29/08/2015

Companion Changes

Yesterday's developer livestream (most of which can apparently be found here, not that I watched it myself) finally revealed some more concrete information about what's happening with companions. Here's the summary on the forums, and here are answers to some additional questions that were asked in that thread. I'm actually not that bothered about things like when exactly we'll get which companion back and the exact circumstances of when new companions will join us - I'll be happy to see that once it's in game. However, there were two announcements about mechanical changes that definitely caught my attention.

The first one was that companion gear will cease to matter to anything but their appearance; the companion's power will just scale with your level.

You mean I did all those Yavin 4 dailies for nothing? Nooo...!

You mean I shouldn't have vendored Lord Scourge's original (green) gear because I could have used it to make him look really cool again without gimping him? Nooo...!

You mean my gear spreadsheet will become largely redundant?

Thank god! As Werit points out, companion gear management is a fun little mini-game at first, but the effort involved quickly gets out of hand the moment you start rolling alts - thus also my need for a spreadsheet to keep track of which alt's companions needed what. I do think that being able to get rid of that will be quite a weight off my mind.


Screenshot of my gear spreadsheet ca. mid 2014 - you can tell by the item levels.

In fairness though, it also removes one of the few positives I saw in rolling all the main stats into a single mastery stat - the chance to hand gear down to your companions. Plus, I'll have even fewer uses for surplus commendations now... at least I could use them to gear companions so far. And crafting droid parts will be a thing of the past I guess, since there are no droid player characters and they've never affected apperance...? Still, on the whole I see this as a positive change.

I'm less pleased with the other major announcement, which is that all companions will be able to fill all the roles of the trinity. I've never found it to be a problem that not everyone could do everything (that's why we had so many after all, to be able to choose), and I liked that they had limitations - it felt "right". I prefer my NPCs to follow the same rules as player characters whenever possible, so it made sense that they could only ever fill two different roles, just like player characters. Their chosen roles also tended to reflect their personalities: Can you see Tharan "I'm a pacifist" Thedrax jumping in to tank things? Or timid little Mako? How is HK-51, who loves nothing more than disposing of "organic meatbags", going to heal people? Just the thought of that makes me cringe. We'll see how the actual implementation works out, but I'm not expecting to like it.

11 comments :

  1. I've always found that my melee characters need a healer. With a healer, you can handle adds and multiple groups. Healers also eliminate downtime between fights, which makes questing a different experience. When you're bouncing from mob to mob without a care in the world, SWTOR is a different game.

    So imagine wanting to make a light-side Sith warrior to level exclusively with Yvette. Yvette 3.0 would be a struggle to level with. Yvette 4.0 will be a joy to level with. Sure, I'll see Khem Vhal healing on Korriban and that's weird, but I'll take that deal.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm familiar with the pain of being melee without a healer from my Jedi Knight. However, you do get your ship droid early on, and while it used to be a pain to gear him, it won't be a problem with the new automatic scaling. Whipping out a different companion for the story bits isn't really much effort.

      Delete
  2. I'm over the moon about the companion role changes. It allows me to explore character storylines and watch their reactions to quest outcomes instead of being stuck with the healer or tank companion the entire time. And it's doubly so as an Agent; without a tanking specialization, we're basically locked into our healer once we get him. I can't wait to take along whatever companion I feel like!

    But it did look super weird watching Lana heal.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Well, I levelled my own agent with Vector the entire way, so no, I really don't get this whole being stuck with the healer all the time thing. :P Like I said above, it's also very easy - if you really find it so hard to use a different type of companion while fighting - to do the combat parts with your healer and whip out any companion you want for the story bits. It's relatively rare that a conversation leads directly to combat, and even then it's far from impossible to use another companion for that one fight. I won't deny that having a healer out for trash fights is convenient if you're dps, but in my opinion people really overstate the difference it makes. (Also, six out of the eight advanced classes can level as tank or healer, which makes using different companions even easier.)

      Delete
    2. I guess you're just better at MMOs than me. Healing companions significantly improve my leveling speed as I don't have to stop and regen after every fight. Also, your presence stat is probably considerably higher than mine, meaning your companions are far more effective. I've barely maxxed any of my companions out.

