A Noobs Review – AI: The Somnium Files

I went into this expecting a visual novel akin to the Zero Escape series, a series that I have covered to completion on my channel. What I found was that the similarities are few and far between, and I think that if this is a visual novel, then it is on the very border of the definition of the genre. That is by no means a complaint. While a lot of the mechanical differences didn’t hit for me, the story (which has to be core of any game that identifies as a visual novel) succeeds in telling a thrilling murder mystery, in a world where the gritty, shocking atmosphere doesn’t get bogged down by the sci fi elements, but is rather enhanced by them.

+ The Story

Something that I think is important to note is that everyone may get a very different experience of the story depending on the choices you make. The game has a flowchart structure where you follow a route to completion, then go back and change your choice to see what happens in different scenarios. By the end, you will have the same information as anyone else, but the journey in which you got there could be vastly different. I personally believe I got all of the endings in an order that was specifically curated for my tastes (anticlockwise around the flowchart for anyone that is curious) and feel very lucky for doing so. Following this route, the story ramped up very far very quickly and I was hooked. The mysteries had me desperate to see what was going to be around the next corner.

Looking back, it must be some good story telling that it had me guessing so many theories. Some were close, some were mildly correct, and some were way off. Allowing you to have this variety of thoughts, and yet the actual answers being satisfying too is a credit to the writers. I think my favourite thing about this developer is the ability to allow your imagination to go wild, misguide you and leave you asking questions right to the end. They did that well in the Zero Escape series and they were successful here too.

+/- The Writing

While I was praising the writing of the story above, the writing of dialogue can go from great, to so annoying that I don’t even know why I am playing. The player character is a man named Date. Don’t get me wrong, Date isn’t the only one guilty of this. But obviously that doesn’t make it any better. It makes it worse, because you don’t only have to endure it from him but others too. I do like his character sometimes but it gets overshadow by how perverted he is. The occasional lewd joke, sure, why not. But every scene has something. Some have multiple, and it is just not funny. It comes across as juvenile to me and makes me grateful that I didn’t stream or record this game. That way, I could just roll my eyes and move on instead of having to take in what was being said.

+/- The Characters

The Characters are such a mixed bag for me. Some of them feel very over the top to be almost caricature-ish. It is impossible to explain why without spoiling the game so I won’t go too deeply into it, but Mizuki and Mayumi were great to me. Iris and Ota not so much.

+ AI

AI, Eye, Aiba. I had no idea what this game was about when I started. All I knew is that it had a title that made no sense to me. The game very quickly explains the deal with AI and I was into it instantly. I am very attached to my eyes – something happening to them is probably one of my biggest bodily fears – but I do think I would give one up if it meant I could have an AI. Also, her physical form is frickin adorable.

– The Somnium Puzzle Sections

Where the Zero Escape series had novel sections and escape room sections, AI has a little more variety. The bulk of the puzzle sections though are the Somnium puzzles. In these sections you are exploring various dreamscapes, investigating for clues and progress by interacting with objects. So far this sounds like something I would love, but it is completely ruined by the time mechanics. Every Somnium has a 6 minute time limit. Every action you do costs a certain amount of time. Some interactions give you modifiers that you can choose when to use (for example one modifier might make an interaction take exactly 30 seconds, another might make it take an eighth as long as it was going to). If you happen to get a bad modifier then your next action will take double time or more. At first I thought this could be neat. It is something new that I hadn’t seen before. But actually playing it doesn’t work on so many levels. Firstly, if I am in a dreamscape, that is super interesting! I want to be able to explore without consequence. Secondly, it is not intuitive which actions are going to help you progress, sometimes its something completely unexpected. Thirdly, what if I want to try out all of the silly interactions? Well if that’s the case then be prepared have to go through the convoluted retry system or start again from the beginning. If you do need to restart you can fast forward text, but that is no fun to me. In the end I gave each Somnium one try, then as I was running out of time I would pull up a guide because I found replaying so tedius. Finally, these puzzle sections are where the story branches happen. The trouble is that there is no way of knowing what interaction you make is going to take you down what path. Like I stated before, I am very lucky that I got the story in the perfect order for me, but that was literally just luck becasue I had no idea what direction I was taking things. In the Zero Escape series you make blind choices that lead to different paths, but at least in that game you can base your decisions on who you would like to spend more time with. In this one, you don’t even necessarily know you are making a choice till you have commited by interacting with a random object.

