I confess I am usually not a farming sim person. I don’t like these small town things, and something like Animal Crossing or Harvest Moon usually bores me to tears. However, I was enlisted to help on guides for My Time at Sandrock when it entered early access, and begrudgingly accepted. What happened next is what spurred me to write this My Time at Sandrock review.
My Time at Sandrock Review - Welcome to Sandrock!
My Time at Sandrock is the sequel and spin-off to Pathea Games’ 2019 game My Time at Portia. My Time at Sandrock does take place in the same universe at a slightly later point in time and features a few crossover characters but playing Portia is not necessary to understand the world, nor to follow along with the plot of Sandrock.
In Sandrock, you play the role of a new builder in the small desert town of Sandrock. Resources are slim in this post-apocalyptic setting, and Sandrock itself is far from a bustling metropolis, but once you get settled in town, the plot really starts to blossom. From dealing with reforestation, fascists, traditional wild west bandits, and pushing the limits of post-apocalyptic science, Sandrock’s plot is as vast as the Eufala Desert and exceedingly well written.
In fact, Sandrock’s plot - all 150 hours of it - is what sets it apart so distinctly from other farming and small-town sims. The game’s systems for building, farming, cooking, and fighting are all good, but none are particularly unique or innovative, even though the focus is on building rather than fighting. Setting this against a fantastic, RPG-worthy plot, makes the game really shine.
The characters are unique and memorable. Everyone with their own personality and quirks and following their storylines adds depth and development to all of them. From the caring and supportive proprietor of the Blue Moon Saloon, Owen, to the wannabe business tycoon and general store owner, Aarvio, they each have a story to tell. Far from being one-note, the characters truly bring the Sandrock story to life, making it feel like a real, small town, with personalities that are just a bit over the top.
A Builder's Work is Never Done
Sandrock has a variety of game systems, ensuring that even when the main plot does take a breather, you’re never at a loss for activities. Of course, there’s the traditional farming, but you also get to cook, raise ranch animals and pets, improve the town, play a plethora of minigames at the Golden Goose, expand your workshop, and explore different ruins in the area. You'll also get to continue interacting with the citizens of Sandrock fulfilling their requests and improving your relationships with them through gift-giving.
With so much to do, there were times when I had to put the main storyline on pause just to upgrade my machinery and complete a few commissions to earn some more cash before carrying on. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, however, as the game offers plenty of options for gameplay balance and lets you choose your own path. The only hold-up is that you do need to advance the main plot to fully unlock all areas on the map and all crafting materials, even if you’re not interested in the story.
The main systems are farming, building, fighting, and mining. Each of these is pretty straightforward, and controls are explained in tutorials, which are also easily referenced from the menu if you need a refresher at any point. While the farming and fighting systems aren’t going to win any innovation awards, I adore that the farming can be done on multiple squares of land at once and that you don’t have to harvest everything individually, and you have a choice of four different weapons with different fighting styles - spear, daggers, sword and shield, or longsword.
At no point did any of the systems feel counterintuitive, once you got the hang of them. Everything from building to mining is organized and laid out for you so that you can always quickly see what is available to make with your current materials or what you can mine in an area or a specific level. The fact that the building machines were also able to pull from your various storage bins was amazing and a massive time-saver.
And All The Rest
Sandrock’s visual aesthetic is absolutely gorgeous. Similar to Portia, but with far more detail, the reds and browns and beiges of the post-apocalyptic desert are offset with the bright colors of the desert town’s inhabitants, and your main character is free to run around in as many zany and mismatched outfits as you like, bringing color with you across the landscape. The 3D art is cartoony, but not overly so, striking a nice balance between an interesting art style without people looking bland or too realistic.
Another point to note is Sandrock’s fun multiplayer mode. Taking place several decades prior to the main story, it does connect to the single-player game while also offering the freedom to mess around in the desert landscape with your friends however you’d like. Admittedly, I did not play around much in multiplayer and spent most of my time on the single-player campaign, but what’s there is a solid continuation and extension of the rest of the game.
Really, my only critique of My Time at Sandrock is that, even on the PC version, there are more than a few bugs and glitches. During early access the team was prompt about getting any major obstacle glitches ironed out as quickly as possible, but there were still a few times when I got stuck getting into the junkyard or ended up accidentally in walls. Game breaking? No. Frustrating? Yes.
My Time At Sandrock Review | Final Thoughts
Normally, I’m not a fan of early access games any more than I am a fan of farm sims, but over the past year and a half it has been an incredible journey to watch Sandrock come together. From seeing the plot progress act by act to learning about each character as sidequests were added on in bits and pieces, I always found myself coming back to this incredible world. Even when I hit the end of an update, I’d usually end up playing for several more hours so I could relax and take my time exploring the world, gathering materials, and fulfilling commissions.
From the outside, My Time at Sandrock may seem stereotypical or even shallow, but like a desert storm uncovers a wealth of treasures below the surface, with engaging and three-dimensional characters, an incredible plot, vivacious humor, and a detailed world to explore. There’s always something to do in Sandrock, always something more to explore, and it’s so much fun to just lean into it and get caught up in the excitement. Of course, any true Sandrocker knows there’s only one real way to end this review: Conserve Water!
My Time at Sandrock was reviewed on PC with a copy provided by the developer over the course of 202 hours of gameplay - all screenshots were taken during the process of review.
- Fantastic 150 hour main plot
- A variety of great systems, from farming to cooking and building and more
- A town full of quirky, hilarious characters with their own sidequests, personalities and depth
- Some minor bugs, glitches and technical issues