(I am adding some updated information at the bottom of this posting)
My Time At Portia
is a Life Simulation game, part of the 'Social Sim' subgenre, developed (and initially released) for the PC and then later ported to various consoles, including the Nintendo Switch. As the Switch is my console of preference due to the convenience factor, I took a chance and checked it out recently. Over all I have been enjoying this game, but there a ton of issues I have with it, so allow me to indulge.
First off, the entire 'Life Sim' genre is an interesting one; this particular game falls into the same subgenre as games like The Sims
and Animal Crossing
, two games I love, but are so vastly different I would have thought they would appear in at least separate subgenres; yet, here we are. And My Time At Portia
is a game I would have assumed would be in yet a third subgenre, as nothing about this game feels similar to the previously two I mentioned.
But again, here we are.
The game is very similar in its basic 'beats' as another game I've played somewhat recently, Stardew Valley
. In fact, had I never heard of these games and had them thrown at me, and one were to have told me that Stardew Valley
was an old SNES game and that My Time At Portia
was a follow up for the N64, both remade slightly for modern consoles, I wouldn't question it. Now, I'm not saying that this game is a 'copy' of Stardew Valley
, it does enough to distinguish itself, but it does remind me of the differences and similarities between say Final Fantasy III (VI worldwide) and Final Fantasy VII.
In My Time At Portia
, you are a newcomer to the town of Portia, having been left your father's old workshop after he disappeared, and you are now expected to follow in his footsteps so to speak. The game operates on a 24 hour clock where a few seconds in real life represent a few minutes in game time, with 4 months each year, each month consisting of 28 days. Each month represents a different season; Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter.
You are tasked with rebuilding and expanding upon your father's workshop, collecting various resources in various ways to craft other resources, items and equipment, while getting to know (and possibly romancing) the locals.
Your days consist of various possible tasks, but most tasks/actions cost stamina. Run out of stamina, and there is very little left you can do unless you can refill that stamina. Sleeping not only saves the game, but also refills your health and stamina, waking you up at 7 A.M. the next day. Stay out too late (3 A.M. is the key), and you pass out only to find yourself in your home the next day.
Replace 'Father' with 'Grandfather', 'disappeared' with 'dead' and 'Workshop' with 'Farm', and you have a basic overview of Stardew Valley
. However, where Stardew Valley
has you playing from a top down side scrolling perspective, similar to (most) 2D Zelda
games, this one has you in a 3D third person perspective. Kind of like... Well, 3D Zelda
So now that I have gotten at least a brief synopsis out of the way, I will go ahead and jump into some of my problems. First and foremost, it's an absolute grind! I mean seriously, this game is SO grindy that at least 70% of my gameplay has ended up being nothing but grinding in one way or another.
The main goal is to build various items and equipment, but in order to do that, you have to have materials. There are at least two basic levels of materials, the ones you have to initially collect (what I will call 'raw' materials) and those you have to craft or refine (what I will call 'refined' materials). There are also about 4 basic ways to collect the raw materials; chopping, mining, gathering and drops from combat.
Let's focus on one part of mining for a moment.
As you mine, you may collect copper ore. This raw ore can be refined into copper bars, which can then be either flat out used as is, or further refined into copper sheets, copper pipes, copper wire, copper coils, copper blades and so on. Copper ore can also be used with tin ore to create bronze bars which can then be used to create bronze version of most of the copper materials. There are also iron, lead, and maganese ores as well as other deposits like marble, stone and sand which can ALSO all be made into various refined materials and items/equipment.
Ores and similar materials of course get mined, which can be in the form of rocks that litter the landscape, or striking the ground in various mines.
None of the refined materials do so in a 1 to 1 ratio; it's usually like 3 or more ores to make 1 bar (plus the wood to fire the furnace), and then 3 or so bars to make 1 sheet, and so on. So basically you will need an obscene amount of ores for any given type (copper, iron, bronze, etc).
The same types of processes can be said about materials you get from chopping wood (wood, hardwood, ironwood, etc) as well as materials dropped in combat. For example, you get Worn Wool from Lamas, which can be made into Leather or Fur, which can be made into various items. Worn Wool, Fur and Leather can also be made directly into various items.
So basically, what I am getting at here is that there is a TON of collecting needed to be done in many different ways to such an extent that it IS a massive amount of grinding, especially the further along you go into the game where more and more things need to be crafted for various types of missions. I'm not kidding at all when I say that about 70% of my gameplay is grinding in one way or another. And just when I think I have a handle on resources, having mined and chopped and battled and gathered to an insane amount just so my stockpiles can be plentiful, yet another new item pops up that requires me to set off once again to grind some more! Like needing an item I never knew existed because it's a rare random drop by some enemy causing me to go out and kill at least 50 baddies for 7 pieces of blue leather to craft one item.
The really sad part is that it ends up feeling like massive padding that isn't even needed in the first place; there seems to be more than enough other game content to more than justify a $30 price tag. You could increase the amount of items/materials gained by 50% and drop the items/materials required for any given craft by 15% and there would STILL be enough mining, chopping, combat and gathering to keep you entertained, without having the grinding becoming a massive chore.