+/- The Other Mechanics

As I mentioned before, this game is more interactive than many other visual novels. What would often be a novel section in other games can almost be a point and click section in this one. You can look around your environment, clicking on everything and hearing comments from your own character as well as others around you. I really enjoyed this to start with, but it gets repetitive. I bet by the end most people are no longer clicking on the background objects. The problem is, they do throw in some new lines every now and again, but you never know when. So you either go through the tedium of clicking on every object due to fear of missing out, or you miss out on some character quirks and jokes. This section is also used to ask characters questions which I enjoyed.

There are some other sections too. This game contains action. And with action comes quick time events. These were fine. If anything I think I would have preferred to just watch the action rather than doing the QTEs. I am not sure what happens if you miss them so I can’t comment on that, but if you have to start the section again that would suck, it would ruin the pacing just as much as replaying a somnium does.

Finally, since you are a detective, there are interrogation sections. Unfortunatly there arent much to them, but I did like them none the less. You will be presented with a question and a few clues and you have to pick out the relevant answers. It is simple but it is nice while you are in the process of putting things together. If you choose the wrong one then Aiba will tell you, so there is no failstate.

+/- The Audio

As mixed as I have been with everything else, I am also mixed on this too. I don’t find the soundtrack very memorable. They did reuse some sound effects from the Zero Escape series which took me out of the game a little bit. There are occasions where you have to sit through an extended section of pop music and I was sat there like ‘oh my god, is this still going’. The best part of the audio though is that it is fully voice acted, and I think the majority of the actors did a great job. I enjoy hearing what each character sounds like as it gives them their own personality, more so than if I was just reading all of their lines.  

I have tried to be as spoiler free as possible because the less you know the better, but also I believe knowing the caveats in advance can help set expectations and should hopefully improve the experience for anyone reading. Despite all of the problems I had, I still recommend this game if you have the patience, because the mystery was great and I really enjoyed the story. I am curious if any of my problems have been improved upon in the sequel! 

+ The Story

+/- The Writing

+/- The Characters

+ AI

The Somnium Puzzle Sections

+/- The Other Mechanics

+/- The Audio

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A Noobs Review – PowerWash Simulator

Playing PowerWash Simulator is like using a colouring book. It is something mindless to keep your hands and a specific part of your brain busy while you are doing something else such as watching a show or listening to a podcast. I never intended on finishing this game but I have had a challenging month, and this game turned out to be the perfect white noise that I needed to get by. It has a very similar feeling to the paint-by-numbers game I play on my phone when I want to pass time without engaging my brain.

+ (Non-)realism

Upon cleaning my first van I felt slightly irritated. Bugged by the fact that this is not how cleaning works. I can be a very systematic person. I have a set way that I wash my dishes, and that is because cleaning is annoying and awkward and putting things in water doesn’t = clean. So imagine my confusion when this game allowed me to clean the windows of the vehicle before I did the roof. How could that be? Everyone knows the dirt would come off the roof and re-dirty the parts you have already cleaned. This was against the laws of cleaning nature and I had a hard time accepting it. I finished up my now squeaky clean van and got to work on a huge garden. Slightly overwhelmed, I started on the fences and worked my way around. But then while I was doing the fences, I may as well do the floor between them. But I hadn’t done that bench yet so I should probably do that too. Then it clicked. If this game had real life cleaning physics it would be unbearable. It would go from an alternative to colouring in, to absolute chore simulator. I thanked the game dev gods that it wasnt me making this game, petitioning to make it realistic. Instead, they took fun and convenience into consideration, which enabled my compulsion to do things in any order that made sense to me in that very moment without consequence.

