Trying to fill a gap that was left long ago…
I’m not to sure how many of you will remember a little gem called Harvest Moon (more specific the 2001 release of it), but ever since I played and loved that game it sadly got left behind without progressing with time as everything else has, apart from a more “Nintendo DS” like range releasing every so often, It just left this massive (random game black hole that no game could fill). Jump forward to 2018 and me stumbling across a title called “My Time At Portia”, now initially the concept varies slightly with you taking up the role of a builder to follow in your father’s footsteps instead of the classic inherit/take over a farm and make it great again as many titles have done, trying to hit that magic recipe “Harvest Moon” had. But in doing so you can if you want also branch off your workshop to a fully functional farm, sporting a host of animals and interactions with the animals (keeping them happy and fed to name a few) and just enjoying watching them grow. Along with completing build contracts and developing relationships that all help in making your mark in “Portia”.
This was a solo play so thus no group discussion have taken place except judgement from the group as to why I play the weird titles that I sometimes do. Apart from that I have little to no complaints about this game, this was one of those rare finds where reviews have actually helped, especially on Steam as to how people felt like they found a “Harvest Moon” replacement or substitute rather (that game was irreplaceable) and provided just as many hours’ worth of entertainment as “Harvest Moon” did back in the day. I will try pick out the exact aspects of this game that grabbed me so and how I managed to have lost well over 220 hours and counting playing this game, always returning without any hesitation when I sit in front of my pc not knowing what to play or what gaming mood i’m in. I think the fact that the game even after completing it never ends, as there are so many other factors after completing the game that will keep you hooked and coming back for more.
The Main Protagonist and the NPC’s
You get the classic intro with these sorts of games, where you have inherited something (in this case a Builders Workshop-shack like structure, that has seen better days) from some relative (your father) who had a great reputation in the community (Portia) after leaving (for reasons I will let you discover if decide to get this title), and you now have to turn it into a reputable Workshop and gain the title of best and most trusted builder all over Portia like your father when he still lived there. So nothing ground breaking or jaw dropping in that sense but i guess it’s a case of “if it aint broke don’t fix it” when it comes to titles like these. Moving on to the NPC’s and your interactions you will be able to have with all of them, you can form bonds/friendships and relationships with them and eventually marry an NPC if you felt like they would make a good partner and you wanted to be more than just friendly acquaintances, with that you will also eventually be able to have the classic family with a child and that whole “perfect family image” we are all raised to strive towards, or if you decide down the line you actually liked someone else more you have the option to just call it quits and try your luck at a “happy life” with one of the other NPC’s. The only negative part I guess I do have and this is really just being overly critical so it’s not really a deal breaking gripe, but the limited conversations and responses to conversations with NPC’s can become a bit overly repetitive, to the extent where I rather just avoided talking to NPC’s for a period of time until I have forgotten all the conversations one can have with them. Luckily the game offers more than enough activities to escape from that and you don’t feel like you always need to have these “repetitive” conversations with NPC’s, with them just leaving you to do your builder things or exploring Portia, and then just repeat the cycle all over again (I know that sounds bad, but the amount of times I have repeated this cycle and the fact that I am still happy to go back and repeat this cycle means that it has a lot of fun elements to it that will keep you entertained).
