I have edited my previous post, but to be clear: I generally agree with the vibe
that the romances in their current state are
- forced - Especially in playthroughs where you don't talk with your companions much. Take Lae'zel: "We don't really know each other, we are completely different species (by the way, as a Githyanki I'm a bit of a Nazi and consider you an enslavement-worthy Untermensch race) and you have given me absolutely no notion that you like me (especially not in that way), nor did I give you any notion that I like you (the opposite, if anything), but you made the tiefling kiss my boots, you let the snake kill the tiefling kid and you drank water from the well that smelled like rotting corpses, so let's f**k!" The dialogue when you do not have enough approval or choose someone else is even cringier. Other companions seem (slightly) better and it seems less out of place if you always try to exhaust all the dialogue options with that specific companion, but it still feels forced AF.
- unnuanced / obviously gamified / scripted - You either have enough approval points at the specific time (the celebration), or you don't. ROMANCE variable is either true, or false. ROMANCE_COMPANION variable can be set to exactly one person and everyone immediately knows who it is and reacts to your choice in their dialogue - but don't worry! Even if you are completely dumb, we will actually let you choose your "romance" companion again when you go to sleep. My job as a software developer may be a factor here, but this feels like lazy scripting, not just writing.
- progressing too fast - This may be due to EA being only Act I and the romance arcs being "compressed" to only that one act, as lots of the dialogues would make more sense in later parts of the game. Also, the way the game currently handles (well, ignores) time progression may be a factor here as it is kinda hard to understand where in terms of knowing you and each other the companions stand - dialogues (and banters between the chars) give you some clue, but really, depending on how much you abuse the rest/camping system, you may reach the celebration part in a week or 2 months and there is no difference (other than not resting enough may make you miss some dialogues).
it was not _just_ a collection of campsite story progression-based dialogs rewarding you with fanficty dialogs/cutscenes if you collected enough "I like you" points.
Romances start without people liking each other? Why are you collecting points? Your character doesn't have an opinion? Are you not roleplaying?
You are clearly attacking a straw man. I have not suggested any
of these things. Please respond honestly & without fallacies or not at all, I have no intention of wasting my time on responses whose author's intent is not providing honest feedback & discussion to improve the final game. As for "liking each other": Approval as it is currently implemented is a very broad measurement of the char's agreement with PC's choices in the story (you know, "approval") and using it also as a "romance-o-meter" causes lots of issues. Someone agreeing with your actions does not necessarily correspond to them liking you in a romantic way - that should be rather obvious. If anything, some minimal amount of approval should be required for the romance to start, but honestly, the romances need a more sophisticated scripting & writing or something like KOTOR 2 influence (which, when high enough, allowed you to sway the characters to either side, thus actually changing what the chars "approve of").
Haven't romanced anyone in that game.
Which may mean:
- BG2 (not sure about Beamdog's versions) does not force you into any romance - Which is a GOOD thing. Comparatively, BG3 kinda pushes you into a romance/ONS (when you go to sleep during the celebration) - or at least cringy "my/your loss" dialogues.
- Wrong combination of companions/race/gender - This depends, but I generally like romances implemented as something optional (or borderline secret) that is not easy to achieve (or the very opposite, the romance being pivotal to the main story of the game, but that is clearly not the case here). More believable than making sure that there is someone for everybody, which cannot usually be done without the story/logic/writing/believability suffering too much.
Funnily enough, I mostly agree with you regarding the alignment debate here. Trying gamify someone's personality&morals and force them to one (out of nine) boxes seems dumb for a lot of interesting characters and I have never really understood the need to do that for the player & main characters in a (P&P or computer) role-playing game, though it may be useful to define non-important characters for DMs when playing adventure settings from the books (because you don't have 4 pages to characterize their personality). That being said, alignment played a minimal role in BG1/2 and (with a few exceptions) could be completely ignored. 5e makes it clear that it is a very broad characterization that should not limit the players.
Your arguments about alignment make it even more puzzling for me to understand how can you be OK with the current system of romances: "collect enough approval points for the companions you like and select the one you want to see a soft-porn scene with". (Shadowheart's romance, which does not involve sex, makes the most sense to me, but it still does feel forced/gamified if you didn't bother with most of her dialogues before).