EARLY ACCESS REVIEW: ‘My Time at Sandrock’ Is a Charming Beginning (PC)

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My Time at Sandrock is a follow-up to 2018’s My Time at Portia from developer Pathea and publishers DMM GAMES Limited and PM Studios, Inc. Both games are life simulators akin to Story of Seasons or Stardew Valley that are set in a post-apocalyptic world built on top of the ruins of a crumbled civilization. 

However, rather than focusing on founding your own farm, players are put in the position of the new Builder in the desert town of Sandrock. So if you’re looking for farming, it is still here, but the primary focus is instead on building different machines and installments for the town. From rebuilding a performance stage for the local bar to a crane system for the quarry, there are a ton of different projects to tackle. 

Tackling these main objectives requires the player to venture out into the area around Sandrock to gather resources. Those are then processed through various crafting stations and tables to create components that can be used to build even larger creations. This makes up the core gameplay loop of My Time at Sandrock that most of its other systems feed back into.

You’ll have to fight local animals and monsters around the map for some resources, so you need to equip one of the game’s handfuls of different weapons to face them. You’ll have to go mining in the buried remains of a shopping mall from the old world for other resources. To do this, you are equipped with a handy pair of relic-detecting goggles and a jetpack to help you navigate and uncover rooms in the mall in search of ore veins and other valuables. 

This structure is pretty fun, but it would be nice if, as the game is updated toward its 1.0 release, some variety was added to each of the systems currently in the game. That being said, they all are in an excellent place for the title just now being released in Early Access. 

Outside of your role as a builder, you also have your life as part of the Sandrock community to consider. Your workshop comes with a home that can be upgraded and customized extensively, both through crafting and purchasing items with customizable color palettes. There are many options to choose from to help you make your home feel like an extension of yourself, which is fantastic for giving the player a sense of inclusion in the town of Sandrock. 

The town of Sandrock is made up of a spattering of shops and businesses for the player to interact with. Obviously, shops sell supplies and items, but there is a lot of variety in the other buildings. For example, there is a research lab where you can turn in Data Discs found while mining to unlock new crafting recipes. There’s also an arcade to play minigames for tokens that can be exchanged for prizes and a junkyard where you can pummel piles of rusted materials to get rare resources. 

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Another part of your life in Sandrock is your relationships with the people that live there. My Time at Sandrock follows the genre standards of raising your relationship with each character by talking to them every day and gifting them items they may like. In addition, the likes and preferences of each character are tracked so that they can easily be seen while talking to them, which is extremely useful. There is also a fun date mechanic that allows you to hang out with them around the town and do things like play minigames or eat food at the tavern, which is a very welcome touch. 

As of right now, there is not much to do with them after you get married, but the developers have detailed some of their future plans. The big highlight is the plan to add children that will age and develop as you continue to play. Other plans include a more diverse weather system, which I think would bring a lot to the game. As it is right now, the seasons will change, and there can be sandstorms, but there is little else to differentiate the day-to-day world around you. So instead, the only real changes new seasons bring are different town festivals and birthdays to account for. 

Early Access releases can vary wildly in quality and worth of investment, especially with the uncertainty of the game’s future updates and content releases. My Time at Sandrock feels different, though, and when you play it, it doesn’t feel like a game in Early Access. With the studio’s previous success with My Time at Portia, it also seems that this sequel is destined to reach a solid place by the time it hits 1.0. 

My Time at Sandrock is available now in early access on PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Switch, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X/S.