We couldn't get enough of Pathea's post-apocalyptic farming-sim My Time At Portia when we sampled it in Early Access last January. We sank countless hours into crafting new objects, exploring vast colourful regions, and building relationships with the curious townsfolk (a pink fluffy cat and a bathrobe-wearing bear were among our closest companions). 12 months later, and with the project receiving a Players Choice Award and several hefty content updates it has now steamrolled its way out of Early Access and has made a full release on PC.
In My Time At Portia you play as a young builder who has just inherited their distant father's workshop in the beautifully cartoonish town of Portia. The town may feel as though it was plucked from a fairytale but the creaky old shack that is now your home is rife with holes and furnished with just a single bed (what kind of neglectful father doesn't leave a bathroom!?). After patching up the joint and securing your very own builder's licence it's then up to you to follow in your father's footsteps and raise the reputation of your handiwork by taking on commissions.
Fortunately, it's easy to find work as a fresh face in town as you can accept commissions posted within the Commerce Guild, and there are even main quests that will trigger over time. These quests usually task you with crafting an item using materials you've gathered within the wild and then processing them with machines in your workshop. As you progress crafting recipes will grow more complex and you'll want to expand your operation and invest in new facilities and pages in your handbook by visiting the research centre.
As a new resident, we soon felt welcomed into Portia's community. We made new friends, built a new transport system, and attended town-wide events such as the Day of the Bright Sun Festival where gifts rained from the sky from an airship on patrol. Making your mark on the community has just as much of an emphasis on the crafting and building here and actually feeds into the gameplay loop as well as being a fun distraction. As your friendship with a certain NPC blossoms, for example, you'll earn perks such as receiving more gifts or receiving a higher cut of a commission, so showing your face is well worth your time.
At the end of the 15-hour story, we came away feeling like we had plenty more to explore with regards to the town's activities and entertaining distractions. If you are looking for something to do during your downtime (the Commerce Guild is closed on weekends) you could go fishing, raise a bustling farm of cows and chickens, or attempt to reconstruct relics found within the ruins for display at the museum. There are dungeons you can wade through for items and XP rewards and you can even get married and charm your spouse into moving in with you. There's an absolute boatload of content here which helps to break up the grind and enables things to still feel fresh even after the fleeting main story quests.
We felt that it was inventive too that we received stat increases such as buffs in stamina and defence by placing furniture within our home. This made the combat and building aspects feel tightly connected and offered much more purpose to objects such as a pink leather sofa rather than just pure vanity. Besides this though we found the combat a little shallow especially as we didn't have access to ranged weapons during the earlier stretches. It does have a classic Zelda feel to it as you manage your stamina, execute dodge rolls, and exploit your opponent's movements, but for us, it was the least delicious slice of the pie. That being said, each enemy we encountered, from mechanical pigs to exploding spiders and blue scarfed ladybugs, felt distinctive and right at home within the world that Pathea has crafted.
The devs have worked tirelessly to introduce heaps of new content over the past few months to help the world feel more expansive and alive, but we couldn't help but feel like some of our initial criticisms weren't addressed. Manual saving is still not a feature (the only way to save is by sleeping) and items are still not identified if you're over capacity, which means you have to gamble some of your materials for something potentially useless. We also found commands such as scrolling through items and dragging them our quick spots much clunkier with a controller, which is something we hope is optimised before the launch of the console ports.
Still, My Time At Portia is a game that we'd wholeheartedly recommend for anyone who enjoys a splash of colour and the thrills of crafting and exploration. We loved building our reputation as a fledgeling builder in the gorgeous town of Portia and had a great time as we expanded our workshop, made lasting relationships, and undertook commissions from our friends and neighbours. We do wish that the combat offered more depth and that some of the flaws that we flagged during the Early Access period were ironed out, but these are minor flaws when considering everything else Pathea has excelled at here.