You’ve probably already heard about My Time at Portia; it’s a pretty popular indie farming game made by Pathea Games, but what you might not know is that it has a successor called My Time at Sandrock. This game has been in early access for a long time and just recently got its 1.0 release, so I think it’s high time we take a looksy at it, partner.
Full disclosure: I haven’t played My Time at Portia, so I’ll judge Sandrock based on its merits rather than how good or bad it is as a sequel. This means I’ll have a pretty fresh perspective, mainly coming off my experience with the vast ocean of indie farming games that almost all boil down to “Stardew Valley, but Different.”
That isn’t to say this applies to My Time at Sandrock, though, considering it does quite a bit to differentiate itself from the samey environment we’ve found ourselves experiencing ad-nauseam within this genre.
In this review, I’ll review each of the game’s unique qualities, the highs and lows, and the incredibly bumpy wagon ride I’ve been on with IGC’s review of My Time at Sandrock.
Low Energy, High Horsepower
The intro is incredibly slow; it’s almost entirely made up of stop-and-start moments of gameplay, with the characters giving you a basic plot setup that you honestly could’ve just thrown on a book in my workshop.
You get a cutscene, followed by “gameplay” of walking your character to the next objective, and then you repeat with a few things tossed in between; all of this could’ve been trimmed down.
In My Time at Sandrock, you’ll usually receive an objective, then spend the next hours doing a bunch of smaller tasks that all build up to the big thing, like fixing a stage requiring a new tool upgrade, a new crafting station, and a bunch of materials.
The closest comparison I can think of is modded Minecraft, and it’s fun but with less instant gratification than something like Stardew Valley.
It’s not bad, just a lot slower and more focused on multitasking, and I can appreciate that gameplay changeup. It also focuses far more on doing commissions and tasks for the residents of Sandrock, having that be your primary source of income, and I like that a lot. It makes me feel like I’m serving the community, but sometimes this system fails.
There was a time when the game gave me a mission to fix a window on a train, but I didn’t have enough glass, so I had to wait for it to smelt. I fixed the window, but the guy who gave me the quest was asleep in his home with the door locked, and I couldn’t finish the mission.
I went to bed, the mission said it had failed, and I got shamed for not finishing the task despite literally fixing the window.
This forced me to reload a save and try again, even though I should’ve just been able to finish the mission. While I could’ve used the accessibility options to make this more lenient, having it be on me to fix things like this isn’t a great look; time constraints on missions are rather needless in my eyes, and only lead to situations like this rather than engaging gameplay.
Overall, though, this game does make enough changes from the average farming game to be worth trying, in my eyes. Though stuff like combat, which boils down to mashing and circling the enemy, does feel a bit half-baked, having a million small components can work as well as a few large ones, and this game does the former approach pretty well.
A Slow Burning Campfire
Progression in My Time at Sandrock is, as you might expect, relatively slow. You can’t focus on just one thing, as doing so much as a single upgrade will take interacting with four other mechanics. Still, there are tool upgrades, new areas to find, and occasionally more difficult enemies and some more challenging bosses to fight.
Everything goes about as smoothly as a typical RPG, and it’s pretty nice, as it’s slow-going, but you’re constantly unlocking something new and impactful. It feels weird to take so long to unlock farming, but when you do, it feels incredibly satisfying, as does upgrading your crafting stations and finding new areas with new people.
The Wild West of Visuals
The visual style is generic, but the overwhelming and massive amount of options given for character customization is on par with Monster Hunter. Yet, somehow, despite the detail in that character creation, every character still lands somewhere in the uncanny valley, looking more like an art student’s first project than an actual video game.
I will say that the character and swinging animations are well done; they look pretty nice, as does the lighting. Most non-character models are fine, though a bit standard, similar to what you’d find in Unity’s 3D model marketplace.
However, many animations and tons of visuals look entirely unpolished. I can’t say I should expect too much from a small studio making a fully 3D game, but come on, man.
This is their second game, and it’s been in Early Access for a year and a half and is now in its full release, yet objects you pick up awkwardly float to you in a 15 FPS stutter, and some signs say, “screw it, Times New Roman” instead of doing anything stylized.
Polish and refinement are sorely needed, and a little more stylization could go a long way. (you could go full-on western if you want!)
Every line of dialogue is fully voiced, and as a Nintendo fan, I can appreciate that since I don’t get that often. It’s just a bit of a shame that the voiceover screams ‘amateur hour.’ It’s not the best I’ve ever heard.
These cheesy accents and heavily overdone (and occasionally, poorly done) delivery do work for the story they’re telling, but is a bit much at times. At the very least, you can disable it if you don’t like it.
The music is fine. It’s just slow, twangy, acoustic guitar-focused country music that you’d expect to hear an AI put out if you prompted it for “music for a farming game set in the country.”
To its credit, though, there is some extra depth added where it counts, like a violin being added when you visit the town. It’s nothing too special, but it’s nothing terrible, either; I’d just rather listen to the Risk of Rain 2 soundtrack.
An On-Track Tale
I’d describe the story of My Time at Sandrock as both in your face and also wholly underwhelming. It doesn’t matter that much, as it’s a farming game where the focus is absolutely on the gameplay and the vibes. Still, the story is unavoidably in front of you, far more than something like Stardew or Slime Rancher, and when it’s that apparent, it will show its cracks far more often.
