My Time At Portia Review

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Key Info

System: Switch
Developer: Pathea Games
Publisher: Team 17
Release Date: 16 April 2019
Price: $29.99 / £24.99


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Since its Switch release, there have been a few complaints about the graphical quality and the load times in My Time At Portia. Given the constant updates and improvements made to this title by the developers at Pathea Games, we thought we’d hold off on a review until we were happy that the experience wouldn’t be changed too much in the future. As it is, a few graphical and loading issues have been fixed, although some still remain.

Reviewed by Nathan Ellingsworth

For those of you brought up on the peaceful life and farm management sims of Harvest Moon or Animal Crossing, you should feel right at home in the lovely town of Portia. This title is fairly unabashed with its influences, and never truly manages to shake off these comparisons and do something distinct of it’s own.

At the outset of your adventure you start as the newest resident of the town of Portia, and are bequeathed a small house that once belonged to your father along with a tiny sum of money. After the brief opening segment and some minor exposition, you are given the freedom to go anywhere and do anything, and there are many, many things to do.

Not Enough Hours In The Day

From the get go the options to mine, craft, farm, fish, romance or just explore are all laid out in front of you. They’re all meant to be crammed into the day as well, which quickly runs short as you lose energy and need to rest before facing the new dawn.

Fortunately the game starts you out with a few simple tasks and clearly defined goal markers in your diary. A few basic jobs and people of interest are displayed on the screen until they are completed. If you want to explore you can, but it’s worth spending at least the opening hours letting he developers guide you along a certain path as you get to grips with the game. Soon after I quickly got into a routine of seeing how far I could move around the town, what I needed to do to go further and then mining every other day to get more items for my house. At every point the game told me what I needed to do to fulfil my desire to explore, or indicated what was holding me back. There’s certainly an overwhelming number of things available to you, but all the answers are there should you need them.

The town itself is a bustling and thriving community full of quirky characters and oozes charm. Every single inhabitant has their own personality, routine and possible quests. It’s up to you who you want to befriend, and the game never punishes you for playing it exactly how you want to. I found myself getting very addicted to digging up old relics whilst mining, somewhat forgetting about farming or tending to my house for quite some time. But it was all there for me when I wanted to get round to it.

As I dug into the depths of ancient Portia, I was rewarded with artefacts that gradually revealed the mystery of the town’s past, but also give me perks when hung in my house. Certain furniture can be placed or hung in your cosy shack to give you permanent upgrades, such as more energy, longer daylight hours and other buffs. However, if farming is your game then there’s a deep and satisfying amount of content here for you as well. Your patch of land can be expanded and upgraded - with a fair bit of hard work. Crafting new items from materials strewn around can also help you to build the tools necessary to expand and grow the plants or vegetables you desire. As your little plot of land grows, Portia slowly grows around you and your decisions in a very satisfying way.

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Slow and Steady

My Time At Portia is not a title to be rushed. Everything takes time, be it travelling across the island, talking to people, waiting for items to be crafted and even the way you have to slowly level up your skills before you can unlock certain things. Unfortunately this becomes an issue when it’s mixed with the Switch version’s abysmal loading times. Going from the start screen to actually walking around Portia can take up to 3 whole minutes simply due to loading, and moving between the open world and its buildings is also dragged down significantly by loading times.

There’s drastic pop-in with animals, characters and buildings throughout, and the frame rate can stutter to significant lows. Updates have made a difference to this since launch, and developers Pathea games are clearly committed to continual improvement and additions to the title as well, so we can hope it’ll improve into the future. The art style is also quite nice - if drastically watered down on Switch - being a weird tall subversion of fairly typical Harvest Moon-like chibi characters. The Portia villagers looked to me like characters from Alice In Wonderland made in the Xbox avatar maker, but that’s not to say they don’t have a charm. The individual characteristics and dialogue meant that the inhabitants of Portia are memorable and charming throughout.

A lot of love and care has been poured into this world, with the surprisingly rich history you get to slowly uncover, the weird animal inhabitants, and of course the plethora of kooky people you can talk and develop relationships with. The ability to do so many things can be overwhelming, but My Time At Portia doesn’t hit you over the head with tutorials nor does it completely leave you in the dark. The help is there as and when you want it, leaving you to discover by trial and error first.

I had the most fun when I realised how all the different elements eventually join up to add more depth to this charming world, always finding a way to bring something of value to your character and drive progression. Even some of the less developed gameplay elements such as fishing or combat still add to the overall feel of the world, and are really only there if you’re interested.

Technical limitations mean that this isn’t the most attractive version of the game, but for a title that rewards exploration and the time you spend in its world, the portability of the Switch becomes a true jewel in the crown of this title. I couldn’t imagine a better way to play the game then handheld, and my late night sessions while relaxing with a podcast or less attention demanding TV show were some of my favourite times with it.

Verdict

My Time At Portia is a true love letter to the life sim genre, and while it doesn’t push forward in breath-taking new ways, it hones and fine tunes this style of game in a way Harvest Moon hasn’t in a long time. Anyone looking for a relaxing world to explore at their own pace should look into booking a trip to Portia. Though with so many different things to do, places to see (and exponential loading times to sit through) your trip may end up being a lot longer than you expect.

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Pros & Cons

+ Plenty to do and see
+ Charming world and characters

- Incredibly long load times
- Big graphical downgrade