Cosy life sims that invariably involve farming or crafting are like catnip to me. It’s so easy to get sucked in. Sure, I’ll take over this old barn and create an agricultural empire. Yes, I’ll become the most important person in your small forest town. Why yes, I will tame the monsters who threaten your idyllic life. And most of all, without fail, yes, I will fall in love with one of you.
I can’t help it. I don’t really go in for romantic visual novels all that much, and I could totally take or leave romance subplots in more typical RPGs. There’s something about life sims, though, or rather the men in them, that I can’t help but fall for. It’s Shane in Stardew Valley, Reyner in Potion Permit, and Reinhard in Rune Factory 5. I like the stoic, handsome dudes, by and large, and so I went into My Time at Sandrock expecting to get swept off my feet by resident nice guy and business owner Owen, who has biceps the size of your head.
Spoilers for the identity of the secret admirer in My Time at Sandrock below!
Alas, I was wrong. A particular side quest – which starts as a few innocuous, anonymous letters – caught me totally by surprise. The first letter arrived after a main quest in which I helped the town of Sandrock by crafting a replacement stage for the one destroyed in a sandstorm. It’s a standard complimentary letter with a valuable opal attached. Score. Can’t argue with that. More letters get sent after further milestones, and it’s quickly clear that the sender bears something of a crush on you. You’re complimented on your work ethic, your bravery, and even your appearance.
If you’re a dab hand at analysing speech patterns and you’ve been talking to the people of Sandrock often, you can quite easily figure out who’s sending you these letters. The stilted, somewhat awkward writing nails the culprit as Unsuur, a member of the Civil Corps, the local law enforcement. I didn’t take too much notice of this once I figured it out – Unsuur is nice enough, but I had my eyes on Ernest, a bookish rich kid with a ditzy streak.
The final letter, though, sold me on the romance. Unsuur is terrible at this whole wooing thing, and boy, does the final letter drive it home.
Um. I also wanted to tell you… Maybe we should hold hands sometimes? If you want to. We don’t have to. Maybe it’s too big of a commitment. Especially if it’s with someone like me who is hiding their identity.
This all culminates in a quest that sees you catching Unsuur trying to deliver a fourth letter, him getting scared to be seen, and then rushing off home to quite literally hide in his closet until you coax him out.
All pretence is out the window at this point, and the side quest provides some insight into Unsuur as a person. He’s a nice guy with a hyperfixation on rocks and stacking them, committed to his job, and seems only to have one friend, his boss. It also reveals that the final letter was a declaration of feelings, complete with a schoolchild-style “Do you like me? Circle yes or no” at ending. It’s entirely too adorable, and I found myself utterly charmed by the sincere writing, which carries through all of Unsuur’s dialogue.
Inevitably, I chose the dialogue options that interpreted the come-ons as romantic rather than platonic, and the quest ends with a fitting ‘Unsuur is now your boyfriend.’ This simple line filled me with butterflies, like when Shane finally opens up about cutting down his drinking in Stardew Valley, or when Karlach can finally hug you in Baldur’s Gate 3. Just pure, happy fluff.
My Time at Sandrock is a quality game. I went in thinking it was going to be a standard, satisfying time sink – and it is that – but the writing is far and away some of the best I’ve seen in the genre. It has heart, humour, and surprising amounts of pathos when it really tries. The Unsuur romance blossoms naturally over the course of the game rather than being the result of aggressive gifting tactics and looking up the correct dialogue choices. It’s impressively done. Builder x Unsuur is the endgame now.
I’m not a smart man. But I know what love is. And I love you.
My Time At Sandrock Review – Say “Howdy” To Your Delightful Desert Life
In a quiet town out in the barren deserts of My Time at Sandrock waits a town that’s so alive with character and fun.