Gameplay and Map
Looking at the gameplay and map, starting with the map. I think it was pretty well sized for this game, with numerous extra and hidden little areas to explore and discover, those oftentimes come as rewards for completing certain construction elements/tasks like lifts or hoists so the rest of the town can access them (but mostly you will just find yourself using them and being on the outskirts of town, deep in forests or deserts). There will be enough variation in areas to help whatever mood you are in, from challenging mines and caves to test your steel against the creatures and bandits that reside in them, or just random outings mining endlessly (if have enough items to replenish your stamina) to keep you going. With lots of extra little treats and rewards as you set pot on these mini adventures. Varying from collecting ancient components to construct objects that you can display in a museum for the town to enjoy and gain influence from, or just displaying them in your house or yard as fruits of your labor/exploration. Moving on to gameplay, you wont have to have extra fingers or Jedi reflexes when you are engaged in combat, the combat system is pretty straight forward with no fancy combos or secret finishers, and there are no real game breaking elements that end up annoying you. Everything responds the way you would want it to and don’t find myself getting annoyed due to the game not responding to my initial action input. It is varied enough giving you a whole host of items to construct, even though you can’t use them directly at your workshop in any way, but you will see your creations all over Portia as you build them to make the daily lives of the people who call Portia home better and more accessible. You will have enough events in the game to also keep you busy, luckily not too many of them to actually get annoyed with the constant barrage of events that you can do, also on a side note that was the awesome part of the events, the fact that you can just abstain from doing them and be a normal spectator and just enjoy how random these events can be. From horse racing with a twist, to full on combat where townies beat the living daylights out of each other to climb the leader boards. Noting that if you don’t participate in the events you wont lose influence or lose brownie points with anyone. That was one little thing I did appreciate especially when you don’t always feel like taking part in the seasonal events in the game. Apart from the main contracts you can accept you will also receive various amounts of side jobs from individuals as an additional side quest system if we want to start using fancy game terms, so you will always have something to do if you choose to. As I mentioned briefly in the introduction, you will have the ability to build friendships in the game, all of which will have different non main story related outcomes as you progress through the game, like nifty little treats and gifts from the townies that you can use in your day to day outings you perform. With that you can also eventually lead up to tying the knot with your preferred NPC, only after quite an extensive courting ritual and going through the paces i might add.
This part will be a bit short as it doesn’t really get more involved than what I described in the introduction. You inherit the workshop from your father, with the hopes to restore honor to the workshop and it’s name and also become the great builder your father once was, all this and making Portia a better place for all and connecting with other more prosperous cities. The history of the town and what essentially is the “world” that the story plays out in was quite interesting, it had kind of a less gory terminator feel to it where technology advanced to such a point where it in essence destroyed the world and all the great civilizations that existed at the time. You have now embraced limited technology that only benefits society and where human input is required with no AI being in control of making decisions, with bulk of the old techs being banned and outlawed, even buried with the hopes never to be found apart from being displayed in museums. Then and let me add this *Spoiler Alert* as you become a more reputable builder and more trusted in the town after proving your worth as a builder and funny enough a fighter, you have to start delving deeper into the old world technology, trying to secure an AI core(basically one of the old AI’s that is still functional and can turn the tide of whoever wields it) as there is another faction also trying to gain access to this information. More as a means to control the world instead of using it for the greater good like you and the “good guys” plan on using it, you meet some interesting characters in this main story with some interesting backstory into how this all happened (apart from the constant reminders you see scattered all over “Portia” be it from ruined sky-scrapers to random old tech also laying in ruins). So even though the main story description sounds short and sweet it gets quite a bit more involved than what described, but it pretty much revolves along those lines.
I really enjoyed this game, and i still am enjoying this game, where i find myself frequently saying i’m just going to load in for 5 mins tot faf around a bit, to where 5 hours later i am confused as to how time went by so quickly, as it did not feel like was playing that long. But that is just how lost you get in this game, it really is just a fun mindless game to play when you don’t want something taxing or that will test your online pvp abilities, or even crazy puzzle solving skills trying to unlock the next area. Sometimes you just want to switch off and watch your cattle grow, harvest some plants, heck even build some waterproof lamps because the teacher needs 5 of them for who knows what reason. The point is you are pretty much guaranteed to have a good time, that is if you ever enjoyed games like Harvest Moon or Stardew Valley, anything that pretty much went along those lines. Where you feel like you had an enjoyable 5 hours of game time instead of part fun, part frustration and some parts wondering why even have this as a hobby in the first place.