You have no Charisma or Personality stat, so there are rarely more than one or two ways a conversation can go. Most conversation trees give you two branches at a time: one “I’m ending this conversation” branch, and one “I’m continuing this conversation” branch. That’s mostly it. Consequently, the hand that guides conversations forward never manages to stay out of sight. You will always know that you are talking with a “Give a Side Quest” or “Advance the Plot” marionette. For a game so plainly about exploration, the inability to meaningfully explore other characters is a major oversight.
This stinginess with dialog options extends to the quests. Just to be clear: the non-dialog-driven quests in Eschalon are nicely non-linear, with multiple ways of achieving the same objective. Entering Port Kuudad, for instance, can be accomplished in a wide variety of different ways, few of them immediately apparent when you first arrive at the outer gates.
But once you start talking to NPCs, all this non-linearity goes out the window. Eschalon reprises one of the problems that plagued the original Baldur’s Gate: encounters that always devolve into fights no matter what you say or do.