+/- The Compulsionism

I found my rhythm by the end of the game. Go around the edges of things, then do the betweeny parts. The only problem with this – how do you ever stop. Everytime I splash a bit of water onto a new section, I feel like I have signed my soul to a soapy devil and I am now committed to finishing this piece. Do my edges, splash onto the next area, sign a new contract, rinse, repeat. It is very hard to stop. Some times it feels less out of enjoyment and more of a duty. Of course, this isn’t a problem with the game, this is entirely in my head and if anything, it shows good game design. Not being able to put a game down is often a goal in making a game and usually the sign of a successful one.

– Bugs

I had a couple of bugs while playing. One time I got stuck somewhere unable to move. Then there were multiple times where my ‘show me the dirt’ button wasn’t working. Thankfully all of these were solved by either leaving then re-entering the level, or restarting the game. Nothing too major, just little annoyances but I could never tell when they were going to happen.

+/- Navigation

The menu is generally laid out well. It is really easy to jump between levels in seconds should you need to. It is designed as a tablet which works well with the theming of a mobile business. You can use the menu button to get a list of things like ‘Shop’ and ‘Settings’. That was all very clear. What wasn’t as clear to me was how to change your clothes. Throughout your cleaning career you are constantly opening your equiptment tab to change the length of your machine, so often that you cease to actually see the menu. What I didnt notice is that within that tab there is a clothing tab. I only realised after a google search because I was near the end of the game and desperate to try on my new gear. I never actually figured out how to change the skin of my Power Washer until I purposefully reloaded the game to figure it out specifically for this review. It is a triangle on top of a tab and it is so easy to miss. Again, only minor things but they felt worth mentioning.

+ Game Modes

Career mode is the bulk of the game. You will receive texts from clients offering you jobs. Near the beginning you can often choose between two or three, but by the end it becomes one at a time. As you complete jobs you will earn stars which will unlock upgrades in the shop, and money that will allow you to buy said upgrades. When you are done with career mode you can use free play mode to redo previous areas with all of the shiny equiptment and unlimited soap supplies. Also, there are special levels that contain 4 novelty scenarios to clean. I wonder if this is going to be added to over time. Co-op mode is an option if you want to clean with your friends, or just clean you friends. Finally, there are challenge modes, including time challenges and water usage. I tried and failed a time challenge three times before I gave up. I am no speed cleaner but they are there for others if you are up for perfecting your power washing technique.

+ Story

Wait.. This game has a story? Actually, kind of! As you play through career mode you will recieve funny texts that may or may not be related to the job you are doing. Admittedly, I was so absorbed in my podcasts (Bonfireside Chat in case anyone was wondering) that I didn’t read them for most of the game. As I got to the final third or quarter of the game, things begun happening and the messages were catching my eye more and more. At this point, I was ready to stop. When I started flagging I went to trusty google to see how many levels were left, and seeing some of the titles of said levels gave me a bit of a second wind. True enough, I was then committed and had to see it all the way through to the end. I had to know what would happen. The game has a fun tone and it really works in its favour.

+ The little things

There was something so joyful about seeing something you have previously cleaned show up on a level. One example is seeing vehicles you have previously cleaned in the background of your current job. It happens more as the game goes on and consistently gave me a little dopamine boost.

+/- It’s a time sink

If I can loop back round to the intro, you can spend a lot of hours in this game. On one hand, fantastic. My time is filled without allowing and creeping thoughts or problems. Just keep washing. On the other hand though, where the hell did my time go? So many hours… down the drain (hur hur).

I think that is all I have to say about PowerWash Simulator! Overall, I finished the game. Considering I cleaned every inch of this world, I still feel so dirty that I put so many hours into it. Truth is, it is so much easier than cleaning in real life but has a similar satisfying effect. Trouble is, you then stand up from your computer and realise that there will always still be cleaning to do in real life. It served me well, but I am pretty happy to be hanging up my Prime Vista PRO for good.

+ (Non-)realism

+/- The Compulsionism

Bugs

+/- Navigation

+ Game Modes

+ Story

+ The little things

+/- It’s a time sink

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A Noobs Review – Hades

I feel I need to start this one with a disclaimer. Reviews are subjective. I am going to talk about my experience with the game as a person who doesn’t play games for their combat. People who like the challenge may disagree with what I say, as I have seen many people online say this game is too easy. I, personally, am not a god at video games. I can only talk from my own point of view, that this game can also be great for people like me, even if it does have its drawbacks.

