SWTOR Companions’ true nature are still a mystery

There’s been a lot of SWTOR in the news lately.  Pictures of vehicles, talk about classes, and now even more (albeit only a scratch on the surface) info about the companions.  I wrote about Companion Characters last year and how I felt they were a bit nonsensical.  I have not wavered from this stance at all; in fact I have become even more skeptical as details remain unclear.  In an article written over at IGN, comprised of an interview about these companions, we see a few key marketing points being pushed quite hard.

Companions augment the storytelling with their own commentary, plot decisions, and quest lines pertaining just to these companions offer rewards.  Companions offer rewards and additional strategy for players.  They play a role in combat as “DPS” , “Tanks” and even “Crowd control”.  Companions can even become love interests.  Companions get stronger and better the longer you develop them.  These companions can even be given gear to use.

This sounds really neat.  This is going to be a fantastic RPG.  Oh, wait.  It’s not a RPG.  It’s a MMO.

I don’t mind the characters being a dynamic addition to the storytelling, but I start to take issue with them when they cross over into the gameplay as far as it appears they’re going.  Reading this interview, it would seem that a great deal of the game is being devoted to the implementation of these companions as a core system.  This means that they’re going to be mandatory.  In a sense, every class is now a pet class.  I can’t possibly imagine playing without one if they impact my character’s development that much.  If I don’t use one, I won’t get the quests or the rewards.  If I don’t use one, my story won’t be nearly as dynamic or full of intrigue.  And quite possibly worst of all, if I don’t use one then I will be at a disadvantage in combat.  What about PvP? What about group content and the role of these companions?

There’s a lot of “look how cool these companions look and what they can do” but there really is not one bit of how these companions will actually work with MMO mechanics.  These are the tough questions because you can’t BS them without people knowing seeing them for what they really are and not for what we’re being told to see them as.  Cut the crap and speak plainly already.  When is someone finally going to speak up about how these companions are really going to work?  We know how they worked in Baldur’s Gate, Neverwinter Nights, and Dragon Age but this is a MMO and the more questions you leave unanswered, the more I’m beginning to lose faith that this isn’t more than a multiplayer RPG and just a way to charge a subscription for the exact same thing Bioware has been selling for years.

  • At first I was totally put off the fact that it sounded like they were trying to replace real players with AI characters.After thinking about it a little though,it doesn’t sound too bad.

    Think about it, when your leveling, you are alone 95% of the time.Why not make it more interesting with a few companions(lets no forget how well Bioware does the whole companion story line jazz).

    Personally I like the idea, so far.How it affects raiding and Pvp, well we will have to see.

  • “this isn’t more than a multiplayer RPG and just a way to charge a subscription for the exact same thing Bioware has been selling for years”

    I’m afraid of this too.

  • I’ve seen them in use in a limited form in FFXI, where you could have a NPC companion with a quest line you could do and healer/dps/tank builds. They worked, but they weren’t something you’d put into an exp party. Fun for soloing, duoing, and farming. You’d summon them with an earring, and they had a limited amount of time you could use them which could be extended by doing the quests.

    You could even give them items and customize their clothing. My guess would be TOR would make them similar but stronger, AI partners limited to a single role that you could temp summon for help. However they are probably going to be something you don’t want in raids, or really in anything tough.

  • It’s feeling less and less like stepping foot into a exciting war-torn galaxy only to be faced with the same old conventions.

    Was delighted when Arenanet said they had dropped a companion system from Guild Wars 2, definitely the right decision. In Lotro skirmishes, soldiers have the right level of power and ability but it would have been a lot better if Turbine had spent the time making it easier to find groups and play with other people (a la Dungeon Finder).

    This companion system also seems to fails the show-don’t-tell test, why do you need an additional character to be your conscience, consequences should be direct and visceral and the decision put firmly into the player’s hands, hope a companion is not required.

  • I think Bioware is stepping out and attempting to be “different” with this title..

    “Different” can unfortunately can go either way.

    I tend to agree with Keen. I’m not sure some of the single player RPG conventions are going to make the transition smoothly to an MMO experience.

