Like many other self-styled homages to the incredibly engrossing Harvest Moon, My Time at Portia nails down the essentials. It presents you nearly countless opportunities to chip away at tasks, offering up numerous jobs to complete and captivating recipes to work towards. Unlike some of the best though, My Time at Portia lacks both the identity, charm and polish to make it a memorable visit to the cheerful island, unmasking its inner workings for all to see in a diminished light.

From the moment your boat pulls into port, Portia and its many inhabitants have many jobs for you to fulfill. A jobs board is refreshed daily, giving you one opportunity to help a fellow citizen with tasks of varying difficult. The more difficult the build the larger the reward, with fast turnovers offering up their own form of additional incentives. The constant loop of picking up a commission and collecting the resources to fulfill it pushes you into discovering new recipes for items and structures that let you build them – the proverbial carrot on the end of a never-ending stick.

Outside of commissions, Portia will give you chances to expand its borders and undertake larger scale tasks through main missions. This are dealt out at a slower pace than daily tasks, letting you breathe between tasks that will require days or resource gather and numerous steps to fulfill. These missions are important though, giving you chances to open new routes around the island and unlocking additional benches and buildings for you to contrast new items on. There’s never a compelling narrative reason to undertake tasks beyond the clear mechanical value to their completion, and some crafting recipes are complicated for their own good. But seeing your efforts have a tangible effect on your surroundings is rewarding, as are the newer areas with unique resources for you to plunder.

Resources are often for plentiful underground, and it’s here where My Time at Portia seems conflicted. Untouched, safe mines are nothing more than tedious mining efforts, with useful resources only visible using special scanning goggles. The constant switching between these goggles and your pickaxe is tiresome, given that you can only tag one point to dig at a time. The mines themselves are difficult to discern from one another, sapping any sense of identity from them that might have otherwise alleviated this tedium with some visual splendor.

Other mines aren’t much like mines at all, instead presenting themselves more as loot-laden dungeons filled with enemies to fight. Combat is nothing more than clicking until a foe is dead, and it’s incredibly easy to get these same foes stuck in animation locks with the right timing. This goes for the underwhelming bosses too. Many would get stuck on top of my character while attacking, completely reducing any threat they might impose. Although you’re most often grappling with inanimate objects for resources, the times where combat is necessary will make you wish for simpler times involving cutting down tress and fashion copper bars from mined ore.

Despite all the work done to recreate the same feelings its influences evoke; My Time at Portia really stumbles in its lack of a cohesive aesthetic. Its island aims for charming but falls short with uninspired art design that muddies the main town and acres of land around it. There’s nothing that stands out about Portia that gives it an identity – its numerous stalls and stores as forgettable as the citizens that inhabit them. Animal designs attempt to be cute amalgamations and interpretations of existing animals, but never land due to inconsistent levels of detail across their designs. Textures range from beautifully colourful to disastrously undetailed, completely breaking any sort of spell Portia might be trying to put you under.

Its citizens are equally at fault, as are their inherently strange designs. None of Portia’s inhabitants is compelling enough to talk to or deeply care about, reducing the drive to build meaningful relationships with any of them outside of their needy commission requests. The thin narrative tension between other builders is cliché and boring to have to watch unfold, driven by some strangely inconsistent voice acting that is mediocre at the best of times. Lines of dialogue vary in volume and clarity, aside from having any semblance of emotion behind their deliveries. It’s easy enough to skip past the dialogue (and even turn it off entirely for your character, which is advisable), but there’s no disputing how awkward it is currently.

Character design feels uninteresting in the same way that Portia’s town is presented, with oddly detailed faces topping off disproportions that are rarely cute or interesting. This extends to the limited character, creator, which never allowed me to create a protagonist that looked good. My Time at Portia has colour bursting around every corner just fails to wrap it around assets and designs that complement its ambition. It’s a shame that its distracting nature is enough to rear its head frequently, and enough to distract you from the otherwise compelling commissions at hand.

My Time at Portia presents familiar ideas from a new perspective, but it fails to capture the splendour that those influences are so well known for. While its core loop of resource gathering and construction is built upon sound foundations, it’s world, inhabitants and presentation leave a lot to be desired. There’re rough edges all around Portia that its extended time at Early Access have failed to smooth out, making the time you spend on this island far less engrossing than the games it so clearly loves to admire.

Last Updated: January 15, 2019

My Time at Portia
My Time at Portia wears its influences on its sleeve but fails to build both a compelling world and charming inhabitants to engage with when reaching for the same lofty heights. Its loop of resource gathering and intricate building is implemented well, but it lacks the charm to make it all cohesive enough to be alluring.
5.0
My Time at Portia was reviewed on PC

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