My Time At Portia may look sweet but it’s a post-apocalyptic Stardew Valley that’s about to consume my entire life

Stardew Valley chewed me up and spat me out, and My Time at Portia is going to do exactly the same thing. Yet when I was playing it happily on the Nintendo Switch, I soon discovered that despite its charming and painted loading screens, it’s a lot darker than you’d expect. So when I chopped down a tree a bird’s nest fell out, which made me feel a pang of guilt. But hey, it’s not like it’s a bird’s body, right? Then I found an Old Talker from the Old World, the post-apocalyptic ruins of which Portia is built on, that looked exactly like a payphone. Then I remembered the message I had got from my dad when I first arrived at Portia that read “sorry I’m not the father you wanted me to be”, which was a tad too emotional for a game where you can pet a very fat pig with a tongue lolling out of its derpy mouth. My Time At Portia might look cute, but deep down it’s darker than you’d first think, a sign that it’s taking things more seriously than its rainbow colour palette suggests.

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Sure, that darkness is funny at first (if a little disturbing), but it also proves that Pathea, the team behind My Time At Portia, has really thought about the small details in this not-so-little game. Even describing which genre it fits into is hard as there’s just so much to do in it: broadly speaking it’s a farming simulator with role playing elements, just like Stardew Valley, but it’s also set in an open world with mining, crafting, relationship trees, a skill tree, missions, minigames, and combat with ruin-dwelling beasties. Its depth is astonishing, almost intimidating at first, but it doesn’t take long to grasp what makes My Time at Portia special. 

Lending a helping pin 

At first, it’s the small things that make it stand out: when you mine for resources the cave walls disappear beneath your pick like mining in No Man’s Sky; you don’t only talk with neighbours but can also play rock, paper, scissors, take a selfie with them, spar together (because punching someone in the face is a great way to bond), and give gifts; and your calendar is already marked with a ton of events to attend. As soon as I thought of a mechanic that would be cool to include, bam, there it was, with a few that surprised me with their ingenuity. 

For example, My Time at Portia knows that you’ve got a lot on your plate as soon as you step into its world, but its pinning function aims to make sure you don’t get too overwhelmed. Like me you might find yourself writing a physical checklist of all the items you need to keep an eye out for, and also like me you might have the memory of a gnat and instantly forget every single one. However, in My Time at Portia pinning multiple missions makes them appear on the side of your screen alongside the mission you’re currently doing, so you can remember what you need to keep an eye out for on your travels without having to constantly check your quest log or return to your house and realise, with a scream of frustration, that you threw away a ton of materials you really, really needed. Definitely not something I’ve done before. My Time at Portia knows you have a lot to do, and wants to help you do it. 

Everything is connected 

Once I dug deeper - metaphorically - I found myself sinking further and further into My Time at Portia, picking up missions from painters as they chilled by lakes and planning what I was going to craft next, as well as mentally noting the decor I was aiming for in my rustic (i.e. run-down) farmhouse. Interior decorating is a whole other terrifying, Sims-like time drain in itself. You’ll find the same level of depth in the relationships you can have with other characters, where doing something nice for someone means your relationship with them and their friends goes up, as if their group is mentally connected with a feelings chain like a creepy emotional superpower. Almost everything is linked in My Time at Portia, as Pathea has clearly thought about the ripples you send out as you adventure through its world, whether that’s wider friendship circles being affected by your actions (your relationship with characters decreases dramatically if you divorce one of their friends), or just seeing cave walls warp as you mine away at them. 

When My Time at Portia arrives on Nintendo Switch, PS4 and Xbox One on April 16, you’ll get to see what I’m talking about for yourself. The amount of depth in this little indie is astonishing, and it’s enough to keep you busy for many, many months - just don’t think too much about those strangely dark undercurrents. Focus on the colour and helpful little features instead, trust me. 

If you want to see what else you have to look forward to this year, take a look at our list of the new games 2019 has to offer or take a glance below to see what you have to give a go in 2019!