Pillars of Eternity: Second Impressions

I should've thought a little harder about a title for this series that would allow for multiple parts. Oh well. We're back again to discuss more of Pillars of Eternity, side-stepping deeper plot and side-quest spoilers for the sake of the game's mechanics. Specifically, how it tries to be as close to an Infinity Engine game as possible for nostalgia's sake while also making a necessary departure from the copyrighted AD&D rules that governed same. The pleasures of discovering this game have thus been twofold: getting to pontificate about a style of CRPG that meant a lot to me as a younger man, and exploring the ins and outs of an entirely new RPG system. Deep mechanics and a focus on player versatility are why I'm so attached to the RPG genre, after all.


Won't be too much more this time, though I did pick up a fifth party member:

  • Aravella the Ranger has been soldiering on. She's kept to the back and now has a nifty modal ability (which is just what the game calls active skills you can turn on or off) in which she'll fire arrows at a slower rate but with much higher accuracy. I'll be going into why accuracy is so important a little later, but suffice it to say once I figured out how it works I saw the merits to any buff that can raise your to-hit capability.
  • Erstma the Barbarian's learned a few modal abilities too. Most of them tend to involve sacrificing defense for increased attack, naturally enough for a barbarian, so I've been careful to ensure that Aravella's wolf always leads the charge so that enemies will focus on it instead of Erstma. I'm thinking of getting her something that drains Endurance to keep her in the fight longer, though I could just as easily find a Cleric type for the group for the same purpose. She has HP for days, so it's no big deal if she takes a few knocks. If anything, people are getting fatigued (which is a permanent condition that lowers accuracy and Endurance until the party rests, which is essentially the game saying "yo, you better rest now") long before anyone gets too far into the red health-wise.
  • Ori the Rogue's becoming one of my best tools for combat, specifically initiating combat. Her sneak attack seems to proc often enough whenever the enemy's occupied by someone else, but it's a guaranteed sneak attack (if not necessary a guaranteed hit) if she's in scouting mode (i.e. stealth and search mode) before launching an attack. She can then run from the now irate enemies into the ambush I've set up a little further away. Of course, there are times when she can't quite escape quickly enough, so maybe I've gotta rethink this surprise attack plan. (I believe she can do even more damage if she gets to within a couple of meters, a backstab in other words, but then she really will have no way to run back to the others in time. I'd better make sure the target dies in that one hit if Ori's going to stay standing.)
  • Adsho the Wizard's pretty much what I expected from a mage. Her four spell slots per level don't actually refer to how often she can cast magic: rather, she has a certain number of "charges" per level. That means if she has three charges for level one spells, she can cast any three of those four spells in any amount, even the same one three times. It's actually the spell system introduced in the original Final Fantasy, oddly enough, which Square also conceived as a way to distance Final Fantasy from the D&D systems of the games that inspired it, like Wizardry. Additional grimoires not only give you more loadouts to play with, but they also tend to come with spells written in them that the Wizard can learn. It costs money, and gets pricey if the spell's a higher level, but it's an elegant way to handle spell acquisition. I can just haul around these books with half a dozen new spells in it and learn them whenever I have the spare cash, and the books remain useful thereafter.
  • My new character is an Aumaua Chanter named Kana Rua I found loitering outside the dilapidated keep of Caed Nua (and, oh boy, a lot more on that place later). He's my first pre-gen PC as a result, and for an enormous guy with jagged teeth (the Aumaua are sort of like large sharkpeople with Hawaiian names, which I'm totally on board with) he's something of a bookish nerd. He wants a book or a tablet of some kind from the basement of the Caed Nua dungeon, and given that I'm heading that way I'm happy to have him around for the time being. Someone asked last time how involved the pre-gen PCs get with the story, and Kana Rua often seems happy to interject whenever I'm talking to someone. (But, like, not in as rude a way as I'm making it sound. Regular BioWare type party interaction stuff.) There's a little pop-up on the character's portrait whenever they want to talk to you, usually when you learn something that relates to a quest they want you to do but mostly after any big story moment, so you can get their impressions and thoughts on what just transpired. I'm hoping to find another PC like Kana to take up the sixth slot in my party, and it's going to have to be another tank-class. I have four range-attackers now! That's not a good balance.
  • Chanters, it turns out, are like Bards but slightly different. While Bards are known for being versatile fighter/rogue/mage hybrids in D&D, which are they are here as well, they're usually limited to either singing in combat, which buffs everyone in earshot, or participating in a more active role with swords and spells. Chanters can do both simultaneously, which is convenient, but the way their chants work means they need a little time to warm up. As a Chanter performs, parties receive temporary buffs for single lines of lyrics that come and go as the song progesses, but the Chanter earns an extra "Phrase" each time one of these lines is complete. Once they reach a certain number of Phrases, they can use the rhythm they've got going to cash those Phrases in for a stronger, spell-like Invocation. Some of these Invocations seem to be pretty useful, ranging from stronger buffs to creature summons and evocation magic, and they're all unique to the Chanter. Funnily enough, the thing that immediately came to mind once going through Kana Rua's "spell list" is that Chanters sound like what would happen if you turned the "Darmok and Jalad at Tanagra" guy in Star Trek: The Next Generation into an RPG class. Each Phrase and Invocation has a name like "Blessed Was Wengridh, Quickest of His Tribe" or "At the Sight of their Comrades, their Hearts Grew Bold", each of which has their own unique effect. These guys are definitely fun, and I recommend leaving a slot open for Kana Rua once you reach Caed Nua (it's a story quest location and the thing between you and the rest of the world map, so you literally can't miss it).