+ The Premise

Alright, so Hades is an artistic, stylish rogue-lite based in Greek Mythology. We play as Zagreus – the Son of Hades – and we have one goal. Escaping the underworld. Everytime you die you are transported back home, which makes sense as that is where the majority of the dead end up sooner or later. This alone is such a fantastic concept. I love when game mechanics are tied to the story and I can think of no better set up for a rouge-lite. Throughout our escape attempts, our family on Olympus will offer us aid in the form of boons and this is where the classic roguelike gameplay factors in. Different perks combine in different ways to allow a variety of playstyles. Throughout our escape attempts – and eventually escapes – we get more and more story, be it characterisation of the gods, or directly talking to everyone back home. We also get more and more mechanics, including weapons to shake up your playstyle and difficulty modifiers, for better or worse. The best part of this set up is that death doesn’t always feel bad. In fact, sometimes I wanted a death just so that I could go back to the house and see what everyone was up to.

+ Aesthetics

At first, when I had only seen others play and not played myself, I didn’t love the aesthetics. Everyone was raving about them but I didn’t really get it until I tried it myself. You would think that the staple colours of red and green would shout Christmas. But they dont. Instead they evoke this regal hell. Rather than a festive cheer, it feels expensive and strict, yet also has a sense of home. The music is so good, everytime I start a run my head has to bob, it is perfect to hype you up for the challenge ahead. There is also diegetic music that is appropriately beautiful and evolves in fun ways as you go. The art in both the portraits of the characters and the movement itself is quite busy, but so unique. When things are busy sometimes my senses freeze up, but once I got used to it I really enjoyed looking at the details put into the characters. Then somehow everything also looks great when it moves. Overall, they took a premise that is already fantastic on its own, but then executed it so stylishly that it oozes personality.

+ The Voices/Dialogue

Before I was familiar with the game I heard a lot of praise for the voice acting. This was another thing that I didn’t really ‘get’ when I started playing myself. I don’t find them traditionally ‘good’. I do find them very stylised in a way that once I got used to it, I loved. As an example, lots of lines are read very quickly and don’t seem to pause in places that you would usually pause. Or there would be no gap between sentences. It felt very unnatural to me for a while, but in the end I feel like it becomes a defining factor in the style of the game. What I do love about the voices are the effects that are used on them. Some of the characters in the game are even beyond gods, and the audio designers did a fantastic job of creating ethereal effects that really characterise the way they speak. This, on top of the fun dialogue and the beautiful art, creates these very evocative and memorable characters, even if we do only meet them one line at a time. There is also so much dialogue. It will be a long time before you hear anything repeated. It is very impressive and a great hook to keep you coming back for more.

+ The Family Dynamics

Family drama is something that can be hit or miss. In real life, it SUCKS. But when that family are Greek Gods? There is something very enticing to be involved in the dynamics of these extremely powerful, extremely temperamental folk. I don’t know much about mythology in general, but I do know a lot of these characters are known for being petty, dishing out punishments, holding grudges etc. I do also believe they know how to have a good time. So having these colourful characters as our uncles and cousins and such was a rush. I didn’t trust them at all, but they so were fun to interact with. The family dynamics in the house are great too and you get to know more as you progress through the game. I really started to care and as dysfunctional as it is, some qualities shine through that you root for.

– The Difficulty Curve

Moving onto the gameplay itself, it is a very mixed bag for me. I am not that experienced with roguelikes but I do know that the more you play, the better you get. You learn the game and you improve. I did enjoy the process in the beginning, however there are certain blocks that felt like a huge wall to me. I managed to overcome some of them, but that doesnt stop them from becoming tedious. Without spoiling too much, the third area enemies often have a lot of armour and can respawn. It would sometimes take me minutes to complete a room. It was frustrating and boring. That might not sound like much but when you have been flying through the first area it feels like molasses. The same thing goes for bosses beyond the second area, I just don’t enjoy them. Thankfully, with every run you are collecting darkness and other items which you can use to upgrade your character. For me though, the satisfaction of coming back upgraded and getting further does not overcome the frustration of the halt of progress in the first place. (This may sound like I just don’t like rogue-lites. The only real point of reference I have is The Binding of Isaac, and I feel like that game moves a lot faster while also having more to think about, so there is less time to be bored). It is not a good feeling when over half of a run feels like a slog and I sometimes feel like throwing it because I can’t be bothered with the boss.

