Here is our My Time at Sandrock Review. We spend some time with the sequel to My Time at Portia and it doesn't disappoint.
**Played on PC. Review Copy was provided by the Publisher**
My Time at Portia was released in 2019 as a cozy yet somewhat flawed crack at the life-sim genre. But I remember enjoying Portia despite the somewhat clunky menus and slow start and I kept my hands off My Time at Sandrock until the full release. Now it's finally here and it was worth the wait. My Time at Sandrock is a bigger, better sequel that improves Studio Pathea's formula in every way.
So if you're looking for something cozy to play over the winter/holiday season either alone or with a friend or partner, this might be the one to keep an eye on.
My Time at Sandrock Review
From the word go My Time at Sandrock is an incredibly charming experience. The colorful silly art style, the cartoony voices, and the excellent music do much to pull you into its world.
The small, cozy town of Sandrock lies somewhere in the desert and its post-apocalyptic Wild West theme feels like a fresh take on the genre. Instead of dire situations and sky-high tensions, you're greeted by a lovely town full of charming characters, each with their little woes and stories to tell.
You arrive in town to become the new builder, a person who to much surprise builds things for the good people of Sandock. After a short introduction, you're already thrust into all kinds of responsibilities. Now you have to complete big main objectives to progress the story, take on commissions to earn cash, explore the area for new materials, and complete quests for the locals.
And I can't get enough of it.
Unlike genre colleagues such as Stardew Valley, there are always at least 2-3 objectives on your to-do list as you try and check as much off your list as possible on any given day. It is never overwhelming but keeps you busy and makes you feel vital to the community of Sandrock instead of someone who spends 3 weeks on their farm and only shows up to give a gift to their future spouse of choice.
Just like the previous game My Time at Sandrock features heavy exploration, dungeons, and combat which is all wrapped up in a light RPG system. Combat is an easy affair that has you dodge and block while getting some damage in. It's nothing special but enough to offer some variety to the Builder lifestyle.
The RPG elements have been shaved down compared to its predecessor. The skill tree feels a little more practical this time around even if most of the skills you get to distribute just make your numbers go up.
The problem that this creates is that the game asks you to specialize. This is less a problem in combat-related trees but being asked to pick between gathering more from trees or stones when you need all resources anyway feels a little superfluous.
Out on the Town
The town of Sandrock is as much a character in My Time at Sandrock as everyone you meet. It's a Wild West tower cobbled together with the trash of the old world it is built upon. This unique, rusty look reminds me of the towns you see in Final Fantasy 7 which is why I was immediately in love with it.
There is something about a city with a vague yet fleshed-out history built on the ruins of a once-great civilization that is just incredibly charming to me, each little nook and cranny has its visual flourishes and you can tell at first glance who lives where.
Watching the town slowly transform, participating in the many holidays and events, or simply watching your fellow Sandrockians go about their day is one of Sandrock's biggest strengths. I can't think of the last time a small town in a lifetime felt so alive.
Builder meets world
Of course, the town wouldn't be anything without its people and My Time at Sandrock features over 30 characters for you to meet and hang out with while you get involved in their little sidequests that range from entertaining to incredibly sweet.
Compared to its predecessor characters have a lot more character and bring an upbeat energy that suits the overall look and vibe of the game. Sure you won't find any HBO-esque drama here but I enjoyed listening to a little girl berating the author of her favorite book for not respecting the intelligence of his audience.
In the pre-release build, we were informed that the English localization wasn't finished yet and all the voiced lines hadn't been implemented yet. Most of what I heard was fine but some characters had their deliveries notably sped which occasionally sounded off. some of the cutscenes also had some weird camera issues which were assured would be fixed at launch on November 2nd.
If you played My Time at Portia you're probably already familiar with the relationship system. You build up your rep with the people of Sandrock by talking to them, doing commissions and quests, giving them gifts, or challenging them to one of the many minigames.
The system is a slow burn and it takes a while to get friendly with a person, luckily thanks to the more detailed UI it is very easy to track and keep tabs on someone you want to get close to. That's a little weird, to be honest. Just be friendly to everyone and see how the dice roll.
Except for Fang, he is mine and you can't have him.
A little sidebar here, My Time at Sandrock features a multiplayer mode that up to 4 players can engage with. Here the focus is more on the sandbox which lets you build up your workshop and help out people in the town. The mode contains considerably less story than the single-player mode.
While testing I didn't get a chance to play a little bit of the multiplayer mode so we'll make some additions to this review once I get to play it.
My Time at Sandrock – 8/10
On almost every level, My Time at Sandrock does everything right, it is very much the bigger, better, and more interesting sequel to My Time at Portia and if you're looking for that kind of experience again you're gonna have a good time.
It knows how to charm with a simple yet satisfying gameplay loop accompanied by some stellar visuals and presentation. Besides some minor hiccups such as pop-in, NPCs getting caught in the geometry, and some clunky movement there is little I have to and want to complain about on a technical level as well.
If I was to complain about anything it is really that My Time at Sandrock feels like a very safe sequel. Everything is bigger, better, and more playable but feels more like an iteration than an evolution of My Time at Portia. Which was a game I adored and I gladly took more of it.
But I do hope that in future updates or a potential 3rd game, Pathia is more willing to step out of its comfort zone and maybe tackle the idea of a unique multiplayer experience separate from the single-player campaign.
My Time at Sandrock releases on November 2, 2023, for Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Nintendo Switch, and PC.
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