General Mechanics

All right, I didn't cover much of the general stuff last time because I was too busy gushing over my party of nondescript hirelings, so I'll get a little deeper into some of the stuff I mentioned last time now that I understand it better, as well as a few new rules I've started to get used to.

  • I'll start with the world, first of all, since I didn't really talk about much of Obsidian's worldbuilding here. One of the hardest challenges Pillars of Eternity had to overcome, I imagine, was creating a new fantasy world from scratch; something that takes most fantasy and sci-fi authors many years to do. (I should say that most authors only create the geography necessary for the story they want to tell in order to avoid getting too bogged down in unnecessary and irrelevant lore, but even so it took decades for places like Middle-earth, the Discworld and Westeros and its neighboring lands to properly coalesce.) Eora, the world of Pillars of Eternity, and specifically the Dyrwood area that the game takes place in, appears to be largely based on Welsh/Irish Gaelic/Celtic mythology. Lots of standing stones, nature gods, indigenous hut-dwelling peoples (i.e. the modern day Welsh (sorry for that)) and a larger plot concerning blights and the unbalancing of the natural order of things. I've obviously not pried too deep here, nor do I want to for this feature, but it feels both novel and familiar, sort of like Mass Effect's universe. I guess what I'm probably trying to say is that they invented just enough new stuff about their world to not come off as too derivative, so hats off to 'em.
  • I mentioned accuracy earlier, so here goes: D&D judges the accuracy of one's attacks with a D20 roll (as in, a die that has twenty sides. For some reason I remember those being called icosahedrons. Man, the trivia you pick up, huh?). If the D20 roll is high enough to overcome the opponent's armor class, after applying all of the attacker's bonuses they are due, then the attack counts as a hit and the player rolls for damage, a figure that is again based on their weapons and stat bonuses. PoE is a little different: if a character rolls for an attack the resulting number can be anywhere from 0 to over 100. If you roll under 15, you miss. If you roll 16-50 you "graze" the opponent, doing minimal damage but applying any bonuses you have to your attack, like additional fire damage or a knockback effect. Grazes tend to be very small amounts of damage though, usually less than half of what would've normally been incurred. Rolling a 51-100 results in a hit, doing full damage on top of any special effects. Anything over 100 is a critical attack, doing even more damage. Accuracy is reduced by shields and, I believe, heavier armor types. Armor also serves to slow recovery time down for attacks and abilities the heavier it is, but also boosts damage reduction in turn. Fairly straightforward, but I saw myself doing lots of Graze attacks before I figured out what was going on. Turns out if you want powerful "DPS" type attackers, you have to make them relatively unarmored. It's a tough trade-off to make, so it seems prudent to go back to that MMO school of thought of considering tanks and DPS attackers separately when putting together a party. (At least it makes the game a little more accessible to those who grew up with World of Warcraft instead of Baldur's Gate.)
  • Damage Reduction. There's multiple types, and in this sense the game is folding elemental and magic resistance into armor class. Any piece of armor has a DR value attached to it, reducing damage by that amount after every attack. Many magic items will give you bonus DR to various specific damage types: for instance, the first blacksmith merchant in the game has a belt that boosts both slash and pierce damage reduction, which are two of the three physical types of damage along with crushing. Again, it's a pretty elegant system and far more straightforward than good ol' THAC0: The more armor you wear, the higher your DR, and it's very easy to comprehend that number as "the number of damage points you ignore after every hit". It just feels a little unusual to see DR used this way, because any ability or item that gives you damage reduction in regular D&D tends to be a rare and coveted thing.
