My Time at Sandrock is the highly anticipated follow-up to 2018’s My Time at Portia, developed by Chinese studio Pathea Games. Like its predecessor, Sandrock falls into the relaxing life simulation RPG genre, inviting players into a charming world where they can explore, build relationships, and develop their skills at their own pace.
This time around, you play as a fledgling builder who arrives in the desert town of Sandrock. Your goal is to construct and upgrade your workshop, fulfill commissions for townspeople, and ultimately transform the struggling community into a prosperous hub once again. Along the way, you’ll befriend quirky residents, fall in love, raise a family, and unlock the mysterious history of this post-apocalyptic world.
With its cowboy-inspired setting and emphasis on salvaging Old World technology, Sandrock aims to provide a fresh take while retaining the core appeal of Portia. Reviews thus far have been mixed but mostly positive, praising the charming setting and characters while critiquing some technical issues and repetitive crafting mechanics.
In this review, we’ll take an in-depth look across all aspects of My Time at Sandrock, from story and gameplay to presentation and performance. Weighing its high points against flaws, we’ll determine whether this follow-up manages to live up to expectations and is worth your time investment. Strap on your tool belt and join us as we head to the frontier to build a life in this desert community.
A Familiar Loop with Room to Grow
At its core, My Time at Sandrock sticks to the addictive formula that made Portia so beloved. As a builder, you’ll gather resources, fulfill commissions to earn Gols (the game’s currency), and constantly work to upgrade your home, workshop, and machines. Days quickly fall into a predictable but satisfying loop – you’ll chat with townsfolk, check on your productions, gather materials from around the world, slay some monsters, and knock out a few tasks before retiring for the night.
For those who enjoyed Portia, Sandrock will feel comfortingly familiar. You’ll still spend plenty of time mining, chopping trees, and scavenging the wilderness for supplies. These raw materials then get processed at stations like Smelters, Cutters, and Grinders back home. The outputs in turn become components for the furniture, tools, and accessories you’ll craft to fill commissions and progress the story. It’s a lengthy crafting tree that gives a strong sense of progression as you unlock new recipes.
Repetition does set in at times, especially in the early game when progress feels slow. Thankfully there are other activities like farming, fishing, cooking and relationships to mix things up. Maintaining friendships and romances in Sandrock operates similarly to Portia, with random gifts and completing requests raising affection. You can eventually marry and have kids with a romanceable villager.
Where Sandrock innovates more is with its Sandfarming system for agriculture. Given the arid climate, you utilize special tools and fertilization methods to nurture crops. It feels appropriately thematic and distinct from normal farming. The game also steps up combat by adding customizable weapons like swords, spears and guns alongside a “Break” system that adds strategy to encounters. You can tailor your playstyle based on weapon choice and useful combat abilities.
Customization extends to your character too, with robust creator tools for hairstyles, outfits and more. Leveling up increases attributes and earns you skill points to acquire special perks, letting you specialize as you see fit. It’s a nice amount of flexibility amidst the structured routine.
For as much depth as the single player offers, Sandrock’s multiplayer is arguably the bigger leap forward from Portia. It features its own standalone experience taking place before the main story. You can team up with friends or random players online to build structures and complete projects – the fruits of your labor will actually benefit the solo campaign later. The streamlined progression and perk system make multiplayer sessions more rewarding.
Despite the fresh improvements, Sandrock still falters in some bothersome areas. Inventory management remains a chore, with insufficient space and a lack of quality-of-life features to sort and organize. Makers and machines also still take irritatingly long to process tasks, forcing you to either wait around or check back much later. Some form of automation would go a long way here.
Of course, these flaws are par for the course in the genre – they’re largely why the “one more day” loop is so effective at sinking its hooks into players. And make no mistake, Sandrock absolutely excels in this regard. You’ll constantly be chasing some new milestone, be it a relationship level, Workshop upgrade, or access to another exotic material. If you could overlook the tedium and repetition in Portia, Sandrock delivers more of that core magic.
A Desert Community Finds Its Oasis
One glance at Sandrock’s sun-bleached buildings and tumbleweed-dotted streets makes it clear you’re not in Portia anymore. The switch from idyllic farmland to harsh desert frontier gives Sandrock’s world a distinct feel that sets it apart from its predecessor. Many structures lie in disrepair and resources are scarce, evoking a somber tone – this town has seen better days.
As a builder, it’s your job to revitalize Sandrock to its former glory. The threadbare story provides enough motivation to drive you forward through daily tasks. As you befriend villagers, you’ll slowly unravel the cause of Sandrock’s decay. Political tensions with neighboring towns have disrupted vital trade routes, cutting off critical supplies.
