Would like to just generally detail my thoughts here specifically as an ace person playing the game (which I really sincerely love), since I haven’t exactly posted them publicly before and I’m not sure if the feedback is helpful/useful or not but just, my two cents. I don’t think there’s anything explicitly spoiler-y here but maybe don’t read through if you want to play an ace character Breden romance without being told what happens beforehand.
The first several times I played through the game, I didn’t pick the “ace option”; I totally get the ‘if you’re at all attracted to [whatever gender] Breden is your exact type at least physically’, and my character was pretty prepared to fall for him very fast. I’m not aromantic & I didn’t want my character to be either, and the “third option” implied that to me. Therefore the options later on around the feast felt a bit wonky to me; I could tell Breden I wasn’t comfortable having sex /yet/ & he took to it fine, but it was something that inevitably happened later on. I had to accept that my character wasn’t ace after all – which is fine! There was an option there and I’d chosen not to go with it for whatever reason and I still loved the romance with Breden.
So later on I replayed using the “third option” and trying my ace-but-not-aro run there. This was a lot more brutal and emotionally devastating to me which I’m sure was intentional and well-crafted but still packed a pretty severe punch.
There were a few lines/options that felt a little wonky to me, like the statement that my character’s feelings for Breden (which he still had, since Breden is still his type) were something “completely new” and that he’d never felt like that about anyone before – which may have been true, so it didn’t bother me too much! But it did feel a bit like the initial choice was “ace and aro” and I was then walking that back a bit. The later statement that came with Suzane also felt a bit wonky in that, well, sure he wasn’t going to have sex with either of them but the potential for attraction/romance was still hypothetically there, and especially given some indications that Suzane might be on the ace-spectrum it felt a bit weird and furthered the “ace means aro [even if you have an Exception for Breden]” feeling that I got. This didn’t bother me too much though, since at least the option for Breden wasn’t locked out.
The conversation between Breden and I at the feast was emotionally upsetting. It felt strange to me (not unrealistic, though) that Breden took my character’s statement that he wasn’t comfortable having sex a lot differently than he had when my character wasn’t ace, but just chaste. It became sort of an argument and Breden’s suggestion about opening the relationship caught me off guard and definitely hurt my character’s feelings. My character shut down the option & Breden apologized and comforted him and assured him that he didn’t actually need that.
That turned out not to be true, as he found out when proposing marriage to Breden later and being rejected. They had a pretty intense argument. I really want to applaud Havenstone for giving my character the option to be deeply upset and angry throughout all of this; it weirdly made the storyline a lot easier to play through because, while this really sucked for my character, at least he had the ability to express that. When Breden came to reconcile, again, my character was ready to do so, since he was still deeply in love and was always going to be. Breden made a statement that “If it’s true [that you don’t want to lose me] then you won’t” and then made the same ultimatum that he had earlier. It didn’t work out.
My character was emotionally devastated, but before he even had the chance to mourn the fact that he’d just been dumped by the person who he’d just proposed to, there was Suzanne asking in “subtle” terms if he couldn’t just change his asexuality in order to be with her. This really just felt like being slapped in the face after being grievously wounded. The question of what “nature” is and when nature can “change” was always meant to be a theme of the story, and I completely get Havenstone’s intent there. I’m just going to say it was a lot easier to bear when, for instance, my character was gay and either happily in a relationship or single, and being asked this by someone he had a friendship with but nothing more; it was a lot harder when he was ace and had just been left by his serious partner because he wouldn’t change, and was then confronting this situation again in a “casual” environment, directly after the fact. He responded to Suzanne extremely harshly and possibly too-cruel, but I want to thank Havenstone again for the option because it was immensely cathartic.
Later on/during the aftermath of the poisoning and the choice of who to take into Xaos, Breden acted as if there had never been anything between them. This maybe hurt the most.
Like I said, the story was well-crafted, and being my being hurt by a story is only a testament to that. I’m not decrying any of this for being unrealistic. It’s exactly because it was “realistic”, or it’s what I’ve heard a billion times in my own life, that it affected me so emotionally severely. When you’re ace and want to be with a partner who isn’t, the question of changing nature or “compromising” your identity is always brought to the forefront. People jump to say that “some ace people Can have sex” or “open relationships exist”. Those are indeed two potential options, but they don’t work for everyone, and it’s striking to me that nobody ever jumps to say that “Some [even many] allosexual people are fine with being in a relationship without sex”, even though in fact it’s true. My current partner is allo, and we’re immensely happy together, and they have done a lot to reassure me that it’s not a “sacrifice” to be with me, but that’s the rhetoric that we’re told all the time. That we’re not enough, that we don’t have anything special to offer that someone else (who is also offering sex) can’t offer.
So I really feel for my poor heartbroken character; he’s been through absolute hell romance-wise thus far, while going through absolute hell revolution-wise. I just hope in future games he has the chance to make an intimate connection with someone who he can share his devotion to a better world with, who doesn’t ask him to change a thing about who he is.
In the meantime, I played through again on the same route and didn’t propose marriage to Breden (but still stayed with him); they’re both still in love, and together in the Xaos-lands. There was no second confrontation. But I’m sure the storm is coming for them in the future and it will be no less painful.