge.
After spending some hours with My Time at Portia, I’ve come away feeling that there are the pieces of a great game here – the world and its inhabitants are just lovely – but the slow process of mining and building is, at times, just a little too drawn out.
If you fancy a game about building tools and making friends this might be for you, but I would recommend making sure you can do the leg work on a second screen while you’re watching TV.