Harvest Moon is a game which needs no introduction, a casual adventure as you try to restore the former glory of a run-down farm, all whilst seeking a partner to marry and grow old with. Other franchises, like Stardew Valley and Rune Factory, came along and took the concept but added in quests and combat in order to obtain various materials which you can use for crafting and enhancing your tools. My Time at Portia falls into the latter group with its endless fun, fully open sandbox-like gameplay, and deep mechanics.
Born from a 2017 successful Kickstarter Project, My Time at Portia has been a hit over on the PC since its official release, but now it’s time to play it on all modern consoles, thanks to developer Pathea Games and publisher Team17. However, since we now have games such as Deiland, Stardew Valley, Harvest Moon, Yonder, and more… how does the latest indie Harvest-em-Up stand against its competitors? Let’s find out…
My Time at Portia begins with the most generic story you can think of. Your Pa’s farm has been neglected and pretty much left for dead on the outskirts of Portia. It’s up to you, our fully customisable (and colourable) protagonist to step in and take ownership of this run-down shack and turn things around. As with similar games within the genre, you must grow crops, harvest for materials, engage in combat against creatures, help out the locals with their many lazy requests, and even raise animal to harvest their meat and poop.
Thankfully, the generic nature of the story (as it’s how pretty much every game in the genre begins) only lies within its beginning. As you progress, once you’ve proved you’re more than capable of running a farm-like enterprise, you’ll live day by day as new festivals, events, people, seasons, and quests pop up for you via your letterbox and the guilds quest board. My Time at Portia has a structured story, which progresses via completing certain story missions, but it’s essentially a giant sandbox as you’re free to do whatever you want (up until the threshold of the materials you can currently obtain) with very little limitations or time limits.
Full disclosure, I’ve not yet finished My Time at Portia as I’m about 15-20 hours into the game at this point. There’s a reason for this, which I’ll discuss later on, but to put it simply, My Time at Portia isn’t a short game. Prepare to play the game for hours upon hours as you become hooked to the resource management, fetch quests, becoming a slave to in-game timers, and the overall addictive nature of the game.
My Time at Portia has one major aspect to it which sets it apart from other Harvest (im)Moon(tations), you’re not technically going to be ‘farming’ for the majority of the game. This threw me off a little at first as I thought I’d be planting seeds, harvesting massive melons and marrying the girl with the same attributes as my crops, but I was wrong. The first six hours or so was spent building tools, weapons, various crafting tables, and a bridge. The first plant I sowed was some wheat which I grew in a planter! My guy doesn’t even know how to plough the field and grow crops properly! He’s such a farming fraud!
However, it appears that’s what the game’s all about. It’s not all about farming and nurturing your crops, it’s about building, crafting, mining, and inventing as well. Some might say, it’s more akin to games like Minecraft and Portal Knights, only with the story and NPC interactions like you see in Harvest Moon – HarvestCraft, if you will. Don’t worry though, you can still work your way up to getting married, there’s even a trophy for getting divorced (which I can’t wait to obtain).
On top of your crafting and mining, you’ll be having to deal with inventory management for a while, until you expand your pocket size or buy a chest, as well as monitoring your Zelda: Breath of the Wild-esque stamina bar, helping people out in order to raise the reputation of your farm (so you can win prizes), expand the world by unlocking new areas and zones, and become a social butterfly as you talk to everyone and become their best friend or lover. My Time at Portia is a massive game but, just like all the others in the genre, the more time and dedication you put into it, the more you get back in return.
Okay, this core mechanic really pissed me off when I began to play it at first. Not because of the concept, as it’s one of the most robust and interesting crafting mechanics I’ve seen for a while, but because of the sheer amount of time and patience you have to have in order to create anything. At first, you only have a standard workbench and a creation station. You can flick through all of the blueprints you have in your journal and pick whatever you wish to build – see the image above for an example of an item you can build along with the components and how to make them! Once a choice has been made, a ghostly image appears on the creation station and it’s up to you to plonk the required items on the floor so that the chosen one can be brought to life!
