The “My Time at” franchise started off in Portia, a game released early 2019 which offered a similar sandbox presentation to titles like Harvest Moon and Animal Crossing, but when the world locked down in 2020, these life sim games got a major boost, it was during lockdown when I finally had chance to enjoy Portia, though it was Nintendo’s Animal Crossing that stole most of my spare time, so will Portia’s sequel My Time at Sandrock relive old memories, or is it a little harder to digest now the worlds (almost) back to normal and we haven’t got quite as much time to sit in front of a game.
Like its predecessor, my time at Sandrock throws you into a pretty deep sandbox experience, there’s a conspiracy about town and as the new builder on the scene, you’ll have the opportunity to help out various inhabitants as you grow your workshop and reputation within the community.
to anyone new to the franchise (and even those like myself who only briefly played My Time at Portia), it all feels a little overwhelming at first, there’s a lot to wrap your head around and even more to do.
It’s fair to say you’ve got to invest for the long haul, so working through the many tutorial-like early quests, is the best path forward to fully allow the game to open up towards titles like Animal Crossing which I found far more accessible (and ultimately spent far more time playing).
Sandrock (as I’ll call it to avoid constantly typing “My Time at”) has a few issues where it tries to lower you in to the open nature of the game, but you still feel like you’ve been thrown in at the deep end, purely because there’s so much to take on board.
Firstly, we’re talking about quite a large play area, so much so you’ll want to grab a horse for travelling distances, but first you’ll need to run a few errands, build up your workshop, maybe the garden too, explore the nearby scrap yard and town, chat to half a dozen characters who at first, you have no idea how important they’ll be in the overall game.
But with every hour you spend at Sandrock, things start to feel a little more open, it was around 2-3 hours before I felt like I’d got the run of the land, which might mean I spent too much time exploring and talking to strangers, or maybe Sandrock’s just that little bit less accessible and I’ve bene spoilt by titles like Animal Crossing.
Ultimately though, as the world opens up, things do get easier to digest, there’s a fun newspaper you can subscribe to, which gets delivered to your house daily, and helps to hear about any important events, and you’ll start to partition your time to the jobs you enjoy most. Thankfully while the game does try to steer you towards being a jack of all trades, if you prefer to spend more time gardening there’s no real punishment.
For overall presentation, Sandrock is mostly a nice place to be, the desert surroundings are fairly well detailed in a cartoon-like manner, locations feel atmospheric and interesting and everything is portrayed well overall, I particularly liked the little icons when farming or gathering resources which show you what tool you should be using, while some might complain some of these icons are a little too familiar between tools, it’s better than nothing and does make things easier down the line if you’ve not paid attention to every fine detail through those rough first few hours.
Characters are mostly all well-made and feel likeable, your new fellow builder Mi-An was probably my favourite of the bunch, but there’s lots of faces to explore, you can of course befriend and romance well over a dozen different characters (though, an important life lesson is to try not to handle too many love interests at once), but when you add romance quests to the normal side quests you’ll encounter, we’re talking about a few hundred quests in total.
Audio was one of my favourite areas of the game, the wild-west theme is portrayed well and whether it’s the relaxing but relevant music you’re usually accompanied by, or the atmospheric sound of the town around you, when you add in full voice acting and a generally high level across the board, it’s fair to say it’s a massive step up from the cute garbled mess Animal Crossing throws to the speakers.
It’s all pretty serene, nice and relaxed and while there’s action sequences such as smashing those pesky bee’s, there’s the opportunity to keep it as laid back as possible.
However, my personal opinions maybe aren’t as high as this review might suggest, I just felt everything felt a little long winded and grindy at times, but there’s no denying, anyone a fan of My time at Portia, or long-haul life-sims and massive 50-hour OpenWorld sandbox titles will dive in with both feet and enjoy every second. But if you’re new to the genre, be warned My time as Sandrock isn’t the most inviting or accessible entry to the genre.
My Time at Sandrock – Review
there’s no denying, anyone a fan of My time at Portia, or long-haul life-sims and massive 50-hour OpenWorld sandbox titles will dive in with both feet and enjoy every second.