There are a lot of games in the last decade that have given players the role of an important member of a small town, helping it recover its former glory. Games like Stardew Valley and My Time at Portia were slice-of-life games where players had to learn and grow with the world.
These games are often relaxing, providing no real challenge outside of time management and resource gathering. This allows players to sit back and take a break by living a more simple life inside these games. Whether players be growing crops or living a more simple life, these games mean a lot when they’re done right. Fortunately, My Time at Sandrock meets and excels at many of the genre’s staples.
Sandrock wastes no time putting players right into the action, scoffing at long introductions and exposition of previous games. The premise is simple as players are introduced as the new builder in town, someone hired to fix all the issues in Sandrock, a small desert town. You’ll be hired as one of two builders tasked with helping the other residents and improving the town.
Almost immediately, the charm in this game is apparent. Players who enjoyed the spirit of the last game will also find this one a joy. From the colorful world to the characters that are brimming with personality, it’s easy to get lost in this world. Especially as the story unfolds and the player learns more about the characters, it’s easy to see that much love was put into this game.
The events that take place throughout the year also add to the charm, with one, in particular, being a huge standout. After growing closer to the characters and feeling like a part of the community, it’s nice to share those moments with the other residents of Sandrock. While it can be hard to find the starting place of some of the events sometimes, that doesn’t take away from the fun.
The building is about what you’d expect if you played My Time at Portia, with a few slight differences. The materials are sometimes hard to find, and occasionally villagers will ask you for something you don’t know how to make. That being said, it’s never too hard to find the components or recipe to fulfill your order and make your customer happy.
There’s a pretty diverse cast of residents in Sandrock, with players meeting most of them in the first couple of hours of the game. Like previous games in this genre, players will have to progress further in certain storylines to unlock everyone they can meet. It’s easy to do this as you naturally progress the story and get friendlier with other characters.
The social mechanics in this game feel unique and interesting, with more knowledge about the characters unlocking as they become more familiar to you. For instance, getting to a certain level of friendship unlocks their birthday and some of the gifts they enjoy receiving. This is such an improvement over other games in the genre that unrealistically gives you most of the info about a character straight away.
Getting closer with a character and progressing through the different social stages feels natural and can even happen passively as you do normal duties. This is also an improvement over past games since the player has a lot of different opportunities how to increase their friendship with a character. When just completing a mission or building order is enough to earn points with the character, it’s never been easier.
Sandrock often feels like a town that’s alive with something going on almost all the time. When the player isn’t actively working to fix up the town, some characters will ask for the player’s help building or fixing things they need. Outside of that, there are the Sunday Fireside meetings in the town square, as well as the occasional fundraising opportunity.
All of this makes the game feel like there’s never a dull moment in town, with the player always tasked with doing the next thing. While this slows in some parts of the game, for the most part, it makes Sandrock feel like a city with its own heart and ambitions, even if it doesn’t quite rise to the level that it once did.
Sandrock also has its own secrets, with dungeons and deserts for the players to explore. Since My Time at Sandrock is set in a post-apocalyptic world, there are tons of old-world relics that the player collects and uses for research or to put together figurines of some old-world knowledge. It takes a lot of exploration to find these different artifacts, but the reward for some of them, like the camera, is worth it.
To get some of these pieces and some of the better materials, players will need to know how to fight. Luckily, the combat system in Sandrock is pretty simple and easy to understand. Each monster, and the character, has a guard system that prevents them from taking too much damage. Once the guard is broken, the character can get extra damage and even make their opponent flinch and miss an attack.
The story in My Time at Sandrock is shaping up to be an interesting one with the player caught in the middle. While the town of Sandrock tries to recover its former glory, some other monsters and outlaws have different plans for the city’s future. The player is constantly on the defensive, cleaning up after the messes left by these opposing forces.
There are several loading issues that are extremely noticeable in My Time at Sandrock, and the only thing keeping it from getting a perfect review. It’s jarring to load back into the open world to see all the characters without hair or stuttering for 10 minutes every time you walk out in the open.
The Final Word
My Time at Sandrock will be remembered as one of the best games of this genre, surpassing what Pathea Games accomplished with Portia. Sandrock and its residents are a joy to be around, whether you meet them out on a walk or while fulfilling your latest obligation. While this game is releasing into Early Access on Steam, in many ways it already feels like a full game.
Try Hard Guides was provided with a PC review copy of this game. Find more detailed looks at popular and upcoming titles in the Game Reviews section of our website!