The 'social' aspects of the game also feel like quite a grind as well; as in many games of this genre, you have to befriend the locals by talking to them and giving them gifts, but even the best items with the highest relationship boost seem to do very little overall. Fortunately for this game, and unlike others that are similar, there seems to be no relationship decay if you ignore them for a while. Of course, the game would probably be unplayable otherwise as your 70% grinding gameplay would leave NONE left to maintain relationships.
As with Stardew Valley
, the already mentioned gameplay mechanics where you have two separate limitations working against you each day in the form of stamina requirements and being in bed by 3 A.M. don't really work for me. I hate having two separate limitations that keep me from just
playing; if you want to limit the player, pick ONE mechanic and stick to it. Either go with forcing sleep each day, or stamina drain, but having both just needlessly limits the player in my opinion.
When you already know that your day will have an end one way or the other, it actually irritates me when my day is cut significantly short (especially in early gameplay) because my stamina ran out.
There are quite a few other aspects of the game like fishing, farming, cooking and then the story itself, but those are honestly not noteworthy enough to go into detail; ok, with the story, I have no clue exactly how good or bad that is yet as I haven't been able to progress much yet in my 11 days of gameplay. You know, because of the grinding.
So instead I would like to briefly explore the second biggest issue I have with the game; the bugs and glitches.
I don't want to go into insane detail here, simply because this is about my impressions of the game overall and not a full fledged bug report. But there have been several issues in this department worth noting.
First, the game crashes WAY too often. I wouldn't put this game's crashes on par with say Skyrim (which is the worst offender I have played), but this is without a doubt the second most crashed game I have played. For what seems like no reason at all the game will just close causing me to reload and loose the days progress. And because you can only save at the end of the day when you go to sleep, some days are absolutely awful to have to redo.
Load times can also be overly excessive at times, inducing (and especially) loading a game save, which just adds to the frustration when the game crashes....
Another issue is that it constantly (and I mean constantly) stutters throughout everything. The game will just constantly pause whether you are mining, chopping, in a menu, fighting or any other activity throughout the game. (It should be noted that as of this writing, I have played exclusively in handheld mode. Maybe docked would provide a smoother experience, but I cannot say either way at the moment. I will make an update if I find out more.)
Last but not least, there are weird glitches that seem to pop up that just baffle me. For example, one yearly event has you end up at midnight near a river where you and the rest of the locals release candle lanterns into the air (like in Tangled). For whatever reason (and this has happened all 3 times I have played this event) I loose all control of character movement once I release my lantern; I can still move the camera around, but none of the 'action' buttons nor movement stick work. Menus also refuse to load. I am basically left to watch everyone else leave the scene and I am stuck in place until my character eventually passes out at 3 A.M.
There is also a yearly fighting event where you fight other locals. I got through the first few rounds fine, but the last was glitched in a way I just cannot explain. For whatever reason, my opponent was able to land blows against me, lowering my HP, even though he was nowhere near me. In a few cases, I was somewhere behind him, and he was swinging in front of him (meaning the opposite direction I was), yet his blows were registering a hit. In the worst case, I was literally on the other site of the ring and his blows were still landing; he was literally in one corner of the ring, and I was in the opposite, with meters of in-game length between us, yet he was still able to deal damage.
I wish that this game allowed the Switch to save gameplay footage so that I could show exactly how this transpired, as I don't think I'm explaining it quite right. Seeing it was unreal, and I DID try to save the footage; that was the moment in fact that I learned you could not dump video per holding down the share button.
There really are a ton more bugs and glitches I have noticed throughout my gameplay, but ultimately I guess it doesn't matter; I am still enjoying this game nonetheless, and honestly, the bugs and glitches are not even close to being as annoying as the constant grinding. So if you are reading this, and you can put up with some bugs and a ton of grinding, and enjoy games like Stardew Valley
, I DO recommend picking up this game. Especially if you are a PC player as from what I have gathered, the PC version is vastly superior; unfortunately for me, I am not a PC gamer and I really do prefer playing on the Switch to all other current consoles.
I finally took some time to play the game in docked mode, to see if it ran any better. Basically, no it did not. There were a few sections where the loading time was significantly better, though I think it was only in regard to opening and closing the catalog to upgrade stuff relating to your workshop. Everywhere else however, the loading times were basically the same.
The pauses and stutters were just as bad in docked mode.
The game crashes seem to be just as bad in docked mode as well. And speaking of the game crashes... I take back what I said about Skyrim
. My Time At Portia
may very well be the most crashed game I've played so far on the Nintendo Switch. And since you can only save at the end of the day, when you go to sleep, it's even more frustrating. Just now, the game crashed AS I WAS SAVING! And of course, it did not actually save, so literally an entire games day of progress was lost.
I really do enjoy this game, over all. I have so far put 145 hours into it. But the crashing is SO bad that I don't know how much longer I can put into it. And I swear the game seems to know just when I did the most tedious activities like cooking, because that's when it seems like it wants to crash the most!