Exploring the world in Pillars of Eternity 2 Deadfire consists in the bulk of gameplay and is an extensive element of the game, divided into four parts (or modes):
World map: Moving on foot
Discovering new locations on the island (cities, dungeons, dig sites) is possible by exploring the world on foot. In this mode, you can go wherever you want as long as the place is reachable. From the world map, you can switch to local maps and cities (more about that below), as well as to smaller locations, where you can find resources or engage in a paragraph scene.
Here are a few examples of locations:
- Orchards - approach the tree icon to collect some fruits (which you can use to heal your party);
- Battlefields, places of burial and shipwrecks - such locations also can yield some resources, but in these cases, you will need to spend there a few in-game hours. You can obtain there regular items such as consumables, but also more valuable things (cannons, jewelry, etc.).
- Crossed-swords locations - these can be gorges, ravines or forests. There's only one rule - if there's an icon of crossed swords next to the name, there will be some fighting involved. These combat scenes usually begin with a paragraph scene, in which you can make some decisions and, for example, try to take the enemy by surprise, but ultimately, you will switch to controlling the entire team (that means you'll switch to the so-called local map).
Also note that time goes faster when you're traveling the world map.
World map: Ship sailing
The ability to control the ship is a new mechanics in the game and the only way of reaching the islands. There's not much difference between this and the walking mechanics. You will get the ship after finishing the quests on the first island (check out the FAQ - "How to get off the first island?").
You can switch between the two modes at any spot marked with an anchor (icon  above). You can leave your ship there and go ashore. You can also visit your ship at any time - just use icon number .
Just as in the case of walking, when you're sailing, you can not only travel from A to B, but also run into:
- Abandoned supplies - this is an equivalent of the orchards. The places marked with barrels signify locations, where you can obtain useful items for your ship - cannonballs, repair tools or medicines. Just direct your ship there and these items will be added to equipment.
- Shipwrecks - interact with the wrecked ships to trigger a paragraph scene. This allows you to start a random event - you can get new items, but also be ambushed by pirates.
- Other ships - when travelling, you can often meet other ships. Sometimes those will be friendly merchant ships, allowing you to trade; other times you will run into hostile ships - that will open a naval battle. You can surrender, but this means loosing some of the supplies.
- Random events - your ship can sometimes catch fire. This opens a paragraph scene, where you have to take action that will prevent major damages. An experienced crew and a boatswain, who coordinates mates, will increase your chances of success. Some random events can be avoided - if you can see an area on the map that's covered with a big, black plume, try to avoid it. This will save your ship from a dangerous storm.
Use the Knows Locations list to quickly choose the destination. The ship will automatically sail there, but you're still vulnerable to attacks of pirates and other events like that.
The speed of your ship is determined by the depth of the water - the deeper, the faster - as well as by crew and ship upgrades - more info in the chapter on traveling by ship.
Bigger locations are divided into districts (port, trade, royal palace) - choosing such locations takes you to local maps. You can freely travel between the districts, which usually takes a few hours game time. You can also trade - mostly ship stuff.
You can come across random encounters while moving between the districts - this usually happens at night. There are a few possible encounters - we have listed a few examples below:
- Road is blocked, e.g. by workers - this slows your party down and speeds up time by a few hours.
- Encounter with bandits - you are moved to a location map where your party must face enemies.
Citizens in need - you can come across an encounter where, e.g. a little girl has been attacked by monsters. This triggers a scripted interaction - you have to decide if you want to help the girl or you want to let the monsters eat her. The first choice moves you to a location map.
This is the most engaging game mode. Here you control the entire team, complete quests and fight. Each local map has at least one entrance to another place - dungeons, caves or just buildings - and back to the world map (these are marked with a compass icon and are usually located at the edges of the location).
On local maps you can:
- Talk with characters - other modes also feature conversations, but most of them happen here. You can basically speak to anyone - not all characters have full dialogues, of course.
- Taking and completing missions - related to the point above. Many conversations will end with giving you quests, which are also completed on local maps.
- Searching for items - these maps contain a great number of interesting items. They're scattered all over the place - chests, barrels and other containers. If at least one of the characters from your team has high perception, you'll spot many treasures - discovered elements are highlighted with blue. Things work similarly with traps, but the color is red.
- Pupils - animals can be found in different places. You can use "Tab" to reinforce your efforts. They're not readily visible, and the key shows their names. They provide different bonuses to stats. More info in the FAQ section "How to obtain your own pet?".
- Combat - this is one of the main activities on these maps. You can give your team different orders, use abilities and create complex strategies - find out more in the chapter dedicated to combat.