Don't worry, it's not an ore-through-portals post. I know you sailed the iron for that pitchfork halfway across the world, but it's not not needed here.
This is a portals-in-general post, specifically about how I think they trivialize a lot of the game because they're easy to place (only require a workbench) and give a full refund of materials on teardown.
Some of the most fun I've had in this game is the during early stages: exploring, pushing out far from home, setting up shelters in abandoned structures for the night, and finding good spots to set up new camps and bases. I ended up starting a no portals playthrough (idea taken from someone on this sub that I can't recall) and it's been great; that 'early stage' feeling has persisted through the whole game. Moving through each biome feels challenging in different ways, and establishing new bases feels meaningful.
It's been a pretty stark contrast to my previous playthrough, where (as long as you're carrying portal materials) it feels like almost the whole game takes place 50 yards from your main base. As long as you throw down a portal before doing anything significant, you always have access to your main base for repairs/materials/max comfort, you always have an easy retreat if things get tough (and you never have to deal with any biomes at night), and even if you die you have a short hop back through the portal for body retrieval. When you're done with whatever you were doing, just tear down the portal and move on to the next spot. In my opinion, removing all the challenges that I listed above makes the game less dynamic and exciting.
That said, portals make some of the best things about the game possible. They facilitate big construction projects (hauling back boatload after boatload of wood and stone would be beyond tedious). They remove the chore of travelling long distances. And I think the biggest thing is that they enable groups to join up instantly.
I think a happy medium would be either:
1) Have portals consume the surtling cores when placed, similar to how fires consume the wood used to create them. This would create at least some cost to using them.
2) Have portals require a forge or a higher level workbench to place. Of the two options, I think this is more in line with the original intent of the portal mechanic.
I know the catch-all answer here is 'just mod it' but I think that (especially given that the game is in early access) it's worth talking about things in the context of the base game.
As a side note – I highly recommend the no portals playthrough if you've completed the content but still want more hours out of the game. It's given me another playthrough's worth of enjoyment in a game that I absolutely loved.
Thanks for coming to my TED talk. I'm interested to see what others think about the portal mechanics.