    Guess we can only wait and see. Bioware are a pretty damn professional crew. They’ve made some amazing games in the past. Hopefully they’ll address any design problems as they seem them.

  • Remember the original KOTOR? I played through the entire campaign solo, and got more powerful as an individual charachter as opposed to a team.

    That was quite fun, maybe similar options will be available here.

  • When I’m playing my lone wolf bounty hunter or Darth Maul-styled character, the last thing I want is a droid or some Trandoshan with a rifle following me around.

    I like that they’re available. I will absolutely hate it if they’re mandatory. That’s not a game I’ll pay to play, even if it does have lightsabers.

    Now where I see the real innovation is bringing more single-player RPG elements into MMO’s. It’s something that will be brought into the genre by iterations, I think, with SWTOR being iteration 1.0.

  • I don’t think it’s going to be a terrible feature. And I am nearly 100% against pet classes; I just don’t find them fun. Or more accurately, I don’t find their micromanagement fun. If SW:TOR is able to give me a hireling/companion that matters without all the brouhaha, I’ll be fine with it.

    And I don’t see how integrating more SPRPG elements into MMOs is a bad thing, especially if they don’t detract from the social nature of the game. In my experience, SPRPGs are more polished than most MMOs; their systems more adapted to narrative and immersion than the time-sink playstyle that MMOs tend to adopt.

    Bioware has made some of the best games in recent years. Not being a fanboy or anything, but on the single-player front, about 80% of the games I’ve actually played on consoles have been from Bioware. If they’re taking their expertise in that realm and translating it to MMOs, then we should embrace it. If they can take the quality of the single-player games they make and input a few chat channels, character development options, and the ability to co-op quests and raids with friends? Then that’s fantastic. Not the other way around.

    Blizzard, if we’ll recall, was a single-player company, too, with limited online support (does anyone actually remember the first iterations of Battle.net?). They made their first steps into a new genre with having mainly SPRPG/RTS credentials and created /the/ standard by which we measure other MMOs. Which is why WoW has so many solo-friendly and casual-accessible systems in it. For Bioware to ignore their roots and not make the game they know, then they would be shooting themselves in the foot. We should applaud them for evolving their own style instead of criticizing them for not cloning Star Wars Galaxies.

  • The way I see it these companion characters will be like Pet’s, essentially making each class in SWTOR a pet class. I agree with wat was said earlier though that companions should be completely optional. Who knows how Bioware is going to implement them, but I trust they will come through in the end. Rarely have I ever been let down by a Bioware game. Have they mentioned how many companions a player can have? I’d assume only 1, but haven’t seen anything confirming the number yet.

  • This game still has many question marks. Many ideas have been published from Bioware, but never enough to demonstrate the full action of these ideas. Granted, this is most likely because these ideas are in flux and they don’t want to release details that are very likely to change. There was such a big brouhaha with WAR going from 6 capital cities to 2 capital cities as the scope of the game changed. So I don’t fault Bioware for playing close to the chest.

    At this point we know that companions will be in the game. But I would suspect Bioware is still figuring out all the details. They know how to script personalities. But how will that work in this game. Also how do you handle multiple players having the same Companion.

    So there is a lot to still see.

  • Sword of the New World was the last game I played that gave you a “team” of characters to control. That, in particular, was clunky to play. I’m sure Bioware will do a better job of it. However, I must agree that I might not -want- this “companion character”. Yeah it’s a neat idea, but in an MMO I’m there for MY character, not my companion. It seems like it could potentially take away emphasis from your own character, at least just a little bit.

  • Alright, I am an admitted bioware fanboy, so take what I say with a grain of salt. I would GLADLY pay a monthly subscription just for a freaking single player RPG with constant content updates and a lobby for socializing. Even if that is what this game ends up being, I’ll enjoy the hell out of it.

  • Ostatejay makes a really good point. I’d pay a monthly sub for a MMO version of Dragon Age/Mass Effect any day of the week.

  • I like the idea of having a little helper companion while I’m soloing (like for boss fights etc) but I wouldnt want it to gimp me if I dont want him out. What would be nice is if you didnt have your companion out you would be buffed so the lone-wolf style guy can still solo and not be gimped.

