I killed the bear.
I had to gain two levels and get two companions, but the bear died. And it turned out that there was a really interesting story and moral dilemma attached to the bear.
As well, apparently there are two bears on Hard Mode! I'm not trying that any time soon.
The story in Pillars of Eternity strongly reminds me of Robin Hobb's Soldier Son Trilogy. It's obviously not directly related, but seems to hit similar themes. The Soldier Son books were pretty decent. Hopefully Pillars of Eternity is not as "mean" to the main character. Ms. Hobb really put her hero through the wringer.
One interesting mechanic is that the game pushes you to explore dungeons in stealth mode. If you are in stealth, you detect traps, find extra treasure and secrets, and get advanced notice of enemies before they see you. You can put the entire party in stealth and move as a group, so at least you don't need to micromanage a scout. But stealth still slows you down significantly.
It's an interesting design choice. On one hand, it is very atmospheric to sneak through the dungeon, carefully watching for traps or enemies. On the other hand, it is a bit tedious.
I turned on the conversation meta-information option. This tells you if a conversation choice has an associated trait like Honest, Cruel, Passionate, etc. I was having a really hard time matching choices to what the developers thought were the traits. For example, I got a point in Stoic, and I was completely surprised by that.
I'm really not sure about this decision, though. It might be better to just choose the response that I think best fits the situation, and take the traits as they come.
The other part of the issue is that it's sometimes hard to tell when it's an important choice where traits come into play, and when you're just going through all the options in the conversation tree to extract as much information as possible.
Melee Damage Dealers
A while ago, I posted about the Trinity, and how threat was important to keep the melee dps viable. I think Pillars of Eternity is proving me correct. PoE does not have threat, but characters do have "Engagement". Basically if you are in melee combat with someone, you can't really break away to attack a different character. You can attack another character who comes into melee range though.
So I have two sword-and-shield tanks (my paladin and fighter). My standard plan is to have those two engage the enemy and have the other characters fire from range. So far it's working pretty well.
However, I got an NPC who seemed to have short-range spells. He also had a two-handed sword and heavy armor. So I sent him into melee combat with the two tanks. The monsters all turned to him and wrecked him. I ended up switching him back to range and trying to station him just behind the tanks.
I'm not sure I really understand how a melee damage dealer is supposed to work in this game.
All in all, Pillars of Eternity is going strong. I've done most of the first area, and have just made it to the large city. Time for some good old-fashioned city adventuring a la Sigil from Planescape.