Early Access games are such a double-edged sword, right?
Conceptually, they are pretty brilliant. Games are risky projects that typically only give you a chance at profits years after development. With Early Access, you can release whatever you have handy – “Minimum Viable Product” in the gaming parlance – and gain money while you finish building out the rest of the game. Plus, sometimes you might actually get a piece of actionable feedback from the customers that changes the direction of the game. Win-win for the developer.
For me personally, Early Access games are Lose-Win at best.
I do not typically replay games. Between Humble Bundles and Epic Store giveaways and being a periodic MMO player, I have accumulated a largely insurmountable stockpile of games that makes it difficult to “justify” playing even ones I like a second time. So when I do buckle down and play an Early Access title, whatever stage of development it is in is typically the only version I experience. Which can sometimes be fine – not every game makes it out of Early Access. But many times I recognize that things are not fine, as I end up experiencing a worse version of an incomplete game that would have been a lot more fun had I waited.
There are a few exceptions to the rule. Well, one and a half: roguelikes and survival titles. Roguelikes, by their very nature, are “replayed” many times. I started playing Slay the Spire back when there were just two characters, for example, and continue(d) to play it now that there are four. Oxygen Not Included, RimWorld, and 7 Days to Die are in similar boats… that encourage or at least don’t punish re-boating.
Some survival games land further away from the roguelike spectrum and otherwise do not necessarily lend themselves towards repeated play. I have zero desire to play Valheim again, for example, until it is much closer to final release. Is there much of a practical difference between Valheim and 7 Days to Die? It’s hard to articulate, but the latter is more viscerally entertaining and a more varied experience. Both have procedurally-generated maps and such, but how many different bases are you going to create in Valheim really?
I bring all this up because a really, really want to play My Time at Sandrock. Which, you guessed it, just hit Early Access last week. A sequel of sorts to the original My Time at Portia, it has everything I want: basically being a sequel to a game I already put 108 hours into. Everything except… not being done.
What is the current state of the Early Access version?
“Early Access will begin with the single-player story model: players will be able to play some of the first act of the game’s story and have access to romance and friendship missions as we implement them.”
I can’t do it. Even if I imagined that I would pick one of the townsfolk to romance that had already been implemented, the “risk” is too great. “Risk” being uncharitably defined as making a choice that could result in a less satisfy gaming experience in the likely-only opportunity to play the game. Which is neurotic, I know, considering developers add choices to games to allow the opportunity for more people to enjoy themselves. But this brain meat is what I’m working with, so… yeah.
Incidentally, the other reason I’m bringing up this topic is because I was clued into a pre-Early Access game called Life Not Supported that’s basically Raft in space. As in, floating around and picking up space trash to build a space boat. Which reminded me that I spent 8 hours in Raft and enjoyed it and got the itch to play some more only to find that it is still in Early Access itself. And there’s a dev blog from January saying that Chapter 3 is delayed and they’ll be retooling the whole game once it comes out and I’d be better off not playing it until that occurs. At least, that’s the implication. Sigh.
Here are a few critical beginner tips to make your experience in My Time at Portia more pleasant.
1. Slow Down Game Speed
One of the first things I recommend doing is opening the Options screen and reducing the Game Speed. All this controls is how quickly the clock ticks in the game. So, instead of burning two hours of daylight heading over to your neighbor’s house to chat, it may only take 30 minutes to cover the same ground. This will also give you more opportunity to use all of your Stamina on digging/logging.
For myself, I pushed it all the way down to 60%. This gives me plenty of time to stock all my furnaces, talk to who I need to, and complete all my chores with plenty of time to explore a bit more before hitting the sack. If you want to burn some more daylight, you can speed it back up at any time.
2. All your Storage is Linked
Even though the game mentions this in a loading screen tip, it wasn’t until a few dozen hours into the game that I realized that all your storages are linked. What this means is that if you have one easily-accessible storage chest, you can open it and then browse the contents of all the others, even if they are inside your house (which I recommend doing to save real estate).
Why is this useful? Because you can name each chest and then put that stuff in the chest and easily find them later. I have chests for Metal, Wood, Cloth, Foodstuffs, relics from Ruins #1, Ruins #2, etc etc etc. Considering how often you have to physically put stuff on your hotbar to assemble things, it’s helpful to organize all your stuff.
3. Fishing = $$$
If you haven’t already learned this from the Fishing Tournament in the first month, Fishing is one of the most lucrative endeavors in the game. As soon as you craft your first fishing pole, you can purchase bait from Sophia’s store and then head to the fishing hole near the waterfall. Goliaths are the common catch there and each one has a book value of 350g. The King Goliaths are very rare and hard to reel in, but their book value is 5000g. I recommend not selling those until you have two, because…
4. Breed Fish for Easy Cash
At a certain point, you’ll be able to craft a fish tank. If you plop two fish of the same type (and rarity) into the tank and feed them regularly, eventually you’ll get a 3rd fish. There’s a distinct lack of any kind of useful interface with the fish tank, but basically you can dump in as much food as you want and the fish feed themselves until it runs out. As long as they aren’t hungry, another invisible timer will be counting down until a third fish appears in the tank. Just make sure you don’t accidentally pull a fish out of the tank until they have bred, because it resets to timer even if you put it back.
For practical purposes: put in two King Goliaths (or other 5000g fish pairs), load it up with food, and then 7-8 days later you will have a 3rd 5000g fish. Rinse and repeat for some nice passive income.