+ God Mode

God Mode is genius and I thank the Devs so much for including it. If you are playing for the story rather than the challenge, God Mode is an optional setting that can progressively make the game easier until it balances out at your level. Every time you die, you will gain a bonus to your damage reduction stat. Meaning enemies will hurt you less. You can turn this on or off at any time and it was a life saver for me. I played the game without it until I got my first clear. To get to credits you need 10 clears. I kept playing and playing but I wasn’t getting any more clears. Then the tedium mentioned above set in. I decided to turn on God Mode and it was the best decision I made. Two clears in a row and my enthusiasm for the game was back. After dying a few more times I reached the correct difficulty for me and got an 8 win streak. These weren’t easy wins either, it was just right that it was down to the wire most times. I urge you that if you are finding it tedious, getting bored, or doing a collect-a-thon, use God Mode. I certainly wouldn’t have got as far as I did without it.

+/- The Pacing

In a game with two distinct sections (gameplay during runs then story time and upgrading between) it was always going to be hard to pace it well. For a lot of people, the story sections ruin the pace of the gameplay. They are ready to jump straight back in but have to go around talking to everyone, breaking their momentum. For me, it was the other way around and play almost felt too long. I wanted to be back at the house for the next story beats and to upgrade my stuff. Based on those two types of players, I don’t really see how they could have a middle ground. It is not detrimental to the game, but it is a common complaint that I have heard and felt myself occasionally, even if it is opposite ends of a spectrum.

+ Other Objectives

There is a lot more to do than just clearing runs. These aren’t things that you have to do but are an option if you need something other than combat like I do. Some characters have side quests that you progress by gifting them items between runs. You can improve relationships, unlocking new dialogue and scenes. Then there are the Boons. If you are a compulsive list taker like me, collecting every Boon is so much fun. Some Boons require you to have other Boons first, and navigating that was a game that I enjoyed more than getting clears. I have officially collected them all and really enjoyed doing so. By the end, every fated choice (one you havent picked up yet) received a celebratory fist bump from me. There are also heat levels that you can unlock to make the game more difficult if you are so inclined. All of these things provide rewards that you can either put towards improving more runs, or buying house fashion.

I hope that if anything, this review shows that Hades can be enjoyed by many different types of people. It is very accessible as a first foray into the genre, while equally providing a new challenge for the genre savvy. While I don’t think it is a perfect game, I do believe it deserved all of the love, praise and awards it recieved. By the end, the game was leaving Game Pass so I was rushing to complete everything that I wanted to. I really don’t think this is the way to play. Chipping away with a few runs here and there after the initial addiction keeps the runs more palatable in my opinion. You can definitely have too much of a good thing! Having said that, it has provided me with many hours of entertainment and I will think back on it very fondly.

+ The Premise

+ The Aesthetics

+ The Voices/Dialogue

The Difficulty Curve

+ God Mode

+/- The Pacing

+ Other Objectives

I streamed my entire journey to my first clear!

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A Noobs Review – My Time at Portia

My Time at Portia is a game with many flaws, but if you can look past them then it can be an absolute delight. I feel like Portia is ideal for the people who love Stardew Valley/Harvest Moon type games but find the farming tedious after a while. These aren’t the only type of people who might enjoy this game, but if that resonates with you then it could be worth a shot! Not only through the first few hours but throughout my entire playthrough, I was constantly surprised, confused and amused by the stuff I would find and the things that would happen, leading to the affectionate nickname of ‘My Weird Time at Portia’.

