This new look at the game also comes with a new update from Nathan Long and David Rogers, discussing the game's exploration mechanics in an extra bit of detail.
Level Keys - One Does Not Simply Walk Into Mordor
Some areas won't be locked away behind an actual physical door, and you won't need a physical key to get into them. They'll just be too much for you to handle at your current level. If you walk into a new area and find that you're getting your ass handed to you by every enemy who gives you the stink-eye, that's a clue to come back later, once you've toughened up and upgraded your gear. Of course you might be a sneaky sort, able to dodge your way through enemy patrols to snag some serious swag, but you do so at your own risk. We accept no liability for any party wipes that may occur if you go around trying to punch above your weight.
David Note: This is one of the classic ways computer games keep you out of an area temporarily. The way level gating in Bard’s Tale IV differs from other RPGs is our willingness to have a pockets of high level enemies living inside low level areas. Consider them a signpost, letting you know that there are high level rewards to come back to once you're strong enough to fight your way past the gatekeepers.
And to elaborate on sneaking and patrols, in BTIV, enemies will often be found guarding various locations, walking patrol routes, or hiding in ambush. These enemies have zones of perception that show where their attention is focused, and these zones can be tip-toed around by an adventuring party with good timing, or stealthed through with the help of a sneaky rogue. If you're spotted, enemies will get the jump on you, putting you at a disadvantage. However, you can get the jump on them by attacking from behind, causing front row enemies to switch to the back row and back row enemies to switch to the front, exposing their weakest group members and putting their melee troops out of range. Ambushing in this way also guarantees your party the first turn in combat.
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.