  • Crafting! Like learning spells, any character can improve their weapon anywhere by spending a bit of money and some resources. The stronger the upgrade, the more expensive the process and the more rare the ingredients. Unlike what I erroneously stated last time, gems are NOT vendor trash and are actually one third of the components needed for upgrading: every upgrade demands one type of gem, one type of plant (these grow everywhere, so just keep Tab pressed if you've moving around outdoors to spot them easier) and one type of monster spoil. @karkarov was kind enough to inform me that it's never a smart idea to sell anything that appears in the "ingredients" tab of the inventory, and the player should opt instead to sell equipment they don't intend to use as well as notes and other books they find in order to raise any needed funds. I'm usually pretty smart about not selling ingredients, but I guess I was thrown off by how similar these gemstones are to the gemstones of the Infinity Engine games: those things really are useless, unless it's a diamond or something else super rare. I don't know if crafting on the whole is something I'll visit too often: I'm finding a lot of weapons with the "Fine" modifier (which raises accuracy and damage) just lying around in dungeons, so maybe I won't need to craft magical stuff too often. I'll be holding onto all these ingredients regardless though, 'cause you never know...
  • I'll just copy/paste this one from the comments of the last update): Something I forgot to note this time but really impressed me about the game after reading a tooltip about it is that on higher difficulties (except for the hardest, "Path of the Damned"), the enemies don't get any stronger but the placement of them changes. So it's sort of like Doom's philosophy behind its difficulty levels: a room becomes harder on a higher difficulty because it has more imps and maybe an undead sergeant in it, but they don't hit any harder or act any differently than they already did. Not only does that mean less worrying about invisible dice rolls you already can't trust, but if you were to replay the game on a higher setting it'd feel completely different. At least as far as fighting through its encounters goes, anyway. (I'm on Normal difficulty for the record, since I felt bad for easy-streeting MGS 3 last time. Higher difficulties in RPGs usually means playing more tactically and resetting a lot to be adequately prepared, which'll just add another ten hours onto what will no doubt be an already long playthrough.)
  • For the final part of this update, I'm going to enthuse about this stronghold feature. The aforementioned Caed Nua becomes the player's stronghold once the story mission there is complete. Each upgrade takes a considerable amount of funds and a number of days to complete, but will eventually provide all the amenities of a town like the Gilded Vale, as well as a whole bunch of resources to draw from and more quests and adventures to take part in. I absolutely adore bases of operations like these in games, as evinced by this list I wrote a while back about games that do this sort of "upgradeable homestead" feature. I guess I'm more than a bit of a homebody, so I always like to have roots in a big sprawling RPG like this, even if it's just a moldy old keep that needed a few less undead monstrosities roaming around it before it could get any cozier. Y'know, your standard fixer-upper. I'm looking forward to spending all my cash renovating this place, dropping by occasionally to see how my recruited characters are doing and finding out what else there is to be done.

Speaking of which, that's my cue to leave you all for a while to go do more adventuring, with my solemn promise to return someday and keep you all updated. There's not a whole lot of the game's base mechanics that I've yet to cover here, so maybe I'll work on some "advanced tips" just as soon as I'm qualified enough to do so. Catch you later.


Pillars of Eternity: First Impressions

I've been profoundly fortunate to be afforded an early (release time is early for me, anyway) peek at Obsidian Entertainment's recent turn-based RPG throwback Pillars of Eternity. I want to do a lot of coverage of this game, but not in any sort of spoiler-filled exhaustive way. Instead, I'll be doing something akin to those Lightning Returns observations I wrote closer to the start of this year, only I'll be eschewing the story rundown and will instead focus almost entirely on mechanics, features and my own party of characters, going over experiences in lesser, non-story missions and talking about any interesting discoveries about the game as I go. I'll be skipping by most of the plot stuff except for when it pertains to some unique in-game mechanic, and focusing more on how Obsidian has attempted to recreate a late 90s Infinity Engine game for the modern market. It's a curious coincidence that I jump into this game so soon after Might and Magic X, itself a very deliberate and loving recreation of a specific older format of CRPG.

