My Time At Sandrock Early Access Impressions

When the town protector is an arrogant, puffed-up annoyance, but the wanted criminal Logan, (who apparently terrorizes the town) is a particularly cool, hot guy, you just know that something is amiss here. A character that awesome can’t be the bad guy, right? There are enough little hints and clues to give me hope I’m right. To be brutally honest, I’m invested in this now, because I’m hoping that Logan becomes a romantic option down the line. If not, I’m sorry, Sandrock, I’m switching sides and becoming an outlaw.

My Time at Portia was a life sim that managed to captivate me entirely in 2019, so you can bet that I have been excitedly awaiting the launch of its sequel. Originally intended to be DLC for Portia, My Time at Sandrock grew into a standalone title during development so Pathea could rebuild it from the ground up and make more significant improvements. It’s just entered into Early Access on Steam, so new and old fans alike can see how things are shaping up.

Sandrock expands on Portia in every way. It’s a great hybrid of life sim meets RPG, including the standard staples of sims, such as crafting and relationships while also including dungeons and battles with curious critters. You’ve got the same general premise of being the new builder in town, and the same setup of completing requests to help improve the city and build friendships, but everything has an extra bit of oomph in Sandrock.

It has the same quirky visual style we know and love from Portia, but it appears more polished. You’ve still got a lovable cast of characters, the NPCs now have more depth to them, and offer more involved storylines now offer more in-depth storylines. Customisation options offer a wider variety, there is a whole slew of new and fun minigames, and the combat has been dramatically improved.

As well as introducing a defense break mechanic to combat, allowing players to deal more damage once an enemy’s toughness is reduced to zero, players now can switch it up from melee attacks to a good old-fashioned rootin’, tootin’ shootout when they unlock the pistol and dip into a third-person shooter mode. Does it get much more Western than this? Of course, it does! Sandrock is a desert town, so gone are the lush fields of Portia and plentiful water and wildlife. Here, you’ll be dealing with sandstorms, receive fines for cutting down the scarce plant life, and can mount up on horses and camels to help you roam the desert.

I’ve never really been a big fan of Western themes, so I thought I wouldn’t appreciate Sandrock as much, but I was wrong. It’s refreshing to have a completely different environment with all new challenges to face, and the Western staples add a lot of charm. I’m utterly hooked and sinking so many hours into Sandrock right now. I’m also eagerly awaiting the additional promised content, such as children growing up, and multiplayer – the latter of which is something that My Time at Portia fans desperately wanted.

Much like Portia, there is so much to do. You’ll be gathering, mining, battling monsters, and crafting nearly every day of your digital life to fulfil requests and progress the storyline. On top of that, you can also raise animals, plant crops, and redecorate your home and workshop to your heart’s content.

My social life in Sandrock is far busier than my real one. When I’m not attempting to break down Fang’s defenses and force him to accept gifts from me, there are many characters you can build relationships with, take on play-dates, play minigames with, and learn more about their backstories. Each day of the week can bring something new, with recurring weekly events and annual festivals to enjoy. It’s great to see the whole of Sandrock get festive and spookify the town with decorations for the annual ghost hunt, or see all the NPCs participating in launching lanterns.

I have to remind everyone that the game is in Early Access, so it’s far from finished, and you may well encounter some bugs. I certainly did. The most common issue for me was getting locked out of story missions. I couldn’t complete them, either because the game didn’t register that I had the required items, or it failed to realise I had already performed whatever task it needed me to do. Fortunately, the game has multiple autosaves by default, so I would just load up one from before the mission bugged and play through again, which seemed to work each time.

You know you're onto a winner when you thoroughly enjoy a game despite suffering from a few bugs that cost you hours of progress. If life sims are your jam and you’re waiting for your next fix, My Time at Sandrock is an easy recommendation. It has so much to offer already, and there’s still much more to come before it officially launches.

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