Casual Thursday Episode 10: Tagging along
This week in Casual Thursday, Banath discusses companion characters. He draws comparision with different games again. But this time, most notably, Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood. Wait, what? Yeah, if you want to find thát out, well yeah… you need to read it, so…
The Old Republic will have companions. This is perhaps the most obvious statement aside from saying it has story. Companions have always been a very important part in any Bioware game, so it should not be a surprise that Bioware is putting them into this game as well.
But it is somewhat new for an MMO. Why somewhat? Well, Hunters in World of Warcraft do have companions, namely their pets. But not in the way Star Wars the Old Republic will do it.
Companions will have more than just a gameplay function. Like in the Knights of the Old Republic series, they provide you with not just a unique kind of distraction and help with crafting (which I’ll cover later on), but also help with your questing and act as a conscience. This is will return in a similar way in Star Wars the Old Republic from what happened previously. I can clearly remember the times when Carth jumped in with a comment like: “It’s good what you did for that person.” or “What the hell is wrong with you? Why do you give her hell?” These actions had a direct influence on my experience. I was never able to play evil, so the few times Carth said those words, it made me sort of cringe (also the reason why I will play a light-side Jedi).
But in The Sith Lords, this sort of companion interaction was taken a step further and added to it. Here your conscience was made by Kreia, a woman that had a dubious agenda and mysterious motives. She often criticized you for good or kind actions, but equally criticized you for sadistic or evil actions. This caused you to think about your actions on multiple levels, not just on a sliding scale of good vs. evil. Her grey approach resembles Jolee Bindo’s somewhat, but in a much harsher light. I want this kind of reflection again, that kind of complexity and weight given to your character’s actions.
This interaction is not one-sided. You also have an effect on your companions, not just them on you. This helps with something very important. Sorry Josh, but you need to take a drink again… This helps immersion. Your actions have direct consequences on the parts of the game you interact with the most constantly – your compansions. If your companions made some offhand remarks and then behaved as though they forgot about it, it would ruin the entire feeling of having a companion running along with you. You might as well remove companions from the game and save yourself the headache.
Companions also add to the ambience of the game’s environment. In the Dragon Age and Mass Effect-series, your companions would talk to each other or comment on the world around them. That “background noise” develops their characters and fleshes out your environment without you having to directly interact with something.
Assassins Creed: The Old Republic
In Assassins Creed: Brotherhood, you don’t actually have a companion tagging along with you. But the way you gather your companions could draw elements from KOTOR and Brotherhood: You help the person that is in trouble out, either with a quest (KOTOR) or with help them to survive an attack by the Pope’s henchmen (Brotherhood). In Brotherhood, however, you don’t have any companions with you, but you can sent them on missions and let them gather experience by themselves. They can gather materials or cash and the missions you sent them on are based on diplomatic, security and assassination categories. Bioware appears to be doing something very similar with SWTOR, while including crafting.
What helped in AC Brotherhood was that you were the leader of your group of assassins. If you wanted something to be done, you assigned them. You could even let your assassins work together on missions. It would be a lot of fun if you could let your companions in SWTOR do the same thing. In that way, your companions don’t remain individuals, but an actual group that can help each other out and fill in the gap that would fall if you would have assigned them alone.
So for example, Bowdaar will function as either a tank or a dps (this is an assumption). If you could send a healer companion with him, you might increase his chances of success. In Ubisoft’s game, you could send multiple assassins on one mission to make sure the quest would be finished without any injuries. And just like in Brotherhood, in SWTOR you will also have spare companions. As far as we know up till now, you can gather 5 companions, so including you, that makes 6. When you sent the two other groups out on missions, they can keep up with leveling like you are keeping your fellow companion at around the same level as you are. Or you could let them craft…
Besides the deadly skills they can wield in game, we know that you can let companions do the crafting. I am very excited about companion crafting. Like I discussed last time in Casual Thursday, crafting is boring to me. Boredom can kill a game. And I don’t want that to happen with Star Wars: The Old Republic. That is the advantageous part of letting your companions craft. Having said that, it does not mean that I don’t want to craft. I want to make the first of an item. Then my companions would build copies from my prototype. They are, like Samm likes to call them, my slave labor. After the first created, I can sell or equip the duplicates.
Building out Companions
In most RPG’s that feature companions, you control their stat leveling, their gear, etcetera. However, in recent years, Bioware has stepped away from going all out with this. In Mass Effect it was still applicable, just like in Dragon Age Origins, but was left out in their sequels. I don’t want companions to be as hands-off as Mass Effect 2, but I don’t want it to be the nitpicky headache that it was in Mass Effect 1. There were a lot of little details that were unsatisfactory to me, but it did let you build out your companions the way you wanted. This level of control is important in MMO’s, but only for your character. Now the companions can get geared up the best way possible. This would mean that you can also keep gear that isn’t useful for you as a player, since you are not such a character, it can be equipped for the companions.
What I do not want is to only be able to outfit the companion who is tagging along with me at the moment. I would prefer to be able to outfit any of them at any time, except of course during combat. Outfitting a companion while you are away from your spacecraft would imply magical teleportation abilities, though, which could decrease the “realism.”
Companions are a great asset to the MMO universe. They help in gameplay, they can take away boredom and lets you even go even more in-depth with gear than you would have expected in the first place. I want them and I think they are a viable addition to the standard that was set in MMO’s.
May the Force be with you.
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