5. Don’t Overthink Relationships
There are a few dozen members of the Portia community, and quite a few reasons why you might want to cozy up to all of them. For example, store discounts, extra stat buffs, periodic presents, or because you want to make one of them your beau. Just don’t go too crazy with it though.
Each star or heart container represents 100 relationship points. Talking with townsfolk confers… +1 point each day. Sparring with them confers… +1 point. Playing Rock-Paper-Scissors… yeah, +1 point. While there are Skills that can be unlocked to boost these numbers, they pale in comparison to the other avenues to raise relationships. Giving gifts, for example. Most townsfolk appreciate certain food dishes, and giving them it on the daily is worth +10 points each time.
Additionally, about midway through the game, you “unlock” the ability to go on Play Dates with most townsfolk, once per person per week. If you plan out things right, you can fairly easily score +25 to +40 points in an evening. This isn’t even counting the bonuses (+20 to +35) that come from quests, or them viewing relics you place in your yard, or when you complete their Commissions.
In short, don’t get hung up on talking to everyone everyday.
6. Embrace the Dig
Early on you will unlock some Abandoned Ruins. While these locations have buried relics to chase, the biggest draw is just to find a mineral vein and dig. And dig. And dig some more. While you do need Wood to power the Furnaces that turn all of the copper (etc) ore into usable bars, the vast majority of your time in MtaP will be spent digging. So embrace it.
Also, Pro Tip: you can trade up to 999 Rock for Wood at a 1:1 ratio at A&G Construction. While you will want to keep some Rock around to turn into Bricks on occasion, this conversion will save you a lot of time if you don’t have to split your time between digging and logging.
7. Note the Economy
Prices in Portia fluctuate: down to the low 70% all the way to 135%. Every vendor is affected by the same multiplier shown in the upper-right of the vendor window. Changes are typically gradual, so you’ll have some idea of the direction things are moving. Needless to say, if you are wanting to sell things, you will get more bang for your buck saving it for high-price days. Just keep in mind that each vendor has a maximum amount of money they have each day, so you can’t exactly unload 50,000g+ of goods all at once.
On low-price days, I recommend stocking up on items from Sophie’s Store like fish bait, dough balls, and random cooking ingredients like Sugar and Rice and Cumin. You can also save a few thousand Gols by waiting for these days to purchase new armor from the clothing store.
My typical gaming M.O. is to choose a different genre of game after focusing on one in particular. So after Forager, I should have picked something that was not another crafting/farming/grinding game. Following that ancient edict just left me with not wanting to play anything at all though. So, realizing that I am an Adult© with the means and opportunity to do Whatever the Hell I Want™ I decided to head right into My Time at Portia.
It’s good to be back.
My Time at Portia is a Harvest Moon/Stardew Valley game set in a bizarrely upbeat post-post-apocalypse future. There are ruins and collapsed buildings in the skybox, there are tales of the Age of Corruption, and even a period of darkness in which the skies were blackened for over 300 years. And yet the hero who cleared the skies is a man named Peach, the monsters you fight are things like Panbats (bats with panda faces) and sea urchins that float around with the help of balloons, and similar nonsense. It is all very cartoony and whimsical and doesn’t take itself especially seriously.
One element I do like that shakes the formula up a bit is how your character is a Builder and not a farmer. You can have farm plots and a stable and grow things if you want, but the primary mechanism of advancement is, well, building things. You can take one Commission a day from a posting board (“I need 3 Rubber Belts”), townspeople will occasionally ask you to build an irrigation system for them, some elevator needs repaired so investigations into water supply issues can be resolved, and so on. A lot more crafting than farming, in other words. This solves the sometimes awkward problem of having unlockable crafting tiers of items that you only ever make one of and never use the crafting table again.
While it has been an enjoyable game thus far, I do think I am over-optimizing the game a tiny bit. I am not even past the second season yet and have already unlocked and am using the highest-tier tools and Workbench. There are still longer-term items to purchase (expanded housing plot, etc) and upgrade, but I am primarily “done” in terms of exciting progression, e.g. needing a specific tool to gather a particular resource. We’ll see how the rest of the game pans out.
Having said all that, I am certainly doing what I enjoy. It is not ARK or 7 Days to Die or more freeform crafting-survival, but My Time at Portia scratches similar itches for the time being. It also feels more relaxing than even Stardew Valley, as you can tweak settings like Day Length to give yourself more time to explore/talk to townsfolk. If this is what you’re looking for, well, you found it.
Is there a better feeling than pondering buying a game, deciding it’s not quite at the right sale price for you, then finding out it’s a front-runner for next month’s Humble Bundle?
As always, I’m starved for survival/crafting games not already consumed, and My Time at Portia was something that had hitherto not been on the radar. Then it was… but at $30. Seeing as how I missed all the historic low prices of $12-$15 some time in the interminable past, I resigned myself to wait things out further. Then, Humble Bundle. I care nothing for Soul Calibur or (probably) the Yakuza game, but I will snap up a $12 copy of the game I was looking for and possibly 6-7 games I wasn’t.
You know, aside from the exploitative microtransactions and design-destroying loot boxes, I’m enjoying this age of novel payment methods. Between monthly bundles, Epic’s bribes, Twitch’s giveaways, and Microsoft’s increasingly desperate attempts to sell you months of Gamer Pass for $1, I think we’re more saturated with games now than we were during peak F2P. At least, I know I am.
The trick will be to actually play them, rather than looking at the library with glazed eyes and then booting up the same game I had been playing for the last two weeks.