It all works great and looks fun as the piece starts to come together – so what’s the issue? Time. The bridge, for example, required three parts. It took me about four hours or so to build that bridge – true, I was helping people and doing other things too, but it still took a long time considering it was my first main quest. You see, I had to use copper bars to build it, this required a lot of mining as the small rocks I could smash wasn’t really giving me much. However, I also needed Hardwood, this is wood you obtain from cutting down large trees. The issue here is the standard axe can’t do that. So, my first task actually changed to mining and refining copper to make better tools, then I could mine larger trees and stones to get the resources a bit faster.
This isn’t helped by the fact that everything in the game has a timer. I don’t mind timers in games, so don’t get me wrong – I loved Farm Together and that is basically one big timer – but it obviously slows down progress if you have to wait for a bit while certain things are refined or created before you can move on. Sure, you can go to bed, lose a day, and speed up the process, but if the station runs out of fuel whilst you’re asleep, you’ll have to top it up in the morning and wait once again!
You’ll notice I said it annoyed me at first as after a few hours I was used to it. This is because I was now able to explore and go mining or go on a slaughtering trip to the local animal field whilst my Homebase continued to churn out the things I needed. The game just suffers from a very slow start as it can get a bit tedious in the early hours before you become more efficient at multitasking with ease.
I’ve talked about mining but I think I need to ‘talk’ about the mining. Whereas games like Stardew Valley has a dungeon for killing enemies and getting resources, My Time at Portia replaces this with the mining ‘dungeon’, an area where you press L2 to scan for a blip (like a metal detector), then you swing away with your pickaxe as you dig towards the object in order to retrieve it. Does anyone remember The Tomorrow Children? If not, it was a strange yet very addictive free-to-play game on the PS4 from Q-Games. You were a young child in a dystopian town who had to travel to giant structures in order to smash your way through it and uncover valuables hidden within. My Time at Portia‘s mining aspect reminds me of that game.
Whilst digging, you’ll come across raw materials, things you can sell or craft with, parts of ancient figures, house decorations, and secret rooms. These secret rooms contain a few enemies you won’t find outside as well as a few chests with hidden goodies and also a few decorations you can snap to sell or use. However, the privilege of going to the mine isn’t for free, you have to pay a weekly fee to use it and you have to pay if you want the resources to be restocked and randomised. This was another reason I spent about four hours making the bridge, I couldn’t find or craft anything that I could sell for a decent amount of money so I could pay the fee to enter the mine. At the point I’m at now, money isn’t an issue.
The Characters and environment
The informative blurb about My Time at Portia states there is an inspiration from various genres and media, including Studio Ghibli – which you’ll instantly see. The environments are all so colourful and very anime-like in their design. I simply loved just looking around as I entered a new area just so I could see what colours were being used, the various building designs, and what’s in the background. As soon as you leave your house, there’s a massive structure in the distance that looks EPIC. I’m not sure if it’s something we can get to and interact with, but it looks like we’re in a post-apocalyptic world and nature has grown around the ruins of a dead city (which I think has a hint of truth to it).
The community are awesome. There are tonnes of people for you to talk to within My Time at Portia, each one with their own look and personality – as no two people are alike, except the twins. You can even talk to the various residential animals such as the pig and cat-like creatures. These people are your customers, you lovers, your friends, and your beanbags – so treat them well and be sure to say hello every time you see them in order to raise your friendship. What’s that? Beanbag? Aside from the animals, you can go up to any of the NPCs and request to Spar with them – this results in a 1v1 fisticuffs battle between the two of you in the centre of town. So, whether you need to do so for a quest, practice your moves, or just because you don’t like someone and you want to knock them out, the game has you covered! Alternatively, you can play Rock, Paper, Scissors with everyone as well.