This precarious situation has allowed bandits and mutant creatures to threaten Sandrock’s borders, yet glimmers of hope remain thanks to discoveries in the ruins of past civilizations. Your efforts seem futile initially, but the town gradually transforms over seasons into a vibrant community again. It’s a predictable heroes journey, but the charming characters make it easy to invest yourself.
Key figures like Justice the stalwart sheriff and mild-mannered Mayor Qi embody the grit and perseverance of Sandrock’s people. The humble writing shines most through everyday dialogues where you come to understand the dreams and struggles of residents like Owen the bartender and Elsie the rancher’s daughter. Even passing exchanges with citizens feel meaningful thanks to strong characterization.
Beyond the main story, you’ll forge deeper bonds should romance strike your fancy. All relationship candidates have distinctive personalities and background stories to uncover through dates and heart events. Deciding whom to court adds replay value, as does pursuing friendship with the many other townspeople. Sandrock leverages its smaller scope well – you feel connected to the community.
While the narrative lacks originality, its themes of renewal and togetherness suit the relaxing pace. Sandrock is primarily concerned with easing players into its world and steadily undoing the damage through cooperation. There’s an underlying message about creating a sustainable future by learning from the past – an apt metaphor for the game evolving what Portia began.
The nuanced characters and player-driven experience create a welcoming tone that compels you to care about Sandrock’s fate. It’s a subdued yet impactful setting that immerses you with purpose. Though you are ultimately building towards gameplay goals like upgrading your home, the relationships make it feel like you’re building a community. Sandrock’s underdog story of rebirth and redemption may be straightforward, but it gives your daily triumphs a gratifying significance.
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Rough Around the Edges, But Brimming with Promise
Visually, My Time at Sandrock retains the cheerful, comic-like aesthetic that made Portia so endearing. The cel-shaded models and environments burst with color that pops against the sandy backdrop. Little touches like flickering torches and swaying cloths enhance the charm, transporting you into its eccentric world. Customization lets you tailor your builder’s appearance, though clothing and hairstyle options are more limited compared to Portia’s breadth.
The audio design supports the gameplay well, with peaceful music that shifts around town and out in the wilderness. Cute sound effects for actions like watering plants or collecting items make mundane tasks oddly satisfying. Characters speak gibberish when conversing, but this style matches other games like Animal Crossing.
Sandrock’s interface could use more polish, but it gets the job done. Menus for your inventory, map, skills, and quest logs are straightforward, if a bit clunky on gamepads. You’ll need to check these screens often as there’s no tracking overlays or mini-maps during play. A few more quality-of-life options like Pinning quests or automated item stacking would also be welcome.
Where Sandrock disappoints most is its performance, especially on Switch. In docked and handheld mode, the frame rate struggles constantly. The game feels choppy and sluggish, hampering an otherwise smooth experience. Visuals also suffer from frequent pop-in with objects and textures as you move around. Load times when transitioning areas are thankfully short.
Perhaps the biggest immersion breaker is the draw distance fog that seems to cling tight around your character at all times. It gives the impression of an ugly filter clouding the pretty art direction. This issue impacted the pre-release reviewers most significantly, so hopefully the day one patch improves matters across all platforms.
Overlook the rough edges, however, and Sandrock’s world brims with personality if you take time to soak it in. Subtle animations on people and wildlife make the town feel alive. Picturesque vistas reveal themselves as you explore further out into the desert. There’s visual storytelling in the ramshackle infrastructure and cluttered workspaces that supports the setting.
Sandrock lays a strong foundation; it just needs more optimization to fully realize its potential. Given Pathea’s dedication to improving Portia years after launch, I’m optimistic they can smooth out the wrinkles over time. Once the performance woes and lack of polish get rectified, the charming aesthetic and intricate world will truly shine. There’s already an alluring experience here for those willing to push through the setbacks.
Sandrock’s Strengths Outshine its Flaws
For all its flaws, My Time at Sandrock capitalizes on what worked best in Portia and expands upon it in meaningful ways. The core gameplay loop retains that addictive “one more day” feeling as you optimize your routine and incrementally upgrade tools. Despite the repetitive grind, progression is steady and rewarding. There’s always a new recipe, Commission, or relationship milestone to motivate you.
The cast of characters and story breath life into the game as well. While the overarching narrative about rebuilding a town is cliché, the writing and heart events make the residents feel multidimensional. From Justice’s paternal wisdom to the Mayor’s affable charm, interacting with Sandrock’s people brings joy between the harvesting and crafting.
