My Time at Portia follows in the footsteps of so many other life sims. You arrive in the coastal town of Portia as an optimistic young man or woman, returning to your Pa’s old workshop and seeking to make a new life for yourself, not just restoring the beaten down workshop to its former glories, but reaching new heights. Having released on PC at the start of the year – find our 9/10 My Time at Portia review here – it’s now made its way to PS4, Xbox One and Switch, but how does it hold up?
Of course, there’s one other game in particular that Portia will be compared to: Stardew Valley. The barminess of that game’s story certainly seems to have rubbed off on Portia. Set in a world where a technological cataclysm took place, there’s those who seek out this knowledge, others that shun it, and that’s just the starting point for a story that goes in some truly weird directions, all the while having dozens of characters to grow to know and love, engaging with them regularly and building relationships.
Most games in this genre have you farming, taking produce into town, doing favours for the inhabitants, following stories, and eventually building the relationships to the point that you can romance someone and settle down together. All of that is true of Portia, but with engineering and crafting at the core instead of farming. At least, that’s the case to start with, but you can happily branch off into farming if you want!
That changes the feel of the game, giving you more direct control over how your latest project or contract comes together. You work through the stages of collecting raw materials, delving into the increasingly treacherous ruins where ancient technology can be dug up alongside copper, iron and more. Then it’s up for smelting into bars that can be fed into the next machine to create the specific parts needed to build a bridge, a new bus network, or even just the next workbench you need to expand your repertoire. It’s satisfying to bring different parts together and grow your workshop into whatever you want it to be.
For this initial release, the console versions have stuck pretty close to the 1.0 launch version on PC from January. Some tweaks, fixes and balance changes have filtered through, but the stories and missions that were added over the last few months haven’t, and will be making their way into the console version a little later. It means that there’s still plenty of quirks and oddities, such as with a lack of voice acting,
The game is quite gorgeous on PlayStation 4 Pro, with a distinctive cartoony art style that manages to feel both a little bit cobbled together and coherently weird – the wildlife in particular just feels bizarre, given how cute it is. It holds up very well alongside the PC version of the game without any meaningful compromises. However, while my head says to play it on PS4, my heart wants to hold it in my hands and play it on the go. Enter the Nintendo Switch.
Captured on Nintendo Switch
Pathea have naturally had to make cutbacks on Switch. The texture quality is lowered and there’s no grass covering the plain textures that make up the rolling hills around Portia. More fundamentally, it’s just all a bit cramped and small on Switch, with little done to revise the UI for the console. The mini-map is minuscule, the character creation is too convoluted with its colour picking, inventory management is tedious on D-pad or analogue sticks, and there’s just so many menu inputs on every screen.
World loading times after first booting up the game are dramatically improved with the Switch’s day one update, plummeting from 40 seconds to just 10 when exiting a building into the open world, and are actually now shorter than the PS4’s 15 second loads. However, there’s around a four second wait to open up wooden chests that isn’t there on PS4, and the first time you access the assembly station, and there’s often hiccups when cutting down bushes and trees or mining – many of these can just about be felt on PS4, but are shorter hiccups. Outside of this, the frame rate feels nice and steady most of the time, but these spikes of loading or processing are clear to see.
Captured on Nintendo Switch
Through all the little quirks and the awkwardness of the game on console, Portia remains a delight that surprises in so many ways. The world that Pathea have created is offbeat and quirky, wrapped in an art style that still works so very well, even at the Switch’s reduced quality. This is a big, sprawling slice of life simulation, and is an easy recommendation for fans of the genre on console.