I first encountered crafting/farming/life simulator My Time at Portia when I purchased it on a whim during a Steam sale. Now, several months and over 100 hours of gameplay later, I found myself (virtually) face-to-face with Pathea Games founder Zifei Wu, producer Yenwei, and brand and marketing manager Arlo Q. Sterling as they crowded around a single screen to discuss the recently announced My Time at Portia sequel, My Time at Sandrock.
Sandrock, which was officially confirmed to be in development on Oct. 26, is currently anticipated to premiere on Steam Early Access in March 2021 prior to a full launch sometime in 2022. In addition to the PC version, console editions are planned for Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and Nintendo Switch. Money for the game's development is currently being raised via Kickstarter, with the fundraiser open for contributions until November 22.
Over the course of my nearly hourlong conversation with the team, I asked a number of questions, many of which were answered with "Unfortunately, we can't tell you that just yet." However, I can confirm that Pathea Games has a lot of exciting new plans in store for the desert town of Sandrock and its brand new Builder. Fans of My Time at Portia and series newbies alike have plenty to look forward to!
Where in the World is Sandrock?
My Time at Sandrock is located in the same unique world as its predecessor, in which humanity struggles to survive in a few remaining settlements after the downfall of its previous technology-based society. Sandrock, like Portia, is part of the "Alliance of Free Cities," a group of towns inhabited by hardworking, independent survivors. Unlike the rich and bustling Portia, Sandrock is located deep within the Eufala Desert, and its population has been in decline as water from the nearby Martle's Oasis decreases in supply. The player character, as Sandrock's newest Builder, will be responsible for completing commissions and projects which will gradually improve the town and perhaps even restore it to its former glory.
When I asked the team what had led them to choose a desert setting, Yenwei responded with a face-splitting grin: "Portia was too green." He went on to explain that Sandrock was designed to challenge the player in ways that My Time at Portia had not. In the previous game, you started out with plenty of resources available to you: lots of wood, plentiful crops and other plants, and monster-free ruins which could be explored for old parts called Relics.
Sandrock, however, will be the exact opposite. Wood is scarce, forcing the player to collect stone and metal which is then molded into plates; even acquiring the simplest of building materials will be a challenging, multi-step process. The player lives near a monster-filled Hazardous Ruin, and far fewer merchants will be available to buy from or trade with, meaning that the player will have to rely much more on themselves when harvesting materials.
Even water, of course, will need to be gathered. I asked what would happen if the player wasn't satisfied with their allotted water ration and attempts to steal from Martle's Oasis. Yenwei's response was immediate: "You will get caught. Maybe you will even go to jail." Truly, a different kind of life awaits players in this struggling desert town.
A Stark Kind of Beauty
"Talk about the canyons," Sterling, who had encouraged me to call him "Q," prodded Yenwei, reminding him that there was more to Sandrock than struggle and suffering. "Show her the canyons and the mesa." All three members of the Pathea team I was speaking with turned out to have quite a lot to say about the game's aesthetics. They were proud of the brand-new world they had created—and rightfully so.
During my talk with the Pathea team, I was given a tour of Sandrock using the current, still in-progress build of the game. Although they had warned me to expect something "less colorful" than My Time at Portia, I was immediately stunned by the absolute beauty of the new setting.
The word "desert" isn't one that brings to mind a particularly pretty place. True, the town of Sandrock is showing signs of suffering; many of the buildings are worn down, and the game's weather cycle includes harsh and even dangerous events such as sandstorms. But I came away with the opinion that, despite its grimmer setting, the world of My Time at Sandrock is even more visually impressive than that of My Time at Portia.
The town is surrounded by deep, craggy canyons and soaring mesas, a landscape which brought to mind similar visually appealing sandy locations such as the Gerudo Desert of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. Although I was merely watching, I itched to get my hands on a controller and go climbing or digging or delving. And you will be able to do so. Yenwei repeatedly emphasized that expanded exploration options will be a key gameplay feature in Sandrock.
"Maybe you'll have a glider. Maybe a jet pack. I'm not sure, but it will be there," he promised. He also revealed to me that the game's map is approximately 40% larger than Portia's—and I truly can't wait to visit every single corner, nook, and cranny.
Fans of the series' trademark "bizarre yet cute" animals have no need to worry, either. The desert is fully populated with new creatures for players to fight, adopt, raise, and ride. Multiple pet options will be available, although the team has not yet chosen which animals will be adoptable. The game's fast travel system will involve riding an adorable shaggy beast called a "Yakmel," a type of yak-camel hybrid specifically bred to thrive in the Eufala Desert.
Home Is Where Their Hearts Are
Aside from the beauty of the location, what struck me the most about My Time at Sandrock was the love which its creators clearly felt for both the game and its predecessor. Before the interview started, Zifei and Yenwei eagerly quizzed me about my own time at Portia, wanting to know what parts of their game I'd enjoyed and what decisions I'd made in-game—even taking notes! When I shyly admitted that I'd chosen Gust, the mayor's son, as my in-game husband, Yenwei openly started cheering.
"He's very pretty," he explained. "We designed him to appeal to women. We are glad he is doing his job."
That love for their fans and interest in listening to fan criticism is present in absolutely every part of Sandrock. While exploring the in-progress build, I was introduced to a number of changes which they had made based on the opinions of Portia players. For example, romance-able characters will have much deeper interactions with the player, with each marriage option having a series of approximately 10 missions which allows their romance to develop much more naturally. All NPCs will have more advanced conversation options, which will change and evolve as the player gets to know them better and transitions from new kid in town to beloved Builder.
Yenwei described the Pathea team's goal to make the story "more satisfying" for players to complete. He confirmed that there will be more story missions, more hidden secrets to discover, and at least one villain who will pose a genuinely serious threat to the town. This, Yenwei explained, is due to the surprising popularity of Higgins, the player character's rival Builder in My Time at Portia. "People really liked Higgins," he told me. "Higgins was mean, but, strangely, everyone liked Higgins."
With Sandrock, Pathea Games is hoping to create a truly dynamic experience in which the players will be able to see how their decisions and actions gradually improve the town and the lives of its residents. Everything fans loved about Portia is back: a wide world to explore, tons of exciting recipes to craft, weird and wonderful wildlife to encounter, and a fleshed-out cast of characters to interact with. These beloved returning elements will be paired with and enhanced by so many improvements, creating a game which you can truly sink many hours into over the coming years.
My Time at Sandrock Kickstarter
My Time at Sandrock's Kickstarter campaign runs until Nov. 22. Tier rewards include copies of the game, access to the upcoming beta on Steam, digital wallpapers, in-game rewards such as clothing and weapons, and even blind box figurines featuring characters from the game. And at the time of it writing, it has reached more than $250,000, breaking past its goal of $100,000.
The Pathea team concluded our conversation by expressing their sincere thanks to their fans, which helped the Kickstarter meet its original goal in just 19 hours. To express their gratitude, a number of stretch rewards have been added to the Kickstarter, including a multiplayer mode, new minigames, additional romance-able characters, and more.
The team has so many new ideas for My Time at Sandrock, and I sincerely hope that they will be able to include every single one of them in the game.