My Time at Sandrock Early Access Review: Grind for Glory

On my first day in Sandrock, a cloaked man swore to defend the city with the power of his chiseled chin, and a yak fanatic tried to get me to drink yak milk when we first met. On my second day at Sandrock, I collapsed after running out of stamina in an attempt to gather enough resources for a simple construction project.

If it sounds a lot like My Time at Portia, make no mistake. My Time at Sandrock is, after all, a follow-up, and in many ways, the craft-centered desert skin is stretched across Portia’s venerable bones. It has everything you would expect from a life sim, from dating and urban upgrading to building things and even farming, and although it does most of these things very well, it does not really try anything we have not seen before.

However, that is not necessarily a bad thing. Over-grinding sometimes makes Sandrock a chore, but it’s so charming and intricately crafted that you can not help but fall in love.

My Time at Sandrock Early Access Review: Grind for Glory

My Time at Sandrock begins with your arrival in the eponymous city, after tailoring your builder to your heart’s desire with stunningly detailed character creations. You’re here not to fix your dear grandfather’s old farmhouse, but to take over from the former mason Mason, who seems quite relieved to leave the desert oasis. You will soon find out why. Yan, the city commissioner, tends to bully builders – and everyone else – into doing what he wants, usually without much reward, if he can get away with it.

Yet you are here and determined to make the most of it and bring peace – or “telesis”, as a misplaced example of the game’s randomly implemented language is called – to the city and its people. It means supporting their demands and building things from the useful, like an elevator that lets scavengers reach valuable materials in dangerous places, to the practical, like an umbrella seat near the local oasis.

It’s a winning formula we’ve seen before, and once you get into a pattern of making, socializing, and exploring, it’s incredibly easy to get lost in Sandrock. Or it would be if he did not do his best to get in the way and become a hassle.

You can do surprisingly many things with Sandrock’s character tools, and some things you probably should not.

Making games always requires a certain amount of work, but Sandrock takes it a little too far. Consider your recycler, the only way to get a handful of important materials for the main missions of the early game. You will need to find the right resources in the right places to feed it, although there is a chance during the cleanup that you will not end up with what you want anyway. Then there is the rebreather itself.

Suppose you are looking for four copper rods. Ideally, you put four pieces of copper scrap in and get the sticks. Instead, it took 15 pieces of copper and almost two days of fuel to get what I needed. Fuel is thankfully easy to find, but you also need water to power every machine in your workshop. Later you can get a dew catcher to make the water collection easier, but for a while you get stuck with dew from plants. 10 stacks of dew add a percentage point of water to your tank and you can see where it goes.

Done properly, these types of loops are hugely satisfying and even relaxing, but in its early entry phase, Sandrock requires a little too much of you to be truly enjoyable in its approximately five hour long opener – even 12 and 3 pm I don ‘t. still changes a lot on things. Even after getting better machines and a stockpile of materials, most drawings require too much time to build and effort – smelting copper into rods to turn into 10 copper screws and so on.

Much of this feels like busy work right now, though Sandrock is also happy to allow you to be as busy as you want to be. As far as I can tell, no main mission or side mission has a time limit, so if you want to spend a week making those copper screws, spend the rest of your time chatting with people or exploring ruins, you’re free to do so. as long as you have the interest and perseverance.

I can not say that any of the characters gripped me emotionally, but it’s a cheerful, sometimes quirky bunch who almost always have something interesting to say. And the ruins you can explore are fine, but not something quite as in-depth as Stardew, for example (not to mention the few easy-to-find items that provide considerable stamina to go too long).

In the end, though, I was happy to continue playing My Time at Sandrock because it has such a strong sense of place, a sense that only grows as your work helps the city grow. Business expansion, new facilities, new features and a general growing sense of well-being are the fruits of your labor, the direct effects of your actions that you often do not see in similar games.

Since Sandrock is still in Early Access, I imagine that the rough spots will gradually be smoothed out so that what makes it nice and comfortable can shine through even more strongly.

[Note: Pathea Games provided the copy of My Time at Sandrock used for this EA review.]

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