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PoE is repeatedly appearing to lock up at exactly the same moment in the game, preventing a critical plot action from completing. However, after some troubleshooting, I've found a solution. I'm posting it here in case anyone else might be affected. [spoilers follow.] After entering the Ducal Palace for the Crucible Knights, and following my character's dialog exchanges with the Duc, PoE enters a sort of cutscene mode. The animancer is possessed; the Duc is killed; the Dozens leader kills the hapless animancer, the speaker for the Crucible Knights runs over to the dead animancer and shouts (in an on-screen text blurb) "Stop this at once!" and is hit -- and at that moment, every time, the game seems to lock up completely. "Game paused" is displayed at the bottom of the screen, but nothing I do in the game can un-pause it. My version of PoE is the physical DVD-ROM version, patched to 1.06. ---------------- As part of typing up this note, I've been Alt-Tabbing out of the game, typing here for a bit, and then going back to the game. I've discovered that doing so will let the "cutscene" progress a little further, with various moments of NPC carnage, before freezing again. As I do this, I notice that my CPU (a dual-core E8500 @ 3.15GHz from 2008) is running at 90-98% utilization. After doing this several times, the cutscene finally progressed to my interaction with Thaos. After that, the game ran normally. So, to anyone seeing what appears to be the game freezing toward the end of the animancy hearings: try Alt-Tabbing out and back several times.