We have spent hundreds of hours in the land of Portia, and so the release of My Time at Sandrock was always going to appeal. And it proved to be just that too, becoming our go-to game for an evening.
When we had the opportunity to grab one of the team behind both Portia and Sandrock, we jumped at the chance. Xu Zhi, director of My Time in Portia and My Time at Sandrock was only too happy to answer our questions…
Can you briefly describe the game?
Sandrock is a crafting/life simulation game with an emphasis on Role-Playing and storytelling. Fans of games like Stardew Valley, who wish to immerse themselves in engaging stories with lots of romanceable characters, will love Sandrock.
Does the player need to be familiar with the previous game My Time at Portia, before jumping on My Time at Sandrock for the first time?
There’s no need to play My Time at Portia before getting your hands on My Time at Sandrock, although there are some connections between the two titles, like characters and shared timelines of world events, etc. You might even find out that some stories that took place in Sandrock also happened in Portia.
But overall, it won’t have much of an impact on your experience. Of course, if you’ve played Sandrock, you’re more than welcome to go back and check out Portia as well.
My Time at Sandrock is very similar to My Time at Portia in a lot of ways. So what are some of the new things players can expect in the sequel?
Firstly, My Time at Sandrock made a significant change in the story, environment, and NPC settings compared to My Time at Portia. It shifts from a more fairytale story to a story that’s more realistic.
The characters in Sandrock are quite different compared to Portia as well. People here have all kinds of characteristics and are considered more real with a strong personality.
The size of the main story has grown a lot from Portia, which we invested a lot of human resources into. Portia’s stories are more flattened out, without much ups and downs. Whereas in Sandrock, the stories are designed to have a few climaxes, with a more uplifting & moving ending than Portia’s.
Due to Sandrock’s rough natural environment, players will have to go through a lot of hardships during the story’s progression. The sense of accomplishment after being through all this will be stronger than in Portia.
Game feature-wise, our team has invested more human resources and efforts into developing the NPCs and their romance stories. After My Time at Portia, we really started to understand what players really enjoy in our game, so we invested heavily in the romance scenes. There are more romantic interactions available with NPCs now. For example, you can hold NPC’s hands while dating, and hugging & kissing once they become your partner. These features were not available when we initially developed Portia. Moreover, now players can experience a whole new set of mini-games and festivals in Sandrock, except the Day of the Memories event, which is still the same as in Portia. This festival is essential to the Alliance of the Free Cities so we kept it in the sequel.
Living in the desert brings up a lot of issues, such as the need to conserve water. This is actually a big theme of the game. Did you design these things to make people reflect on their real-life environmental issues?
During the making of My Time at Sandrock, we actually went to the desert and had a taste of the environment. Many core members from the dev team went along and learned how to prevent desertification from the locals.
The brave locals called the desert ‘home’ and wanted to make it a better place by working with Mother Nature. Countless trees were planted to fight against the sandstorms and improve the environment around the area. We did similar things in-game by adding mechanics where machines need to run with water, and an NPC will step in to prevent players from cutting trees, etc. For folks who live in these environments, this is indeed the right attitude and does make the game more realistic & immersive for everyone.
Life simulation games are very popular, but players do have a lot of titles to choose from. What makes My Time at Sandrock stand out from the crowd? Why should players play this game?
My Time at Sandrock seamlessly blends the charm of rural (post-apocalyptic) living with a compelling narrative, providing players not just a farming sim but an immersive storytelling experience that sets it apart in the world of life simulation games.
Sandrock offers a strong focus on romance elements and deep character interactions, which have received high praise and love from players. Our team has dedicated a lot of effort to creating a rich, engaging, and expansive main story, NPC quests, and romance storylines that have no rivals in the genre.
Our community shares a strong sense of accomplishment and fulfilment as they witness the ongoing transformation of the wild and rugged city-state. The carefully crafted story progression deeply resonates with players, instilling a strong sense of belonging within them.
While many simulation games tend to revolve around farming, My Time at Sandrock places a greater emphasis on workshop management. This unique twist adds a new layer of gameplay, allowing players to experience the challenges and rewards of running a factory. This makes it the perfect choice for players seeking a fresh and memorable life simulation game.
For those who are not a fan of simulation games, what would you do to convince them to try out My Time at Sandrock?
In Sandrock, it’s really up to you how you want to play, and honestly, the simulation is probably only 30%-40% of the game. Apart from that, we also got stories, romance, explorations, dungeons, as well as multiplayer. All of these elements add up to provide a rich, immersive experience that not only appeals to the traditional simulation player base.
Now that you’ve just mentioned combat, which is an uncommon feature in life simulation games, why did you decide to include that in My Time at Sandrock?
I would say most simulation games do have some sort of combat. Our combat allows the player to have a slight change of pace without it being too difficult and getting in the way of other parts of the game.
Without giving away spoilers, what’s your favorite part of the storyline in Sandrock?
There are quite a few storylines that I like. It’s too easy to spoil the main story so I’ll skip it. Other than the main story, considering I’m quite good at writing quests for romanceable characters, I’d say my favourite storyline is Dr. Fang’s entire romance questlines. His storyline is one of the most comprehensive in the entire game since he basically has no involvement in the main story, so we spent most of the resources on his personal quests. It’s kinda like those romance games where you have a detailed script and a process of experiencing the relationship with him. So overall I’m quite satisfied with his entire romance storyline.
I even feel moved sometimes while playing it. For me, it has a strong sense of immersion as if I’m really falling in love with him.
Could you share more details about the upcoming multiplayer mode?
Multiplayer is not upcoming, it’s available now for PC and will be available for cross-platform between consoles and PC in 2024.
The overall gameplay very much depends on your playstyle. Some players may prefer to fulfil orders at all times, and some players might be a bit more casual, like wandering around town, chatting with NPCs, exploring their surroundings, finding treasure chests, and so on, which you have to coordinate with your teammates.
In multiplayer, we do have public storage boxes where you can put crafted materials in a shared space. Same with the gols (official currency), which are also shared in-game. I would advise you to spend it as soon as possible before someone else gets the chance.
Moreover, if you’re ever thinking about romancing with NPCs, you gotta watch out for your teammates. Since the number of NPCs in town are quite limited, you might want to hurry up before your fellow teammate step in first.
Can we expect another My Time Series game sometime in the future?
Our team is still working very hard on the release version as we’ve seen some bugs, issues, and feedback from players since the initial launch. The maintenance of the game is very important post-launch and our objective is to fix the issues while perfecting the game to meet our standard. By showing players what we’ve done, we build trust within our community and generate the revenues needed for a successful franchise over the long run.
While we would like to have a next My Time game, the goal for now is to continue to support the current release version of Sandrock.
Last question, if you were to settle down in one place, Sandrock or Portia, which one would you choose?
I would choose Sandrock, simply because of Dr. Fang haha!
Huge thanks go out to Xu Zhi for giving us some of their time just after the launch of My Time at Sandrock.
You can find My Time at Sandrock on Xbox One and Xbox Series X|S from the Xbox Store. It’s also on PlayStation, Nintendo Switch and PC.
And if you want to know even more about My Time at Sandrock, check out our full review of the game.