Title: My Time at Sandrock
Developer: Pathea Games
Release Date: November 2, 2023
Reviewed On: PC
Publisher: Pathea Games
Genre: Life Sim
Developer Pathea has returned to help us spend our time in a more meaningful way by taking us to a Western-inspired town named Sandrock. My Time at Sandrock doesn’t try to reinvent life sims; instead, it opts to shift the focus from farming and socializing to material gathering and building machines in an attempt to breathe life back into Sandrock. This makes exploring the town feel fresh, even after thirty hours.
Exploring Sandrock: A Fresh Take on Life Simulation Games
An average day for a builder usually starts with obtaining a commission and setting up various crafting machines for the day. Players can then decide whether to go rune diving or interact with various NPCs to build relationships with them. Despite the initial repetition, I found that days passed quickly, even when I was simply hunting down a specific NPC to give them a gift or turn in the commission I had been working on.
Admittedly, talking with each villager can feel a bit like checking off a task on a list, as they often have only a few lines of dialogue for each relationship level and story event. Nonetheless, it feels nice to hear them talk about their family or how their business is doing, bringing me back to my own small town where not much happens.
My Time at Sandrock revitalizes the life simulation genre by emphasizing material gathering and machine construction in the charming Sandrock town.
Because not much happens, even minor events draw surprising amounts of attention from the townsfolk. Of course, the more an event affects the whole town, the more people will talk about it. This is how a small town operates, and My Time at Sandrock perfectly recreates this feeling, albeit with some repetition that can easily be overlooked.
Diving into the Ruins: Material Gathering and Community Building in My Time at Sandrock
Material gathering, on the other hand, is quite varied, including salvaging various scraps in the desert, delving into ruins to mine, and battling enemies in combat-oriented ruins. Initially, salvaging is the primary way players obtain materials. These objects must then be refined using a salvager to obtain useful materials, so having fuel and water is essential, and this machine will usually be running constantly.
Ruins are relatively straightforward; players must either break the floor or rocks to obtain raw resources such as ore, soil, data discs (used as currency for researching new technology), and artifacts that must be restored. These ruins can be a time sink, and frequently, I would be collecting materials until my stamina had depleted, only to realize that the entire day had passed.
The diverse material-gathering activities, coupled with in-depth NPC interactions, contribute to the game’s depth.
There is a peculiar rhythm that I enter when delving into a ruin. Using my scanner to locate each relic on a floor before moving on is surprisingly relaxing. Even though not much is happening, it’s always exciting to see if I find the missing piece of a relic I’ve been searching for or an electronic component for a commission.
Even as I write this, I’m thinking about delving into a ruin to find rare ore or a relic to sell or give to someone to increase their affection. I do find that I am not as fond of the more combat-oriented ruins. There is undeniably more action in these ruins, but the style isn’t as entertaining.
The format for these combat ruins is simple: the player must choose a section of the ruins to explore and get through three layers of ruins to reach a final boss within a certain time. Enemies won’t drop any materials, but any chests found will contain rare materials or items. Defeating the boss rewards the player with a chest containing better loot, the more points and enemies defeated.
Ironically, these sections feel more repetitive because enemies don’t drop any rewards; instead, they yield points. It’s a simple change from defeating enemies on the surface, but it changes the way I approach each encounter. Rather than considering possible materials, I weigh the difference between points and whether I want to spend the time killing the enemy.
After all, I was still timed, and combat is too simple to be engaging. Any weapon has a simple combo, except for firearms that shoot bullets. Each encounter boils down to using a single combo and dodging the overly telegraphed attacks. However, I soon realized that I wouldn’t even need to dodge as I could stun the enemies.
Guns are slightly more engaging but not enough to make a difference when combat is something I do for resources rather than a main focus. I would much rather swing my pickhammer than a sword any day of the week.
Community Dynamics and Material Gathering in My Time at Sandrock
I mentioned earlier that players can spend their days talking with NPCs to build closer relationships with them. While exploring around town, players can chat with villagers and give them gifts to increase their affection towards you. Each level of affection opens up more dialogue from the character and increases your odds of finding a significant other.
This isn’t too different from other life sims. Earning affection to unlock more dialogue and deeper relationships is a staple of the genre. However, I noticed that it’s not as simple here because many items that can be easily found won’t impress anybody.
Despite some minor repetition and less compelling combat, the game offers an enjoyable experience for all who play.
Instead, I needed to find rare gems or craft items that I would undoubtedly need for a complex machine later. This made every friend that I made feel more rewarding. I couldn’t just give them some random flower I had found on the ground; I needed to put thought and effort into each gift. When that failed, I could always grab a skill to increase the points I would obtain.
Each action, whether it’s talking, gifting, building, or gathering, generates two sets of experience points. The first is a general experience that contributes to the player’s overall level, and the second is specific to that skill set. For example, gathering would earn overall experience and a hidden value for gathering experience that would go toward my gathering level.
Skill Progression and Replayability in My Time at Sandrock
The same process applies to socializing, building, and combat. Each level-up provides a skill point that I could spend on something in that skill tree. This system initially seemed counterproductive, but after gaining some levels, I realized that I preferred this system to the original one from My Time at Portia.
Players will easily earn points for gathering and building by completing commissions and running their machines every day. Gaining combat and social skills will be slower but can also be achieved at a relatively fast pace by talking to everyone daily and defeating enemies for meat and other resources.
This ensures that while eventually, every player will have maxed out skills, they can prioritize their skill levels based on their preferred playstyle. This adds an extra layer of replayability to a game that I already want to start a new save for.
My Time at Sandrock revitalizes the life simulation genre by emphasizing material gathering and machine construction in the charming Sandrock town. It immerses players in small-town life with its engaging community dynamics. The diverse material-gathering activities, coupled with in-depth NPC interactions, contribute to the game’s depth. Its flexible skill progression system enhances replayability. Despite some minor repetition and less compelling combat, the game offers an enjoyable experience for all who play.
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