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The latest Kickstarter update to The Bard's Tale IV includes an early look at the world of Caith via a teaser video, and a write-up on the "Adventuring Tools and Content Keys" system the designers are using to make sure that, while the game keeps its open exploration, locations don't reveal all their secrets at the first visit.
First, I'm going to embed the teaser:
And an excerpt from the write-up:
Tool Keys - The Right Tool For The Job
When exploring dungeons, some secret passages, shortcuts, or hidden rooms require a certain tool to enter. Sometimes it'll be a simple key or lock-pick kit. Other times it will be something rarer or more unusual. An inaccessible ledge becomes scalable only if you equip a grappling hook. A ten-foot pole sets off the traps that keep you from getting to the door at the end of a hallway. Igniting some Demon Dust blows a hole in a weakened sewer wall, revealing a new area. Once you learn what tool you need to bypass each obstacle, you'll begin to see other instances of that obstacle scattered throughout the world, and you'll know what to stock up on the next time you visit Garth's Equipment Shop.
David Note: These kinds of keys, what we're calling Adventuring Tools, are how we lock off hidden content. When visiting a vendor, we want you to think about purchasing some of these tools before delving into your next dungeon, on the chance that the reward for using them will be greater than the investment, or that it will make an otherwise difficult fight easier or entirely avoidable.
Song Keys - Music Will Set You Free
As befits a game with Bard in the title, music plays a large part in all aspects of BTIV's gameplay, from combat to puzzle solving to storytelling - and also, of course, exploration. From the Highroad Whistle that allows you to travel from one circle of standing stones to another, to the Smuggler's Lament, which grants you access to secret passages known only to members of the criminal underground, songs will get you into and out of all kinds of places. Some will reveal secret caches.
Some will open portals to new worlds. Some let faction leaders know you're a friend, so they'll show you their secret stores. Some are musical spells that cause waters to recede or broken bridges to reassemble, allowing you to cross into new areas.
The trick is finding and learning these songs. Some will be taught to you by your companions. Some you'll learn from quest givers, or find written out in ancient books. Some you will have to fight through the deepest dungeons to acquire. They will all be worth it. The more songs you learn, the more the world will open up to you.
David Note: So, there's an actual system to this, which we're calling Songs of Exploration. You have a song book (basically an inventory) where songs you've learned are listed, and when confronted with a broken bridge, or a bit of Trow graffiti, or a circle of standing stones, you can open the book and click on the appropriate song. The song then plays (a quick little riff) and the bridge reassembles, a cache opens, or the standing stone quick travel menu appears. Ta-da!