I don’t particularly feel attached to most of these characters; at most, I say, “Haha, that’s funny,” and then forget about it immediately after.
Hell, there are some characters I actively grew to dislike, and there are only two that I think I enjoy, that being the incompetent mayor and the kind but dull construction worker. They’re all pretty basic, and none gave me a reason to pursue talking to them.
Overall, rewriting these characters to be more exciting and unique, giving the story a bit more depth, or just dialing back the amount you’re forced to see and then just making every part of it far more engaging would make this escalate the game to a much higher level in my mind. What it is currently is completely fine, but it just feels a bit lame.
Out of Tune
My Time at Sandrock’s technical performance, besides the general lack of polish, leaves much to be desired. I will say the game has plenty of graphical settings, and it runs at a smooth framerate without any weird drops, but what hits me is the load times. Any time you load into a new area (and God forbid you start the game up), you might as well grab a snack.
I timed it, and from hitting play on Steam to getting into the game proper took a solid 5 minutes and 11 seconds, and after that initial load, there are still objects popping in and massive frame drops for the first minute or two.
For reference, with the same setup, I Am Future took a minute and two seconds, Stardew Valley took 38 seconds, and Slime Rancher 2 took 32 seconds.
If you think it’s just one and done, and you can leave the game to load and come back and have everything be fine, you’d be mistaken cause loading a bigger location like the Mines takes longer than the entirety of Slime Rancher 2, at a whopping 43 seconds.
Once these things load for the first time, they get stored in RAM and load faster the next time, but after that RAM is cleared, it’s atrocious.
This is especially important to optimize and get right in a farming game that people are expected to put dozens, heck, even hundreds of hours into.
If it’s a hassle to start the game up, that can be an easy reason to demotivate you and not make you want to launch the game over the other games that will launch in a fifth of the time. I cannot imagine how bad this is on a Switch’s MicroSD card.
Locked and Reloading
For what it’s worth, My Time at Sandrock’s design lends itself to being incredibly replayable, but only for highly motivated individuals. You’re meant to spend an extremely long time on your first playthrough, but on subsequent ones, you can do basically whatever you want, now knowing the tricks of the trade and how to do things efficiently.
On top of that aspect, there’s also a ton of achievements to gun for, and many NPCs are romanceable, so if you want to see extra dialogue options and even have children with an entirely different person, starting all over again to try and do everything differently is probably your best option. If you want a game to spend thousands of hours in, this is undoubtedly an option.
Let’s be honest; there are a million other farming games out there, including the obvious one, so I’ll try and focus on the ones that aren’t afraid of their RPG roots and those that have a fun, slow-going pace, similar to My Time at Sandrock. I could recommend My Time at Portia here, but I won’t; that’s too easy.
- Stardew Valley is THE indie farming game, and the day I go a review of a farming game without mentioning it is the day I die. Like I said before, it’s a lot more focused on short-term goals and quicker gratification, but it’s also quite the RPG, with characters I find far more charming and roguelite mines.
- Moonstone Island leans more heavily into the RPG aspect, this time throwing Pokemon and Slay the Spire into the mix. If you want to deal out cute creatures in card battles, go home to your lovely farmland at the end of the day; this is the one for you.
- Sun Haven is like a blend of Stardew Valley and your typical RPG, this one featuring skill trees, magic, and tons of combat, with a fun multiplayer element. If you want something as engaging as Sandrock with many extra things to keep you busy, this is for you.
The Verdict – 7/10
My Time at Sandrock might be a fun game you could sink a ton of time into, but it feels incredibly unfinished. I have no clue why they decided to label this the 1.0 release rather than staying in Early Access for at least a few more months to polish out many bugs and optimize things. On top of that, other core issues are making me not give this anything higher than a 7/10.
I was considering going lower, honestly, but after, like, 8 hours of gameplay, I finally saw the light and had the urge to keep on playing, even though my opinions had been pretty solidified. Regardless of its issues, this game is fun. It’s incredibly satisfying to progress while working on a ton of stuff at once, and things work at least 90% of the time.
If these issues were ironed out, and everything was as satisfying and fun as a game like Stardew Valley, this game would be a straightforward recommendation. Still, there’s so much dragging it down that I wish they didn’t focus on stuffing this game to the brim with content and instead tried to make it a more polished, shorter experience.
- Incredibly addicting and satisfying gameplay loop.
- Tons of content to go through.
- Very replayable, with different routes you can go through for each character.
- Bland visual style that uses basic 3D models.
- Excruciatingly long loading times.
- Lack of polish all around.
Questions and Answers
Question: What platforms is My Time at Sandrock on?
Answer: The game is available now on Switch, PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, Xbox Series X/S, Xbox One, and Steam.
Question: How long is My Time at Sandrock?
Answer: As with many Farming games, you can spend hundreds of hours in it, and you won’t reach the end of the story for around 100 hours.
Question: Does My Time at Sandrock run on Bad PCs?
Answer: Given it runs on Switch, it’ll probably be able to run on most decent PCs on low settings; I’d worry about the long load times more than the performance, though.
I played My Time at Sandrock for 15 hours, mostly on my PC, but some were on my Steam Deck. I noticed the Steam Deck performance was terrible in beta, but the full release made it way better, so good on them.
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