This will just be a loose list of observations as of right now. As I'm not talking about the plot, there'll be no sort of continuity to be concerned about from blog to blog. I'll also state that I'm barely a few hours into the game so far, and so I've still got a lot yet to discover. If folks in the comments want to keep discussions away from later game stuff or quests, I'd appreciate it. Absolutely talk about the parties you've created or other early game mechanics you've encountered, though. I haven't messed around with classes unique to this game like the Chanter or Cipher, for example, so feel free to tell me what those guys are like.


I'll start with my party composition, since that's probably going to be the most interesting part for anyone already deep into this game. The game takes its first (of many) leafs from the IE games with an option to either create party PCs with no discernible personalities or relevance to the plot, or choose to pick up pre-generated PCs standing around in the world who are far more likely to interject in conversations and have their own backstories and related quests to follow. I remember Baldur's Gate being mostly of the "hire guys you find in the world" bent, but I also recall that there was a way to create characters and import them into your game if desired. Icewind Dale, conversely, was all about creating an entire six-person party from scratch. Pillars seems happy to be a bridge between the two, dropping the "create another PC" mode in-game as a "recruit hireling" function you can find in taverns alongside renting rooms and buying food items with temporary buffs.

The main character you create is the only one to have any relevance to the plot, tied up as they are in the game's familiar "chosen one" plot. I'll get into the specifics of their unique abilities a little later, but suffice it to say there's a lot of mileage in the eldritch powers you suddenly find yourselves with.