    On that note I would also hope that you are forced to put up your companion in PVP. I mean, would a keep seige in WAR be any fun if it was 25 White Lions vs 25 Squig Herders? Not to mention the lag from all the pets. Or Battlegrounds with all hunters.. everyone afks and sends in the pets.

    If they help the story and solo play fine …If they gimp you to not use them no thanks.

  • For someone who claims to want MMOs to innovate and try new things, you’re being awfully close-minded.

    It basically just sounds like you are crying because more details aren’t yet known.

    My hope, is that these companion characters, share your HP pool, so they can’t die unless you do. Don’t think of them as a pet, because we don’t know how the mechanic is going to work.

    I hope their abilities are activated just like you would activate one of your main character’s abilities, or even have automatic macros (ie…character <25% health, cast heal) or something along that line.

    Also, I hope as you travel through the world, these characters react to what would otherwise be random npc's to you, but are long time good/bad acquaintenances of your companion character, thus opening up potential quests and maybe getting some dynamic encounters.

    Try and look at the opportunities and benefits of companion characters instead of mouthing off how you want details now, and being overly negative.

    I'm willing to give Bioware a chance, based on their proven track record of making great games.

  • I really don’t give a damn about the Story or Companions. I know Bioware is going to nail that stuff. This is the automatic stuff for them. I’m not worried about it. Why are they even promoting this stuff when we all know that it’s something they’re going to do right?

    I want to see them show me how exactly this game is an MMO. This is the design aspect of the game I’m interested in. That is the stuff that I’ve never seen Bioware do. Show me why this is an MMO. Why exactly will this game demand a subscription?

  • My guess is companions are going to be available only for group(not raid) instances, occupying one player slot each, and solo quest instances, while being less powerful than player characters. That way, you wouldn’t choose a companion over a player character for playing instances and all those balancing issues concerning pvp and raids could be avoided.

  • Why not make it more interesting with a few companions(lets no forget how well Bioware does the whole companion story line jazz).

    You mean the companions who love you unconditionally, call you ‘leader’ from day one, start every conversation with ” what can I do four you”, always fall in love with you eventually, fit every sterotype you can think of, always have some judas among them who is very easy to spot?

    Bioware games are polisched. The story is well presented and usually always the same.

  • Is the sky falling? I really think we need more information before you jump to conclusions.

    People always scream for innovation & then when they hear of it panic. Let see what else comes out and then in beta try it before you freak.

  • I am also apprehensive over the possibility of a subscription-based RPG, but we’ll have to see…

    I agree with Kaib, and I must say that I find it odd how you have taken such a negative critical opinion over SWTOR in the last two blogs (companion classes and talent trees) and are all sunshine and rainbows spinning the announcement that WoW is only releasing 5 level of content, which comes off to me asomewhat fanboi imbalanced (still like the factual info when presented though!)

  • Jeez Keen, it seems like you have been going off on game’s these days, what is the perfect MMO for you,because i don’t think anything could satisfy it.

    PS. I don’t mean this in a angry tone, just stating an opinion.

  • I’ve given many examples of the type of MMO that I want. Search around with the blog search feature.

  • Companions will not be mandatory, heck you never have to get one if you don’t want to. Also companions in PvP would not work for many reasons and if anything should work like henchmen in Guild Wars. Since each class gets five unique companions, each doing something like a tank/heal/dps role, but we already knew that a long time ago. Also some companions can “Stop” force users from using the force, since having say ten players in a battleground with an AI each is something that is impossible to balance I would not suspect we will see companions in PvP. They are there for fluff, just like the cinematics, you can skip the them if you want. Like companions it is optional.

  • Yeah, I made this pretty much on how I feel about this “Companion System”:


    Everyone on the that board is getting all excited about the companions most of which don’t really care about the elements of a MMO but more rather their KOTOR part 3.

    I don’t know much other than if it’s a something where playing with companions is HIGHLY encouraged I won’t be playing it at all. Most of the people I know don’t even consider playing it now. So we will see.