Why Stardew Valley is King of the Farming Games

Stardew Valley vs. My Time at Portia

My Time at Portia is getting a lot more attention recently thanks to its Switch release, though not all of it is good attention. Still, it's a solid game with an almost intimidating amount of things to do in it.

Farming is but one of them, and it takes a side-role from the beginning. In a twist in the classic Harvest Moon formula, Portia has you work to rebuild your grandfather's workshop, not just his farm.

Doing that involves farming and raising animals, but the main emphasis here is really the crafting and exploration — which isn't all that surprising given the player's task to rebuild an entire civilization.

It really comes across more like a combo of Rune Factory and Minecraft or Dragon Quest Builders, especially when you add in the gigantic world to explore and the combat. The world in Portia is huge, and there are constantly new things to build to help you explore it even further.

That said, despite the game being billed as a life-sim in the style of Stardew or Harvest Moon, it really can't stack up in the farming department. Like Staxel, everything you do is done to get materials for accomplishing a bigger goal.

Crafting is fun, expansive, and addictive, definitely. However, when I think farming sim game, small-scale comes to mind.

Making 10 kegs to use those hops for something more profitable is small scale; building a bridge to explore new areas, make new things, and get people to come live in your town while you try and open up bigger areas for more profit is more like an adventure-sim game.

Where Portia can't compete, even with its bigger scale and fulfilling adventure, is characters. They're interesting and plentiful, but something about them felt shallow in comparison.

Now, you might think that's ironic when Shane's biggest motivating factor is his pet chicken, though what it really comes down to is the human element. Portia's characters fill a narrative purpose and have interesting backgrounds like a character from a novel — not like someone you know in your own town.

In short, My Time at Portia is good at what it does, but it's better suited for a long, sprawling adventure instead of an intimate story of building relationships with your neighbors.

Published May. 16th 2019

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