January 30, 2019

My Time at Portia - Review

There is always something that draws me towards games, where there is a gameplay loop and I am not sure what it is, but many games lose my interest quickly, if that loop becomes too bland, with My Time at Portia, the loop is not only interesting, but fun to boot.

You play as a character, to which you are given the choice of gender and then customise the look to suit you, for me it was Marco, who is returning to Portia after getting a letter from his father, who sent it and then left town, and upon your arrival, you are giving his old workshop. The Portia Commerce Guild tasks you with proving yourself, that you can build things and requests you to build an axe and pickaxe and once you are done, you have your licence. The game starts things off nice and slow, letting you take an easy commission or two, whilst exploring the town and meeting the people that live there, but soon some of the commissions require a fair bit of work, with some of the citizens asking for things that will test your creative might.

In order to build, you have to acquire materials, some of them, like wood or stone, can be literally found lying on the ground, it is when things begin to require more less common materials, where you need to start exploring. The best location at the start is the abandoned ruins, which is where you can mine copper and tin, but also find relics of the civilization that was there before you. These relics can range from glass lenses to small engines and all the way up to data discs, which play a large role in obtaining new schematics to build with down the line. Once you have your materials, it is time to begin to build and this is perhaps the part of the game that I liked above all else.

To build something, you only need to open up your handbook, choose the item you want to build, which will explain the resources you need, including hints on how to locate some of them and select the build option. What the game does is place a silhouette of the item on the construction platform, the first few items you need to build are a furnace and cutter, in order to craft ingots and plates respectively, amongst others. Once you have the resources needed to build you simply go up to the outline and place it down and that is it, you are building, this more direct way of building does not require you to learn complex recipes, nor attempt various combinations, in the hope that you get something right and build it. If building is not so fun, you can also don your sword and taking on some of the creatures that live around the town, some of which are cool, like the cool llamas and some are just odd, like the urchins that float around in the air via umbrellas. Combat is straight forward, you can attack and dodge, lock onto an enemy and your character will stay focused on the enemy until you defeat them, which when you do, will grant you more building materials.

Turning the materials like your copper ore into copper ingots, takes time though, the more you want to craft, the longer it takes, which is where the loop I mentioned earlier comes in. Setting up a furnace to create the items you need is easy, but while it is working long, there is little else you can do, until it is done, so venturing into town and speaking with people, or hitting up the ruins to grab more ore are easy ways to fill your day, heck you can even take your axe and go and farm some wood. As your day is filled with various activities, your equipment will work for you, the upside is that it allows you to also take part in some of the many events that the town hosts across the years.

The town of Portia is not just a giant shop for you to sell and buy things at, but instead full of people that head off to their jobs, go to school and more, and learning about what each person does and likes, will help you in the long run, especially if you are someone who wants to join in the dating scene. Learning that the Civil Corps spend a lot of their time exploring ruins and defeating some of the monsters that venture to close to the town is cool or you might see Dr Xu run out of town each morning on the hunt of herbs in order to craft medicines. Learning about the people is fun, but the events are where things can get interesting, taking part in a gift exchange might seem a little tame, but when they do it, via dropping presents from an airship that hovers over the town, things get a little more extreme. But is not just large-scale events, you can also join in a fishing tournament or one for martial arts, there is a lot happening in this quaint town.

Of course, while all this is happening your machinery is working away, turning your materials into parts, which help you build your commission, which help build your rep and bank balance. But it is not as simple as just grinding to get the materials, some require you to complete a mission or two to earn or venture out into much more dangerous territory to claim, but even then, it might not be enough. In order to build some of the larger and complex items, you need to upgrade your equipment, which can cost a pretty gol and use up a chunk of resources. The best example I can provide is in order to repair a lift near the edge of town, you need to not only build lift controls, but acquire the materials to build it, while the lift controls can be tricky, as you need an advanced engine from the ruins, one of the materials needs a resource that is hard to collect on its own, unless you have repaired the tree farm. Going down that route, requires a massive amount of items to be collected, upgrades to be performed, which again costs money and resources, but the results of which make thing easier, but even after all that, I still had to repair the lift, this was a good solid chunk of real time to complete and I loved it.

One part of the game that I did not love is the presentation, the visuals are fine, it's like a stylised anime look, with the characters having a nice simple look, that blends well with the town and surrounds. What cause the presentation to fail are the constant visual and audio issues, and these are not just little hiccups, but major issues that can cause issues if you are not paying attention to things. One example is when I begin to fight a boss creature, there was not a single sound created by it, no attacking noise, no movement, not a sound, all that could be heard was the thwack of my sword. Once is not an issue I know, but the same thing happened with the second boss I fought, though this one made attacking noises, but when it spoke, subtitles appeared, but no actual noise. Characters in town will speak to you with a text box on screen, then you hear them and then back to text, during one of the town fireside meetings, the Mayor hosts them, he came out of his office and ran out of town, but his speech still happened, complete with audio and on screen text hanging above the door, just no character present.

It is not all little quirks like those either, I have been exploring the ruins and found myself walking on nothing, or in the middle of the room, getting stuck on invisible walls, the worst examples though come from the towns folk, whilst I was talking with Martha at her bakery, another builder was literally floating in the air next to us, once I stopped talking, he teleported back to the ground and continued on his way. I have seen Arlo riding his horse, only for his model to stop, not stop riding, just stop moving, but the horse pushes on forward, with Arlo hanging in the air, only for a few seconds later to snap back to the horse and continue on. There are even just strange issues that make these moments stand out more, such as you can’t swim, the game will just teleport you back to shore if you try, but you can walk on water in the towns fountain and I mean that in a literal sense, the first time it happened, I did not realise, I was merely taking a direct route to the commerce guild and ran across the water.

Though, don’t let those issues dissuade you, the gameplay is still worth your time, be it exchanging data discs for new schematics, trying your luck in the games room at the restaurant or any of the other list of activities you can do. While I never really got into the farming, you can do that as well, the character that I am dating loves to farm, so we have the space around, I just don’t do it. My Time at Portia is a wonderful game, it has a lot of charm going for it, with plenty of things to do and see, the gameplay loop is engaging and kept me returning time and time again, whilst I would love to be able save halfway throughout a day, none of the other issues I have found, will stop me from returning to this town.

Review copy provided by Team17

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