If ever you've wished Animal Crossing had combat elements, if ever you wanted a 3D Stardew Valley, if ever you've dreamt of Harvest Moon being just a bit more in-depth, My Time at Portia is all of these things, and I can't stop thinking about it since I went hands-on at E3. When I booked my appointments for the week, it was definitely the game I knew the least about. I had seen screens and liked the look of it, though I wasn't sure if it could do better for me than one of the aforementioned games. I've always liked those games, but never really loved any of them as each always seemed to lack something important that kept them from being great. I can't be sure after just 40 or so minutes of playtime, but it feels like My Time at Portia is the genre game I've been waiting for.
After using a surprisingly extensive character creator I loaded into my game where I just arrived in Portia, a small farming town with a hub of shops and local government buildings to explore. A letter in my mailbox announced the fixer-upper household before my eyes was now mine to keep. Just like the games which clearly inspired it, Portia sets you off in a world of neighbors and exploration and leaves the rest up to you.
Early in my demo, I repaired my new home, went shopping, crafted items like an axe to chop down trees for lumber, and met many townsfolk. One of my favorite aspects of the game came in how varied every resident was. Each character has their own unique personality and no two townspeople looked alike. They all felt like real people, like after several hours of playing I'd see them across the town center and know exactly who they were and maybe even what they would be up to. You can chat with anyone, give them gifts, and play mini-games like sparring and rock-paper-scissors.
The game tracks your relationship with each of them too. When I was handing out gifts to some of these new acquaintances, I gave two of them animal poop. The first woman actually liked it, and I thought that was strange and maybe the game wasn't properly tracking the specifics of my gift-giving, but the next recipient was offended by my gesture and our relationship took a hit. It turns out that first lady just really likes poop.
In so many cool ways, Portia feels like someone snuck a Nintendo game onto other platforms.
I didn't see any of the combat elements in my time, but I asked how it worked and a representative for publisher Team 17 told me the game offers dungeon-like caves wherein players can find some of the rarer crafting items and resources. These will be where the fighting takes place, but even there I can't imagine the game is anything other than adorable. It feels very family-friendly in the way its inspirators do, but also deep enough to be engaging for the older fans of such games.
Exploring the town, putting names to faces, and plotting out a few in-game days of activities truly felt like someone smuggled a Nintendo game onto other platforms. It'll be on Switch as well, and will almost surely do well there provided the rest of the game is as exciting as what I saw. But for those who enjoy Nintendo's first-party flavor but perhaps don't have a 3DS or Switch, My Time at Portia is a game you simply must keep an eye on.
I hesitate to bestow too much praise on any games I see for such a short while, but first impressions count for something, and this game really caught me by surprise. Despite going hands-on with 25 games at E3 this year, few have occupied my mind more than Portia. I can't wait to get back to town and see more. The game is in early access on Steam and scheduled to come to all other platforms later this year.
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