Pillars of Eternity levels them up automatically to match level of your main character and if you don’t get to them like your life depends on it, once you do you’ll learn Obsidian determined who gets what by playing drinking game ‘Let’s screw them up’. And the later you show up, the more screwed you are. Max level you can hit before completing game is level 12 so every one counts.
Following my descriptions it takes me about 2-2,5 hours on hard from leaving Cilant Lis to recruit everyone.
Seven companions will join you with a little bit less XP than your Main Character will have at the moment. Four of them (wizard, fighter, priest and chanter) you can recruit in the first 20 minutes after leaving Cilan Lis without need to fight any further even once. In order to do so, do not level up your character to level 2 once you leave undergrounds of Cilan Lis until you recruit Kana. What Obsidian did with patch 1.0.3.0530 is you get higher XP bonus for not having full party with higher level. This gives ~200XP more/char than before and ~160 more than we’d like to recruit chanter while still level 2.
The remaining three (ranger, druid and cipher) can join you with level as low as 3, but you’re gonna have to cut your way through part of Caed Nua. Your last companion (paladin) will be level 4 with fixed amount of 6000XP despite your main character still being level 3 using this guide. Getting from level 3 to 4 requires enough XP to v1.0.3.0530 not interfere with anything as it was before.
You may have noticed no mention of barbarian, monk or rogue companions… because there are none. Maybe it’s something you want to know upfront if you wish to cover as many bases as possible for role-playing. RP aside, you can work around classes not represented by any companion not only by making your main character one, but creating up to eight characters at the inn or your stronghold as long as you have enough gold. Every character created this way can start with level as high as one below your main at the moment but there’s a price to it – each level costs 250 copper pieces, so making level 1 costs you just that, but making level 5 will require 1250cp. Creating your own party also solves problem of rather questionable attributes distribution among companions for some roles you might wanna utilize their classes.
Downside is people spoiled by Baldur’s Gate 2 might find playing with mute ‘henchmen’ tad boring *COUGH*I’m looking at you, Wasteland 2*COUGH* since it was pitched to us as more of Baldur’s Gate rather than Icewind Dale… Decisions, decisions.
As soon as you leave undergrounds of Cilant Lis (second location in the game), your character will be awarded a new level once you trigger in-engine cut-scene. Since 1.0.3.0530 you don’t want to level up yet. If you do, you won’t be able to recruit Kana while still level 2. Right now collect anything you want outside while disturbed by some visions then exit the area. This will set you up on the road to Valewood.
Once you arrive there follow path south-west. Don’t bother looting corpse – you can do this once you come back after recruiting all party members. When you approach small pass you encounter a spirit running away from you, then once you pass it another one – try to follow that one as he goes exactly where we want to. If you’re not fast enough just stick to the north of path (following it down you can meet bandit) until you see small stream. Cross it then hug the trees down (doing so you avoid young wolf) and proceed south-west, you should see destroyed cart near a bridge. Get through it.
Welcome to the happy little village of Gilded Vale. Get to it’s center marked by a huge tree (not Icewind Dale-huge) where you’re interrupted by another in-engine cut-scene. Speak with representative of lord of these lands. Once you’re done follow south-west to the inn. Outside you’ll meet your first companion.
You see Aloth, elf male wizard for the first time while he’s having a very lively conversation with some villagers. However you decide to conclude it, he thanks for your valuable intellectual input and offers to travel together.
Once you picked up Aloth, get inside inn and ask innkeeper for a room to rest and pick the free one. You’ll have a dream involving tree in the center of village, go get there. If you didn’t notice Edér earlier, he’s standing next to the tree but you can’t recruit him yet. Look for purple glow on the left tree branch and interact with whatever’s involved. When you’re done, leave. Edér will make a comment when you get close, now you should talk with him. Following conversation ask about his relation with village people. This will lead to another question why he’s still around. Finally you can offer him to join you.
Get back outside inn again and then a little further south-west to leave area by nearby exit, it’s the closest you can use to get to Magran’s Fork.
From crossroads where you recruited Durance travel a little bit north then go right, you should see small building near ruined tower. Get behind the tower then hug right end of the map to avoid enemy inside while going down until you meet road leading to Black Meadow.
When you get off the bridge you will find yourself in front of stronghold and next to it’s gate stands Kana. Learn what he’s doing out here and offer your companionship. Convincing him to join makes him last party member you can do so without needing to draw weapon even once since we left ruins of Cilant Lis. To get the others you’re gonna have to cut your way through part of Caed Nua.
