TOR: The Skirmish

A lot of talk recently about Star Wars: The Old Republic’s companion system, recently expanded upon in the IGN article. Mixed reactions from some, ranging from unsure to the more-or-less positive.

Take this summary from Bio Break (I’ve added the highlighting):

  • You can collect multiple companions, but can only have one out at a time
  • Companions can be droids and from races other than humans
  • Each companion brings something different to the game in terms of skills: tank, heals, hacking, DPS, crowd control.
  • They have special abilities in battle
  • You can equip gear on your companion
  • You get your first companion early on
  • Companions have a relationship with you, which can change (friends, enemies, lovers)
  • You can change that relationship and their attitudes with the Affection system (words, gifts, actions)
  • They give commentary and viewpoints on the world and your actions
  • Companions are optional, not mandatory for play

For anyone familiar with LotRO’s skirmish system, the parallel’s are obvious; the similarities are nearly half of the list above. The major difference, of course, is availability – in LotRO, Skirmish soldiers are only available inside Skirmish instances, whereas in TOR they will be available throughout.

I tend to lean towards the cautiously optimistic, but I do have a few concerns:

  • Complexity – As a Completionist, the idea that there are parts of a story or world that I won’t see makes me cringe. However, from the perspective of storytelling, character growth, and immersion, more depth can be a very good thing; we’ll see how this plays out in TOR. The complexity to which I am referring here is that we’re essentially being given two characters to play; except that it’s more than two – it’s your character plus every combination of Companion possible. Plus Affection. Plus gear. That’s a lot of options to keep tabs on, and depending on how the Companion System plays alongside the other game systems, there is potential for issues with class balance, min/maxxing, and a host of others. Additionally, does the addition of Companions mean that there are even more effective “classes” beyond the 8 (16 or more if you count Advanced Classes) – every class plus their chosen Companion?
  • Grouping – It remains to be seen how this whole system plays out in groups. Will Companions be present during groups? Does having three actual players mean there will be six avatars playing? Will this eliminate the need for grouping? Will the Companion a player has “equipped” have an impact on the rest of the group? On their experience during story conversations? Will players be expected to bring certain Companions when joining groups, even if it isn’t the one they would have chosen (from, say, a story perspective)? All issues that need to be addressed, and have potential for negative impact on fun.
  • Irrevocable Impact – Depending on how the Companion system plays out, I may have to wait months before playing TOR. What if I go down “the wrong” path of a certain Companion with my main character, only to realize this too late? Take, for example, the Epic Quests in LotRO – if TOR has similar, story-centric, non-repeatable quests, and I have “the wrong” Companion with me during a conversation or interaction, what then? Have I made a choice for my character that is irrevocable, and one that will play out in a way that I don’t like? Do I start all over again? It may be better to wait months for others to map out all of the options and impacts each choice has before starting up myself.
  • Necessity – Will I be able to leave my Companions behind? And, if so, will I be handicapped if I choose to do so? My specific concern here is my interest in the Imperial Agent class. I’m anticipating this as one of my preferred classes, and always pictured this as a “solo character”. Not that I would only play solo, or shun groups, but, from a story perspective, as an individual who works alone. Will I be gimping myself if I choose to leave a Companion behind? Or, as I hope, will there be options for “remote” Companions, similar to how Luke and R2/C3PO often worked – across comlinks.

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