Even minor NPCs have personality, like the pessimistic gardener XP or free-spirited musician Antoine. You build connections with them by learning their stories and helping fulfill needs. These relationships deepen your investment in the town’s restoration.
Beyond the characters, exploring Sandrock’s desert region proves compelling. There’s a sense of frontier mystique venturing out into the unknown to scavenge ruins and battle foes. The biomes range from scorching dunes to underground oases, encouraging you to uncover every corner. Collectibles and rewards incentivize this further.
Where Sandrock shines brightest though is the multiplayer. It carves out a chill, cooperative experience separate from singleplayer. Working alongside friends or strangers to construct buildings that will benefit your solo playthrough is genius. The streamlined progression and perk systems make these Creation Mode sessions more rewarding.
Lastly, Sandrock smartly avoids overstuffing the experience like some entries in the genre. It sticks to what it does well – building relationships, gathering materials, and crafting items. While still repetitive, the loop is more focused. You won’t get bogged down managing extraneous farms, dungeons, and other convoluted features.
For fans of the slice-of-life simulator genre, Sandrock checks all the boxes. Its technical shortcomings and repetitive nature do little to undermine what makes the game so enjoyable at its core. When performance improves, its strengths should gleam even brighter.
Room to Grow in the Desert
For all its merits, Sandrock demonstrates Pathea is still coming to grips with some persistent issues holding the series back. Technical problems like unstable performance and unpolished visuals have garnered much criticism. These flaws are especially jarring given the game’s long development time.
The crafting system also still feels antiquated compared to contemporaries in the genre. Lack of automation forces tedious hands-on production and inventory management. Makers produce items far too slowly even when fueled. It disrupts the intended laid-back experience.
Sandrock also carries over Portia’s poor character models and animations. Their robotic, disconnected movements look out of place juxtaposed against the colorful world. Customization could be more varied as well – you’ll see clones of your character everywhere.
While side activities like farming and fishing offer some respite from the crafting grind, they lack depth after initial novelty fades. Relationship progression relies too heavily on random gift giving rather than meaningful interactions. Sandrock lays the groundwork for compelling features but doesn’t capitalize on their potential.
These shortcomings give Sandrock an outdated, unpolished feel even as a sequel. It seems stuck in the past rather than pushing the genre forward. As critics noted, we’ve seen smaller indie studios like ConcernedApe execute this formula with more care and innovation. Pathea has proven they can smooth out issues post-launch as with Portia, but it’s disappointing to see recurring flaws at release despite a longer dev cycle.
A Diamond in the Rough
Sandrock offers an experience evocative of what has captivated millions about farming simulators – an escapist journey into community, cooperation, and nurturing growth. Its flaws hold it back from reaching its full potential, but they fail to undermine what makes the game so enjoyable at its core.
Fans of the genre willing to wait out optimization updates should find the charming setting, colorful cast, and rewarding progression loop well worth the price of admission. The maintained focus on relationships and crafting without feature bloat keeps your daily routine manageable among the chores.
Those seeking a more polished and modernized take may want to opt for Stardew Valley or story-driven contemporaries like Spirittea instead. But the foundation and frame assembled in Sandrock shows incredible promise as Pathea hopefully sand down rough edges.
My Time at Sandrock delivers a stripped-down, streamlined life sim experience that plays directly to the core appeal of the genre – patiently building something greater than yourself through toil and community. Its technical and design imperfections nag but don’t ruin the journey.
If Pathea can smooth out lingering performance issues and modernize aspects like character models, inventory management, and maker speed, Sandrock has potential to flourish into something truly special. As is, it’s an enjoyable albeit rough-around-the-edges sequel that builds on Portia’s strengths while making strides to innovate within a familiar formula. Here’s hoping the desert blooms into an oasis.
My Time at Sandrock
Despite its flaws, My Time at Sandrock succeeds where it matters most - delivering a charming world full of heart to get lost in. Its technical shortcomings can’t overshadow the fun at the core for fans of the genre. Once optimized, Sandrock’s desert will truly flourish into a cozy escapist haven. The familiar but addictive life sim loop paired with the colorful setting and characters make Sandrock worth a visit, if you can be patient with its lack of polish. Here's hoping Pathea smooths out the rough edges so this diamond in the rough can truly shine.
- Addictive and rewarding core gameplay loop
- Charming Western-inspired setting stands out
- Interesting cast of townspeople to befriend
- Deep crafting/upgrade system provides progression
- Customizable weapons add more combat options
- Multiplayer Creation mode is innovative for genre
- Technical issues like unstable framerates
- Dated presentation and visual polish
- Repetitive daily grind gets tedious over time
- Maker/processing stations are painfully slow
- More focus needed on relationship interactions