My one issue with the characters would be their quests/requests. The guild auto-refills the requests daily and it’s basically a bunch of fetch quests. You’ll see things like ” make X amount of Y for me”, or “we need X, build it within Y days and get a reward” etc… I don’t mind these but a bit more variety would be nice. Although you can get quests off people by talking to them directly, these are usually even more ‘fetchy’ – such as make me a pie, bring me a sword, I need X amount of Y resource…
My Time at Portia runs like a dream – it’s as smooth as a babies bottom, both in terms of the performance and the actual visuals. I adore the art style with it’s bright, bold colours combined with caricature-like characters and very strange creatures. You can see the Studio Ghibli inspiration and tell a lot of care has gone into creating this game, as well as the port over from PC. I’ve seen a lot of games look great but fail in the console-friendliness section. Similarly, the game sounds great – the music is very fitting and adaptive to the situation, although I don’t think the loop is very long as it sounded like it was repeating every few minutes. However, there are a few technical wants/issues:
1. There are no voices at all, within the game. This isn’t an issue as such, more of a ‘want’. I’ve played many games with no voices, it’s not an issue as I can read and I usually play with subtitles anyway, but the silence (other than the music) when the text comes up just felt a bit off. Even just a “huh” noise from the character as they started to speak, or a mumbling noise would have been nice.
2. Bugs… My Time at Portia has a tendency to make some items vanish, items you’ve just spent a long time trying to create! Now, this isn’t a common occurrence and once you encounter it, you won’t do the same thing twice (although I did to test it). If you click to wear a hat when you already have one on, the one you have on will vanish; if you try to pick up a resource that’s completed but you have no inventory space, it vanishes; When mining, if you have no room then items that should drop into a bag on the floor will just vanish. These are the ones I can remember. For the most part, the game is solid with no issues, but do be wary of your inventory space as the game does freak out a little when it’s full.
3.Loading times. This is more a personal preference/issue I think. You have to go home, so you can sleep, at the end of the day. Clicking to enter your house takes about 30+ seconds sometimes – this is crazy as it’s the inside of one room. Then, if you click to go out in the morning, it takes another 30+ seconds to load the world. It’s not much, but I feel that loading time should be a lot less, especially when going INTO your house. I’ve started letting my guy pass out at night as it’s quicker! The patch, which came out today (18th April), has fixed this issue. The first time you leave your house, it takes around 10-15 seconds. Then, any subsequent times you go in or out of your house, it only seems to take around 4-6 seconds each way.
As a fan of the farming genre, as well as resource management, Harvest Moon-a-like, and RPG games, I thoroughly enjoyed My Time at Portia. It’s a massive game which offers about as much enjoyment as you wish to get out of it. If you’re not a fan of fetch quests, mining, repetitive gameplay, and waiting for things to complete so you can proceed with your build, then you may not fully appreciate everything the game has to offer. However, if you love Harvest Moon or Animal Crossing for it’s NPC interactions, The Tomorrow People or Deep Rock Galactic for their mindless mining mechanics or Deiland for its simplistic combat, then you’ll love the whole experience.
My Time at Portia is an amazing port of one of the best Farming, Harvesting and Building sims this generation. Whether you’re out in the field tending to your livestock, mining for resources, building items for the community, or just sat in a cafe chatting to your soon-to-be wife, there’s always something to keep you busy and entertained within Portia. Graphically, the game looks like a 3D modelled Studio Ghibli movie with its bright colours, stunning backdrops and detailed character design. Once I really got into it I found myself totally addicted to it, I just couldn’t stop playing!
There are a few things to bear in mind, there are in-game timers, the game starts off slow as you build up your production and income chain, and it is a little monotonous until you have access to other areas, but if you stick with it then it opens up, like a beautiful butterfly, as the game progresses and your home gets even bigger with more things to create and events to take part in.
My Time at Portia£24.99
- - Visually stunning, I loved the backdrops and the characters
- - Lots of things to craft and harvest with a very slow progression system (so it takes a long time to unlock them)
- - Fun and memorable characters, each with their own personalities and charm
- - You'll never get bored as there's always something to do
- - I can see people investing many, many hours into this game (plus it has a platinum)
- - No speech at all, not even a grumble
- - Starts off very slow as you slowly build up the efficiency of crafting and making money
- - Has a few bugs with the inventory and vanishing items (will probably get fixed)