27/04/2014

Have YOU Maxed Out Your Companion Affections?

Last night I got the achievement for maxing out the affections of all the available class companions (not counting the ship droid, HK and Treek) on Republic side. You know when I actually completed the last of the class stories on Republic side? One and a half years ago. Ahem.


Now, to be fair, it's not as if I was missing a huge chunk of anything. Basically I had just never bothered to push Akaavi that last little bit of the way to trigger the very last conversation with her, the one that is similar on most companions: something about how they think that you're a-ok and they want to stay with you for as long as possible. But it still made me pause to think for just how long I had managed to completely ignore that part of the game.

On Empire side things have been shaping up in a similar fashion - I completed the last class story there about six months ago but have almost no reputation with my bounty hunter's last companion at all. My Sith inquisitor, the one whose story I completed a whole year ago, also still had two companions hanging around who had almost no affection for her as of last night.

It certainly makes me see the way Bioware keeps deflecting requests for companion story updates as something that not enough players bother to see in a whole new light. As someone who's been subscribed since launch and has played through all the class stories at least once I'm definitely hardcore when it comes to investment in the game - if even I haven't felt much need to go through all the companion stories until now, just how much less likely are casual players bother then?

In a nutshell, I can think of three reasons to max out companion affection:

1. While levelling up, going through all the companion conversations adds up to a nice chunk of XP, especially since they seem to have tweaked it recently so that at least the parts that are pure conversation don't go grey as quickly if you let your companion's progress fall behind for a while.

2. The first time you level a class, you may genuinely be interested in learning your companions' stories.

3. Companions that love you are better at crew skills, so if you're a crafter, you want to maximise your companions' chance to crit by having their affection maxed out.

The first is... nice I suppose, but personally I'm never short on sources of XP anyway. Also, this goes away if/once you hit the level cap before maxing out all your companions' affections. The second is certainly relevant in a story-heavy game like SWTOR, but how many people end up actually liking all of their companions? There's pretty much always at least one "bad apple" whom you don't like, and as a consequence you often don't really care about their story. (Honestly, I didn't want Skadge on my ship to begin with!) When you're levelling an alt of a class that you've played before, this incentive also loses a lot of its power. The third point is pretty much a min-max thing, and with the current state of crafting, I reckon that fewer people than ever are particularly invested in min-maxing their crafting. All in all, there are some solid incentives to work on companion reputation, but none of them are massively strong.

And then there is the question of how to max out any given companion's affection to begin with. I remember that when I first started playing the game, I kind of assumed that it would just happen through affection gains from conversations, more or less automatically, if you had a companion with you that agreed with your general attitude. I quickly learned that if you spend a lot of time grouped up (which I do), this definitely doesn't work. Also, like I said above, you pretty much always end up with at least one companion whom you pretty much can't take anywhere (if you want to get their affection up) as they'll disagree with pretty much everything you say. So while affection gains through conversations work under some circumstances, in most cases it comes down to giving your companions gifts, and lots of them.

This is, once again, a bit of a mixed bag. A lot of companions like the same gifts (can anyone say weapons?), while other types are almost universally shunned. This makes sense from an immersion point of view, but makes the randomness of gift acquisition through crew skill missions very annoying. Yes, there are ways around it... but my point is that it can be a hassle. It's especially bad with some companions who don't really like any sort of gift and thus need up to double the "normal" amount of lesser gifts than you would need on most companions.

It can be even worse if you're like me and have previously decided to be randomly OCD about giving your companions only gifts of the "appropriate" affection level (e.g. level one while their affection is below two thousand and so on). Got lots of rank four gifts of the right type? Well, too bad, because your companion is stuck in rank three territory and hates pretty much every word you say. Yeah, I know, this is just me being crazy, but still. That's only the cherry on top, everything else is already enough to explain why sometimes at least, maxing out companion affection can feel like a lot of work for very little reward.

Now don't take me wrong, this isn't meant to be a complaint. I don't think everything in the game needs to be incentivised in such a manner that everyone feels the urge to do it on every character. It's okay for some things to be there for you to "take it or leave it", without your decision having a major impact on anything else you do. It was just surprising to me personally to realise that companions were one of these things for me, considering that they are a pretty major feature of the game.

6 comments :

  1. These days I just buy 65 of the 200 credit tier one gift of their choice. Turns out 65 is just about enough to get them to 4000. If it's a companion who:

    1.) Agrees with your philosophy

    2.) Matches your play style.

    3.) You get them before level 40.

    Then it's adventure on for the rest. That covers one companion though, you have five. For the other 4, just break out the checkbook and buy the love!

    It's a very mechanical system, which means it's not immersive. In my dreams Bioware gets wise and starts cranking out story based adventures for our little buddies, so we can learn to be friends the "right way".

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    1. just break out the checkbook and buy the love!

      That made me chuckle. :)

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  2. Yep, I pretty much always max the 5 core companions. I buy maybe 20-30 of the basic tier gift, hope for as many convo boosts as I can get, and then just rank-5-gift them the rest of the way. Honestly, there's no big justification beyond 'see their stories' and 'max out a number'. I'd love if you could send them on other sorts of missions that they might be better or worse suited to, give them training ... basically a whole mini game out of it. But I don't see that happening anytime soon.

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    1. I envy all of your dedication to paying your way into your companions' affections...

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  3. So.... Just how many times did your companions end up getting married?

    I think that the intimacy/marriage thing is what is preventing me from maxing out affection on all companions. I realize that female toons don't have as many romantic options as male toons --I do play female toons about half the time-- but once I get a potentially romantic toon maxed out I'm not inclined to do it again on the same character. That means yet another alt, and really, I've only done that on a Smuggler just so I could play with the kids on another server.

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    1. Off the top of my head, I can only think of a single character on whom I married a companion, but that's got more to do with me being commitment-shy than anything else. :P (I did engage in a couple of romances.)

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