      Delete
    3. It is quite possible that my years of playing the game almost non-stop have warped my view of its difficulty, I won't deny that. :P

      I don't think that presence matters as much as you might think, because I rolled up this whole new legacy on the Progenitor not long ago and while I noticed quite a difference in companion power in the early levels it quickly evened out.

      Play style differences might matter more, since you mentioned that you run almost always as dps - I do a lot of tanking and healing while levelling when I can, and I also tend to outlevel my quests as I go along so that I'm pretty much always more powerful than my opponents by the time I get around to fighting them.

      Delete
  3. I have mixed feelings about the companion changes - on the one hand, for the leveling experience, it's good (especially for classes that got their companions slowly), at least for the moments where the companion does make a difference. (Which may be more so for people who are less good at the game.)

    But logic-wise, though, it's just brain breaking. And seems like it diminishes the whole companions thing somehow. (And makes it even more brain-hurty that you keep companions who don't fit with your character. They now offer absolutely NOTHING.)

    And, honestly, the gear change for companions does as much (or more) for the limited companions issue as the role change does. Because, yeah, you could always pull out the ship droid for heals and without gear, it's not like companions you never use will have crappy gear if you do need them.

    So, yeah, having companion gear be purely cosmetic, I think I like. The all roles thing is just weird.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The story connection occurred to me as well. It seems contradictory that they are emphasising the importance of companion characters in the story, while also taking away from their character and morphing them into "utility bots" that can do anything, regardless of whether it makes sense or not.

      Delete
  4. I'm ecstatic about the Gear no longer being an issue. It will tie up so many loose ends whilst questing, let alone at endgame, and also make for a more "aesthetically pleasing" Companion system, if that makes sense.

    Curious to know whether the Rewards for quests will still include Companion Gear and weapons, although as we don't yet know exactly to what extent questing shall be "streamlined" perhaps this isn't going to be an issue.

    I am not looking forward to the amount of people who will run around with their female Companions in nothing but their underwear - or similarly scant clothing - however...

    As for the role-switching, whilst I do like the versatility that it shall bring I agree that it clashes too much with their pre-defined personalities and stories. There are some exceptions, but they are annoyingly in the vast, VAST, minority.

    I like to think that the entire HK-51 series is privy to an in-built version of KotOR II's HK Pacifist Protocol - which infamously temporarily turned HK-47 into a sickeningly peace-and-life-loving Droid who reminds us that "we must always think of the children" - to allow for the Droids to be rendered non-hostile in emergency situations via remote control and would help to preserve life. We haven't had the opportunity to "upgrade" HK-51 like we did HK-47 so this would have to be in-built if it exists at all.

    Of course, this protocol would likely be absent in the Droid's self-assessment procedures and it would only be made aware of it once it was first activated; HK would indeed act with revulsion at its inclusion forcing him to submit to peaceful ways.

    With the advent of Directive 7 - although HK Droids were curiously absent during this - on top of other Droid Movements such as the G0-T0 Coup if the 51 series does not have such a feature, the 55 series definitely should.

    I will be trying each "archetype" out in their various roles because I'm curious to see whether the "Ranged Tech" Companions will borrow from the Blaster Rifle contingent of the "Melee Tech" Companions for Tanking Abilities or whether like Force Healers they will receive more "unique" Abilities.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Only you could find a lore reason for HK to be a healer!

      I'm willing to see how they make it work, especially with the newer companions, which will have been designed for it from the start. But I don't think SWTOR in general supports jack-of-all-trade characters. I already found Treek's tank/healer combo a bit weird to be honest.

      Delete
    2. It doesn't help matters that we as players can only be one of a maximum two roles with no ability - and nor should there be - to switch Advanced Classes, which makes this jack-of-all-trade business with Companions all the more jarring.

      Ah, well. Streamlining!

      Treek never made much sense to begin with, really; an Ewok capable of handling herself just fine against multiple hardened Mercenaries on worlds such as Corellia and Nar Shaddaa just happens to have brought Healing practices all the way from Endor which are "compatible" with Humans to the same extent as Kolto.

      I could understand her "flawlessly" switching between Tank and DPS as that would not only suit her past but also bring her more "in-line" with previous Tank Companions but just with a snappier bite; Tank and Heal was undoubtedly a leap too far even if it meant that you were essentially guaranteed to see a player with a Teddy Bear for a Companion wherever you went.

      Delete