– Doesn’t know what it wants to be

When I first started playing My Time at Portia, I got the sense that it didn’t know what it wanted to be. Games like Stardew Valley have a lot to do. You can farm, craft, cook, mine, forage, fish, create relationships. I feel that all of these things are key to the slice-of-life farm sim genre that these games are part of, which is already quite a lot of things to do. Portia is similar in that sense, except, add a main story, side quests left right and centre, dungeon crawling, named boss fights, a full on skill tree with three entirely seperate sections to go down, a photo menu, a workshop manual, a research system, a fluctuating economy, social mini games, regular mini games, festival mini games. It is a lot, and for a while the main thought going through my head was ‘What on earth is this game’.

+ Something for everyone

Though the absolute muddle of things to do and potentially overwhelming vibes this game gives out, the bright side is there is probably something for everyone. If you are like me and enjoy the systematic collection of things and ticking things off lists, you can do that. If you like making friends with everyone in town, you can do that. If you like spending your time decorating your home rather than completing commissions, you can do that. If you like dungeon crawling and fighting for loot.. I can’t say that I recommend it but it is there. More on that later!

– The jank

Before you even think about playing this game there is something that you have to accept. This game is Janky. And I mean Janky. Sometimes characters speak out loud, sometimes they dont, when they do it is generally awful. Sometimes they will say the right words, sometimes they will say something entirely different, sometimes they won’t actually be there while they are talking. Sometimes the camera will focus on weird things. NPCs are constantly stuck on the environment and will occasionally teleport. Photo quests break often. Mounts become unmountable. The game does a lot and generally it works, but with love, I do have to say that it can be quite a mess.

+ The jank

On the other hand, if this game didn’t have its Jank then I don’t think it would be half as memorable than if it were perfect and smooth. If you have a mount they are going to be running around in the background of every cutscene. When you get past how awful some of the cutscenes are they become hilarious and you look forward to the next one. When creating my character I couldn’t figure out how to change her name on console so she ended up being Linda. I gave her some pink cheeks that looked nice in the character creation menu. As soon as we got into the game though, it turns out those pink cheeks basically glow. Every day in game, something in the world is going wrong and it was a constant source of glee for me. A lot of the Jank is graphical or in the animations, and they can be the best.

– The combat

Okay… if there is something that I have to give my biggest criticism in this game, it is the combat. I don’t enjoy combat at the best of times but I can usually appreciate it if done well. It isn’t the end of the world since this game isn’t about combat, but you have to do it often enough that it can become frustrating and tedious. There is no feedback, or at least it tries to give you feedback through visual effects, which in the end just feel like a mess on the screen. I genuinely cannot tell when I am getting hit. There are numbers popping up but there is no feeling to it at all. Sometimes you can hit through or be hit through walls. Sometimes the enemy ends up in the air and doesn’t come back to the ground. Timing doesn’t feel like it matters much and when it does it can be frustrating. Hit boxes are hit and miss. AI companions will run at enemies and agro them when you are trying to draw them out one at a time. Thankfully, if you die during a boss fight you will respawn without their health being replenished. This is a mercy that I am grateful for, but it almost feels like confirmation of an awareness that the combat isn’t the best. Throughout the main story you will be put into multiple combat scenarios. As long as you keep plenty of health replenishing items in your inventory then you can tank your way through without too much pain. It can be a huge drag though.

+ Low stakes

I think what I love the most about this game are the low stakes. Sure, there are optimal ways to play and you can min/max if that is how you like to do it. But if not, there aren’t really any punishments for going slow. The only things that are timed are daily commissions (which you can choose to do) and very few quests/side quests. Other than that.. go nuts. Fancy spending an entire week in the mines? Go for it. As long as you have set your machines away there is really no reason to come home at night, so you can pass out at 3am doing whatever you were doing and wake up with full stamina the next day without losing anything. This all makes it really easy to pick this game back up even if you haven’t played for a month. I really appreciate it when I compare it to say, Stardew Valley, where I don’t want to boot up my game without my notebook in hand because I need to stick to my plan.

