As mentioned, there are various memorable npcs that aren’t pursued/involved in romantic storylines. I do want to mention, however, that with the Sardonic Music-Hall Singer there is an option for such a fling, and if you find amatonormative language off-putting you probably won’t like how it’s presented. A game can be thematically emphatic on romance, yes, without leaning on that bias. Unfortunately, such is the nature of relying heavily on euphemism to portray a certain class of liaison. (Recurringly, a tendency to refer to ‘education’ of some sort, but I digress.) Amatonormative phrases are commonplace, and, in talking around the subject, the writing stumbles into that.
Characterization of the player character… yeah, it’s a text game. One that likes to inject flavor and nuance and tends not to get into technical detail when it comes to description. What I find difficult to justify/avoid is the means of obtaining goods, even through item conversion. Can’t believe how often straitlaced so-and-so resorts to swiping this or that, but hey, the tutorial was about breaking out of jail. And, as it turns out, the story of the game is about love: dodging it, losing it, being horrified by what happens because of or to achieve it.
And that aspect only heightens during the Feast of the Exceptional Rose (nicely timed to coincide with Valentine’s). There was even an in-character survey question on love this year, where the platonic answer gets dismissed by the npc doing the asking. To be fair, that was during the Feast. But yeah.
Interestingly enough, the paucity of (late-game) spousal options stands out all the more due to the focus on romance. What, seduction happening left and right, but commitment essentially boils down to either-or? The recent allowance for player-to-player marriage definitely opens that up, and yet I find that the increase in social actions leaves me hoping for more, something categorically platonic or even inimical…like two-person K&C. One could argue that the current range of social interaction does permit such relationships, but the same could be said for romance. (Nursing someone else’s wounds, for one thing. Or dinner. Is that eating in or eating out?) Romantic partners even have special ‘seen with’ status. No such labels for potential best friends and nemeses. And definitely no marriage-level bonuses. So yeah, it’s lopsided.
Social actions aside, since they’re all really optional - the only unavoidable, or almost unavoidable, romancing that happens can be dispelled as flavor text, I think. As far as I know, it’s possible to pretend that one never succumbed to the charms of the Secular Missionary or the Revolutionary Firebrand. You can tell them both off at the end too. And steal their stuff.
Just as rampant thieving can be taken with a grain of salt, so too the rampant flirting? I have a character who usually tries to avoid both, and not always to great success. There’s enough content for me to traverse, although I do wish for more. Not that I’ve hit the content boundary yet. (Gotta pace it out!)
Like I said, I hope that the scope broadens for what’s possible. And there are way more petpanions than spouses, though that might be because of the effort put into writing courtship and whatnot. I hear player weddings are hell of a grind too, laden with juicy text, though I don’t begrudge them the wedding planning and would not expect to seeing anything similar implemented, even if an equivalent scenario could be contrived. (Jump through these hoops to earn the honor of…? Lack of recognition is sadly reflective of general society. Marriage has a cachet that other relationships don’t, even if the romantic element is relatively modern.) So far I’ve done without trying that part of the game. Maybe an alt of mine will eventually get there. But if he does, it’ll probably be to elope.
It’s actually my main character who steers clear of seduction when I don’t decide to flat out ignore some of the text. My other characters were off-shoots from the decision to characterize my main that way - a decision I made before I really got to know what Fallen London was like. Yes, trying to avoid romance means cordoning off whole sections of the game, but isn’t hitting every card and doing everything the game has to offer basically constructing a character who is crazily multi-talented and over-involved? Speaking of which, definitely take a look at this approach if you haven’t already. Personally, I try to spread some of the storylets between my characters. And initially, I used them for exploring the options on storylets that could only be played once per. Now, my main character is still slowly, incrementally exploring different areas, while someone else is amassing items and echoes and hoarding not spending, and the still-technically-a-bachelor-but-who-knows-how-things-are-going-at-this-point is eating up all my spare time constructing messages back and forth. Sorry, that was irrelevant. But it is useful to have supporting alts to try out the stuff that the first character hasn’t.
To summarize, I do agree with the general gist. The flavorful writing and the direction in which it leans. The choice of euphemism, with the underlying assumptions. A lot of it is up for interpretation, but there’s still the nudging and the overall sense of romance in the air.
I hope you enjoy the game despite all that. I did, and also the repetition of storylet-grinding has helped with ignoring any overtones purely through a "seen it a million times, clickety click click, now where’s my stuff" response. As for new content? With the exception of the Exceptional Rose business (which was back in February/March anyway) it doesn’t look like romance will feature heavily, at least not on the surface.