It’s the right time to finally level up your main character to level 2 – in a couple of minutes you’ll get enough experience for level 3. Once moving past the gate, I’d stick to southern walls and venture east – I marked all enemies. In green I marked part where I’d move party one by one sneaking closest to the walls – as pack with whatever formation they tend to get attention of nearby shadows. You got to the eastern barbacan, exit from area… currently blocked by some debris you won’t be able to move. In order to do so you need to meet Maerwald inside. First you will need to kill at least one wisp here (you can avoid fire blights by sticking to east then north until spirit you can talk to near doors to main hall where sooner or later you have to go).
I’d suggest to kill all enemies outside – the amount of experience gained is not significant to hurt getting companions still while level 3, but it helps to complete bestiary sooner, if you won’t do it before completing quest inside they disappear and at least blights carry some loot I believe to be crafting ingredients (then again, maybe by the time they’re useful you’re drowned in them, no idea – your call). If you want to avoid fighting, you can skip next paragraphs until next screenshot.
Wisps tend to turn one of your chars hostile for a brief moment (idle party members may attack him, but the ‘hostile’ one seem to just stand doing nothing – either a bug or char was supposed to be stunned instead) once per encounter, fire blights explode once killed damaging people nearby, shadows from time to time teleport near the casters you don’t want them in the radius of two miles from, and phantoms are just mean stunning people. I don’t know what’s the gimmick of earth blights yet because they move so slow they were not able to attack any of my guys before dying.
For me the most effective way to kill them was leaving main party way way behind then using someone with bow (longest range) to get closer to enemies, kite them then run back to the group. Enemies give up after a while and return to their usual location so bringing one or two instead of eight to the party isn’t hard.
But first, you may want to enter main hall anyway to get yourself a nice sword. It’s in one of urns close to entrance – sneak up then leave. Once you clear the area outside, you can enter Brighthollow inn for extra 50 XP, but mainly just to see destroyed location before bringing it back to it’s glory (might take a while to get enough funds, but still) with nothing inside which is not important – important is someone worked to make it look nice and we like that person so let’s pay respect to his work. When you pay respects without need to press X, get back to main hall.
There’s a group of six consisting of shadows and phantoms waiting ahead. Best way to deal with them is kiting them to a bottleneck shown on picture above with priest’s Withdraw cast on tank. If you’re lucky (and that means using bow instead of crossbow/pistol/arquebus to kite) only four will come so you can deal with the remaining two later. When done with them you can use stairs to the left to Barracks or right to the Library. Or just move straight ahead to speak with someone occupying the throne then move through doors to the undergrounds which means visiting small prison area first.
Nothing here except additional XP for exploring and paying respects to artists drawing environments.
Few additional shadows and phantoms to kill.
Small prison area
SPIDERS, SPIDERS EVERYWHERE!
Endless Paths of Od Nua, level one
For the ones not role-playing that much: First option gives +2 to defences (the more defences, the less chances something bad happens in the stronghold), second gives +2 to it’s prestige (t helps positive events to occur) and the third gives you information about secret passage on the last 13th level of dungeon leading to some loot. This time I’m not trying to be as vague as possible but I genuinly have no idea what that loot is.
Use the way you got here back to main hall. You just got yourself a stronghold! Repair the eastern barbacan, get outside then move through unblocked exit of area to Woodend Plains in order to recruit Sagani.
This time we’re following road all the way up west. Who’d knew?
Welcome in Defiance Bay. First, however you need to cross the largest bridge yet (no ankhegs?!) and get through city gates which will mark the end of act I (content-wise it means nothing, all earlier quests and locations are still available). Once inside you’ll find yourself in Copperlane.
I also marked inn you’re gonna visit in a couple of minutes to complete fetch quest before Pallegina can join you.
Outside Vailian Trading Company (big building in the middle of area) you will finally meet your last companion. As soon as you get close to her, you’ll trigger conversation with her. Say whatever you want after which she leaves. Get inside the building to meet Mestre Verzano.
Your guy awaits you near stairs, talk to him about seeds. Suddenly more people want to talk about seeds. Hear them out or silence them forever (it might be quite challanging at level 3 to do so, at least on hard). Get back to Vailian Trading Company. If you decided the latter, there’s gonna be one additional fight before you do that.
Talk to Mestre Verzano and decide his fate. Pallegina waits outside building, when you’re done just speak to her.
Basically, you’re choosing from:
On hard from Cilant Lis to recruiting pally it takes me about 2-2,5 hours.
That’s it, folks. Now you’re more than ready to steamroll everything in Valewood.