  • My protagonist, Aravella, is an Elven Ranger. Pretty basic stuff, and it was the same class I rolled with in Baldur's Gate 2 largely due to the fact that the protagonist's death marked the immediate end of the game. Therefore, I figured it was better to have a ranged class, and one that--unlike a mage--still has enough HP to be on the survivable side. To be frank, I never do well with magic-users in general despite them being objectively the most interesting class to play as due to their resourcefulness. I'm one of those players who never uses any consumables and just hangs onto it all in case they become necessary later, and not casting any spells tends to become an extension of that. (There's an aspect about spellcasting in this game that greatly helps in this regard. I only discovered it a few hours into the game, and it's something else I'll talk about a little later.)
  • Rangers start with an animal companion, and I selected a wolf named Troutleap (shout out to the McElroys). The role of the animal companion from a purely combat perspective is as an effective tank-slash-diversionary tactic, as Rangers are fairly weak in melee, so the animal runs ahead and keeps an enemy busy while the Ranger peppers it with arrows. These animal companions don't hit particularly hard, but their damage reduction (DR being a much more prevalent aspect of combat in PoE than normal D&D, in which it is a fairly rare occurrence) is high and they don't ever seem to lose health when defeated. The unfortunate side-effect is that if the animal gets downed, the Ranger suffers a severe stat drop because of their spiritual, familiar-esque connection with their beastly bud.
  • Rangers don't seem to have too much in the way of nature abilities beyond the animal companion, unlike their D&D equivalent. Rather, they're ranged combat experts. Aravella serves an important role as one of my chief damage-dealers, though she needs a bit of distance from the enemy to be effective at it. She has a sword-and-shield combo as her secondary weapon set - each character appears to have two slots for weapon loadouts, but I've noticed that there's space for three or four on the character sheet, presumably unlocked at higher levels for the more martial classes.
  • My second character, once I found enough cash to hire her (created characters cost 250CP per character level, which is a fair sum early on), is the Barbarian Erstma and another front-line fighter that can join my wolf in keeping enemies busy while the Ranger fires crit after crit. I probably should've gone with something a little more tank-like given her role, but I opted for a Barbarian because of their damage output. Again, more a philosophy of "offense is the best defense" that'll no doubt come back to bite me in the ass, probably literally. She has a few abilities that enhances her combat, but being level 1 in that tough post-tutorial dungeon didn't do her any favors. I got pretty familiar with the Endurance system as a result.
  • Endurance, to digress for a moment into core game mechanics stuff, is like a small portion of one's total health that is used in combat. While it's lower than a character's total pool of HP, it replenishes quickly, and fully regenerates after a successful battle. Heavy endurance loss carries over to the character's health, which doesn't regenerate and can only be refilled through rest (or, possibly, some higher level healing items/spells). Resting's not something you can do easily in the field, due to a limitation placed on camping supplies, so it's prudent to get back to civilization regularly to restock and rest at inns. Most healing items I've found recover endurance, making them useful only in mid-combat. It's a curious idea that bridges the gap between D&D's strict HP rules and a less stringent video game RPG like Xenoblade Chronicles that heals you fully after every encounter because it recognizes that the constant micromanagement of health and healing resources just detracts from the fun. The game's difficulty settings are a bevvy of these types of micromanagement decisions that scale from "convenient" to "hardcore", such as allowing the player to access their stash anywhere - the stash is effectively bottomless, from what I can tell, eliminating any problems with encumbrance or having to constantly leave dungeons to find merchants to sell vendor trash and make more room. I can certainly appreciate a boon like that.
  • Third character I made was a Rogue to help me find secrets and traps, a pale elf (sort of Drow-ish, but ivory instead of ebony) which I named Ori. Rogues are actually a type of martial class in this game, because PoE doesn't really do thief skills like D&D. Rather, being stealthy and being good with traps are simply two of several general "skill" categories that any character can excel in, bonuses to which are largely dictated by their backstories/temperament. For instance, a character with an aristocratic background receives a huge bonus to "Lore" during character creation; a skill necessary for casting spells from scrolls, and possibly identifying magic objects (I haven't gotten far enough to find any powerful artifacts just yet). Rogues don't get any extra skill points or anything to that effect either; their class is more engineered for backstabs and dirty fighting. Still, though, I needed a character with a high Mechanics skill (which governs how good you are with traps and locks and also helps you find secrets) and Ori does the job just fine.
  • Another mechanics segue now: the player can, at any time outside of combat, switch to a stealth mode that affects the entire party. They all try to be as stealthy as their Stealth stat allows, though I do the usual IE thing of having my best stealth character go off on their own to scout ahead for me. It's very much like the prior IE games in this regard: the character moves slower, is slightly opaque and will only trigger combat if they get close enough to enemies to get spotted. The game does a visibility meter thing here by slowly filling in a yellow circle beneath the character's feet: once full, the enemies know the character is there and will give chase. Likewise, you get a sense while in towns whether or not someone can see you, which is important if you're planning to raid their house of their valuables. It's been a while since I last played an IE game that wasn't Planescape: Torment (which was far less focused on this sort of thing), but I remember the detection meter being a party thing, so having individual detection meters is far more helpful in determining who has been spotted by whom (or what).
  • The fourth PC (and probably final, since I want to leave room for a few pre-generated PCs) is an ocean-folk human Wizard named Adsho. While I didn't want to make my main character a mage, I'm certainly not opposed to having one in the party, because they tend to be the most powerful characters at higher levels and a lot of fun besides. The thing I mentioned earlier about magic is that once a magic-user character is sufficiently high level it sounds like certain low-level spells become "so many casts per encounter" affairs rather than "so many casts per rest". If I can be assured that I'll always have a few spells to rely on in every fight, even if I've exhausted all my high level spells in previous fights and haven't had a chance to rest and recover them, then makes me far happier about tossing a few of those high level spells around instead of hanging onto them for emergencies. Of course, my level 2 Wizard has yet to reach that point of spell mastery, but she's got a handful of decent level 1 spells that seem oddly familiar. Old favorites like Grease, Shield, Mirror Image, Magic Missile and Burning Hands were all spells I relied on quite a bit in Baldur's Gate 1 and Icewind Dale, and they all have their equivalents in this game. The game severely limits the number of spells per level you can cast per spellbook (called grimoires in PoE), but doesn't seem to limit your number of spellbooks: if you wanted a spell loadout filled entirely with fire spells, maybe in case you're heading through a chilly cave or a crypt full of fire-vulnerable undead, I'm sure you could put together a grimoire for that very purpose.
  • Anyway, most of my characters are hovering around level 2 or 3 right now, so they haven't unlocked too many of their class abilities or have too many other qualities that can distinguish them and their role in combat, so I can't get too deep into how powerful these classes are just yet. I'll keep you updated on how my party's doing in future episodes in this blog series.

