There was a time that farming and life simulation games were something of a rarity, especially those that featured plenty of combat and other elements besides tilling soil. That started to change around 2016 and one of these games that happened to appear was Pathea Games’ My Time at Portia, a unique take on the genre that not only offered players a chance to enter an entirely new world where they can farm but also craft plenty of objects to help their town grow. With a unique setting and plenty of heart, My Time at Portia set itself apart from a number of titles that tried to jump on the trend at the time. Now years later the developer is back with something of a sequel that sprung out of DLC that grew so ambitious that it deserved its own game.
My Time at Sandrock takes players out of the lusher fields and into the more dangerous and risky life of the desert frontier. Still set in the same world where an apocalyptic event occured and humanity managed to come out the other side mostly intact, the people of Sandrock have managed to stick it out despite the desert’s harsh conditions. Past events have led to the town falling into a dilapidated state and players take on the role of a new Builder coming in to take over the job of their previous one retiring. One thing that players will immediately notice is that Sandrock offers a rather extensive character creator which is a nice touch given how the player character appears in nearly every cutscene.
The next thing will be just how similar but also different My Time at Sandrock is from Portia. Players still obtain various smaller requests from a board asking for various products to be made and delivered or direct requests from a character themselves with a time limit while larger more intensive tasks that often progress the story are almost always presented with no time limit and allow for players to work around growing their own repertoire, gathering resources, and more without the need for an ever ticking clock. Crafting large items still makes use of a construction platform where materials are brought though now players will have an easier job of locating exactly what materials will be required when crafting things as manufacturing tools will specifically highlight not only what object needs to be crafted, but also how many they need to make should they already have the base materials.
These little quality of life improvements are almost immediate across the board, be it the easier manufacturing of required parts, the ability to navigate through storage easier without needing to explore through numerous chests, and even quick bag upgrades should players find themselves desperate for a spot. That is a good thing however as life in the desert is difficult and this is emphasized by how players are now meant to gather some basic materials compared to before as well as dealing with the weather conditions that come with living in a desert. Not only does the desert sand gather on everything requiring a dusting off from time to time but sandstorms can rage through the land and clog up machinery. To make things worse, the ever worsening water supply problem requires constant maintenance as machines need water and fuel to run but water is a limited resource, just like wood.
Seeing wood as one of the first things needed for a project, my immediate thought was to chop down a nearby tree only to find myself halted by the local police a few swings in and given a warning not to chop down any trees or cacti and to respect the water of the oasis or risk not only a fine but also becoming a town pariah. As such, players will find that Sandrock focuses more on gathering on a smaller scale either through scavenging through junk piles that gather up in the desert for material that can be tossed into a recycler and produce base materials or by digging through the rubble of the local ancient ruins for fancier ores and lost relics. Recycling has become the way of life for those living in Sandrock and comes off as a unique mechanic that may be a bit off putting at first but quickly feels like a fitting theme.
Of course resources can be obtained from other places besides scavenging junk piles and smashing small rocks… they can also be found through combat. My Time at Sandrock currently offers a variety of different enemies to face down against in what has been some slightly modified combat that mostly sees the ability to break an enemy’s guard and deal large damage afterwards. These foes range from being strange oddities, amalgamations of animals that are familiar to real life, and straight up fantasy and sci-fi foes that threaten the people of Sandrock. Combat works fairly simply and offers a variety of weapons at the moment with more weapon types on the way, with the daggers currently being a personal favorite though being able to swap between melee and ranged combat on the fly is quite enjoyable especially with how solid firearms feel in this early build.
When not fighting, gathering, or crafting My Time at Sandrock offers a rather sizable cast of characters to interact with in the town. The cast offers a fairly wide array of personalities that only grow more unique the more players happen to interact with them. Thanks to a plethora of character events available so far in the early access, players can get a real feel for the town and most of its residents right away. It is also nice to note that although there is no real romance system in the game yet from the way things look, that there is a wide range of bachelorettes and bachelors available for players to start to befriend so far. This is something that is vital for a game like this and thankfully the wide array of choices is far more than even what has been found in larger games in the same genre so it will be interesting to see just how much further things can grow from here.
My Time at Sandrock capitalizes on its status as a sequel by making numerous quality of life improvements to a familiar formula that are already evident despite the game still being in early access. While numerous elements are still in development, the groundwork that has already been laid is showing great promise for a release window of sometime in 2023 if Pathea Games holds true to their development window.