As far as I can tell, there’s a little bit of a plot, and most importantly there’s a lot of backstory to explore and try to figure out what exactly happened to the old world and stuff. I haven’t gotten through everything by any stretch of the imagination.
Romance is possible and doesn’t seem to be gender locked at all. My lady builder has been getting pretty strong vibes from the farmer lady next door, and I also flirt with the fashionista who works at the restaurant a lot.
Basically you’re trying to get materials, usually through mining or foraging, to craft other building materials for large items (like additional tool areas, bridges, cars, etc.) or to prepare stuff for others. Like, think of the bulletin board in Stardew but with multiple options for contracts you can take. For example, just last night I was making copper blades for the furniture maker, which meant I needed to mine copper ore, refine it to copper bars, and then use another machine to turn copper bars into copper blades.
If you thought the writing in Stardew wasn’t good, I don’t think you’ll find anything that much better in Portia. It’s okay, but not great.
I picked it up on sale, and I definitely feel like I’ve gotten my money’s worth so far, and I’m curious to see the changes in the release copy. If you’re interested, I’d definitely check out the demo and see what’s going on in the game.