+ Crafting

I believe Crafting is a really clever way to solve the problem that I mentioned in the intro. By the end, I usually find farming really tedious in these games. Having to water everything every day, plant them at the right time, harvest and replant, then if you miss the window you have to wait an entire year. I always pray for rainy days so that I can go and do other things. Instead, in this game you have to gather materials and process them, to then craft them into different items. Different materials can be processed in different ways, so it is up to you to manage what you have, what you need, and that is the loop rather than plant, water, harvest, repeat. It is much more flexible and, for me at least, enjoyable.

+ Progression

The fact that I already enjoy the crafting is doubled when paired with progression in this game. Throughout the main story you will get many different commissions to help make the city a better place. If there is something I love in a game, it is an environment that evolves over time. Not only does Portia do that, but it only does so thanks to your efforts. Building bridges will allow you to access new areas. Building busses will unlock fast travel. You will build buildings and areas that from that moment onwards will be a permanent part of the town. It never stops being satisfying. On top of this, the crafting progression itself also feels nicely done and natural to me. Once you are able to build everything available, you know that you will then need to upgrade your equiptment to unlock more options. If you have options available that you dont yet have the materials to build, you know that your next quests are going to unlock an area that allows you to access new resources. It is a cycle that repeats throughout the game and works very well.

+/- Relationships

I don’t really know where to place relationships here. There are things I really like and things that I really dislike about them. On the positive side, relationships bloom themselves as you progress through the story, which I think is very naturally done. As you help improve the town, the townsfolk will like you more. As you do commissions for individuals they will like you even more. Then as you grow relationships with them you will start to get cute little side quests which I found to be a nice touch. Becoming friends with certain vendors will get you discounts, and you will occasionally receive gifts from your buddies.

The relationship system is let down in two ways in my opinion. Firstly, I don’t think it’s very fun. There is the traditional system of giving the person daily gifts that they like which isn’t bad, but it isn’t great. Then there are some more unique systems, most of which didn’t land for me. Some characters have their own minigames you can play, some can spar (see combat above to explain why this doesn’t hit) and once you become their friend you can go on playdates (or proper dates if you are romancing). After I had done two dates I was already bored of the system and just wanted go back to old fashioned gift giving. Secondly, when it comes to romance, I don’t feel like there are many good options, specifically for husbands. I didn’t really want to marry anyone. Six of the options are identical. Having kids is as far as you can go down the family route and they don’t grow up from being a toddler. So relationships in general in this game are a really mixed bag for me.

+ Attention to detail

The attention to detail in this game is great. While some systems feel unnecessary, there are others that add to the overall charm of the game. My favorite thing is that anything you are holding, your character will be holding it in their hand. If it’s big they will carry it over their head. Most accessories that you can wear for stats you can also see on your character. They didn’t have to do these things but it really adds to the experience, and it will always be funny running along carrying a giant poop above your head.

– Navigating crafting

Navigating the crafting systems does not flow well, and while you do get used to it, it could be better (and I believe they may have solved this in the sequel). For example, if you are assembling a big product, having the ingredients in your inventory will not do. They have to be directly in your hand to place them. Eventually you get some automation options but it is so late in the game and unintuitive that I have to mark the game down for it. When I don’t play for a while, the hardest part is reacquainting myself with all my stuff since I need to know where to grab things from.

+/- Festivals

Something else to watch out for in this game are the festivals. Many slice-of-life games have them.. But none of them have them quite like this.

++++ Pinky

And the final positive point of this game, saving the best till last. Pinky. 

There are a lot of reasons to like this game and many surprises along the way. As long as you know that you are going into a very imperfect experience and are open to some fun, there is such a good time to be had. If you like what you heard above then you should definitely jump in. If you claim the free games on the Epic store you may already own it, or it is currently on the PS Plus Extra Tier and Xbox Game Pass. The Sequel ‘My Time at Sandrock’ is in Early Access right now so it is the perfect time to jump into the series.

  • – Doesnt know what it wants to be
  • + Something for everyone
  • – Thejank
  • + The jank
  • – The combat
  • + Low stakes
  • + Crafting
  • + Progression
  • +/- Relationships
  • + Attention to detail
  • – Navigating crafting
  • +/- Festivals
  • + Pinky
I did stream my first few weeks in Portia, I’ll leave this here in case anyone is in need of misadventures.

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