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My Time at Portia
After the absolute domination of Animal Crossing: New Horizons introducing and reintroducing more gamers onto the Nintendo Switch scene I had a thought: what makes a game like Animal Crossing so popular amongst a huge mix of gamers? Do these types of games suffer from a lack of choice like The Sims (though with Paralives in development this will soon not be the case.) Over the years we’ve had great additions to the casual, relaxing RPG experience with games like Animal Crossing, Harvest Moon and Stardew Valley gathering huge dedicated fan bases. So, the choices are there but before Stardew you only really had the choice of two. How does such a popular game style not have the same development appeal as shooters, linear storylines and survival sandbox games for there to be more choice? So I’ve decided to go on the hunt for alternatives to the ‘live your best life’ fluffy RPGs to see what other options are out there – starting with My Time at Portia.
Developed by Pathea Games and published by Team17, My Time at Portia is set in a post-apocalyptic world 330 years after war led to the sky being darkened out and the human population spending a significant time in small pockets barely surviving. ‘Peach’, a revered hero who saved the world by dispersing the clouds and bringing back the light, is memorialised in statues throughout the town. The history of the game still affects the current day, dividing some NPCs into factions, lifestyle choices and a strong opinion on ‘old world’ technology.
Activities in Portia
Now in the present, the player has arrived in Portia after inheriting a workshop from their Father. The really interesting part so far – the game is almost fully voice acted. The choice of having a voice for the player during character creation was a nice touch – you can choose from a limited number of accents, or a silent protagonist. While guided at the beginning of the game, the player is left to explore as they see fit. The world is huge, filled with dungeons and smaller islands, along with over 50 NPCs to meet and build relationships with. The artistic aesthetic is fairly unique to any game I’ve played before. While games in a similar category focus on farming, and building friendships (not that these aren’t important in Portia) the focus is on building. The player can take on various jobs to build things for the town and residents in return for experience and money, as well as reputation. Money can be made in many ways other than jobs, through selling wares such as furniture, harvestables and collectables throughout the world.
There is also a levelling up system to improve gameplay, as you level up you can pick perks to make the game easier and to achieve more like mining bigger rocks, cutting bigger trees, the usual. However there is something I feel My Time at Portia has that makes it stand out from the crowd other than the world being so big which is combat. Combat plays a fairly big role in the game – from hunting the local wildlife to fighting your way through dungeons against minions and bosses (for those worried, you don’t have to hurt the nice Llamas. There are means to harvest from them peacefully but Llama’s can pack a punch so don’t feel too bad.) You can also choose to spar with most townsfolk, so if there’s that one person you really don’t like you can challenge them to some fisty cuffs.
Now the game is by no means perfect. There are rare times the game feels a bit janky with frame rate loss and skipping. The game has a lovely immersive soundtrack which randomly cuts off during loading times which I feel after all the effort put into other areas of the game this was severely overlooked for an RPG. Bit of a mood killer but no one’s perfect. Building friendships is like other games a bit of trial and error – you can grind and speak to as many people as possible but while all residents are friendly with the player becoming friends is a labour of love and gifting them various things to find out what they like (or like me you can eventually give in and head over to the wiki page.)
All in all, after playing a month in game My Time at Portia has loads to offer. While cheaper compared to other games in the same category it doesn’t reflect on the finish product even with the few flaws it had. This is definitely a game I’ll be playing for a long time and it feels like I’ve barely scratched the surface.
My Time at Portia is available for Nintendo Switch, PC, PS4 and Xbox One.
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