General Mechanics

I've covered a few of the game's mechanics while discussing my characters, but here's a handful more and then we'll close this down for today:

  • I was happy to see the return of the Tab button. Implemented in, I think, the add-on pack for the original Baldur's Gate, the Tab key became one of the most vital tools in any Infinity Engine game: they highlight everything in the vicinity that can be used, such as containers (which are often hard to spot as they blend into the background so well), switches, places of interest and other hotspots. Containers/switches appear blue if they've not been accessed, and gray once they have. There's also a purple color filter which indicates that they're secrets that a character with a high Mechanics skill has just spotted. I'm practically resting my elbow on the Tab key whenever I'm playing an IE game, so for me it's an integral part of the experience.
  • While I'm on the subject, they really nailed the Infinity Engine look here. Other similarities include: green circles under friendly characters, red under enemies and other hostiles; that movement cursor that looks like four Trivial Pursuit wedges; "You must gather your party before venturing forth."; trying to leave an area by one of the four cardinal directions you haven't already tried occasionally reveals a new location on the world map; a character's fatigue icon looks like a closed Neverwinter eye; the game bothered to create a couple dozen different gemstone types you might find, even though they all seem to be vendor trash of varying values; options to pause the game whenever you spot a bad guy, whenever a character has low health, whenever a character hits an enemy with an ineffective weapon, whenever a character falls or whenever a trap is detected; and last but definitely not least, combat works almost identically, with real-time combat that appears to be people standing around and swinging every so often that is actually governed by the speed of the character's attack. You can even see the damage rolls and the effects of special attacks if you hover over them in the text feedback window until you get the pop-up. It absolutely feels like an Infinity Engine game that uses a ruleset similar (but not identical) to D&D 2nd Edition and a whole bunch of appreciated (and optional, for purists) modern convenience additions on top, and if you're an old-school Baldur's Gate/Icewind Dale fan with a hankering for more of the same, it seems to be exactly what you'd hope.
  • More on that note: There's a dungeon in the first town that's way too tough for a level 2 Ranger and her dog. Even after hiring the Barbarian and Rogue, some of the encounters with groups of tough shadows and spiders down there can get a little tricky. But knowing IE as I do, I revisited my system of hitting enemies with surprise attacks, kiting them back to doorways and letting my front-line fighters block their path, which had the benefit of funneling the enemies one at a time into my slaughter jamboree, excepting the odd occasion when the ghosts remembered they could teleport and went straight after my ranged guys. I ended up killing a lot of tough enemies this way, since many of the rooms had multiple foes and a handy doorway to stymie them in. Cheap? Nah, it was old times, old crimes. Great to be back.
  • Here's the one point I'll get vaguely spoiler-y, though keep in mind this is still super early on in the game. The player character, due to an incident during the intro, becomes a "Watcher": a person in touch with the world of the dead, and can see spirits and other lost souls when wandering around. Yep, pretty much The Dead Zone (or The Frighteners, depending on what you're into I guess). This has some effect on story missions, allowing you to see how a victim died and learning more about the quest and the NPCs involved as a result, but it also comes into effect with the many otherwise pointless NPCs that are present everywhere. I can only assume by the incongruent names of these characters that they were Kickstarter donors who got the chance to add an NPC to the game. They don't have dialogue, but you can tap into their past lives by communing with their spirits, each of which read like little short stories. It's reminiscent of Kaim's Memories in Lost Odyssey, actually. They're fun enough to read if you enjoy the game's writing (which is sterling, but then this is Obsidian we're talking about), but kind of immersion-breaking all the same. Still, you gotta appease the guys paying the bills. (Talking of which, I hope this observations blog is to the liking of the generous soul who gifted this game to me. There's more to come, I assure you.)
  • This observation doesn't have any bearing on gameplay or really anything vital, but I can't help but notice during the game's background tavern chatter that there's someone with a very West Coast US accent saying "A perfect ten, pretty nice!" every few minutes. It feels almost as if the sound engineers recorded about three minutes of Obsidian Entertainment's cafeteria at lunch time and looped it, and the pragmatism of that foley work just makes me smile. In fairness, the chatter's one of several sound channels active whenever you're in a tavern, and usually obscured by the tavern's jaunty bard music and various other ambient sound effects layered on top. For some reason, though, it all cuts out except for the chatter whenever you're in the tavern's PC character creator, which I've evidently spent some time in if the above text is any indication. It's largely indistinct murmurs, so it's weird when you pick out certain phrases like that. I swear I heard someone talk about "all the best bits" too. That chatter would be a fun question to ask the developers about in an interview, especially if you wanted to look like a crazy OCD person who was focusing on the wrong thing.

Anyway, I'll update a little later, possibly once I have a few more levels under my belt and what might be an upgradeable stronghold to my name. I loved the De'Arnise stronghold in BG2, so I'm hoping it's more of that. Catch you all then.