As I mentioned previously, the companion system in Star Wars: The Old Republic (SWTOR) is one of its best features.  Some of the functionality of companions should be familiar to people who have played a pet class in WoW or LotRO: the “pet” is a separate toon that follows the player around and attacks the target the player is attacking.  Pets add damage, healing or crowd-control / tanking to combat situations the player gets into and makes fights more survivable.

The primary role of a companion in SWTOR isn’t that much different.  They fight alongside your toon and act as tanking,healing or damage to help you take down baddies.  But they do a lot more than just fight beside you.

While I could wax poetic about the coolness of Bioware’s companions, they have already waxed poetically in pixel form for you.

I won’t go into too much detail about companions here then, I’ll just mention some of the highlights I like.

Selling Junk:

Like most games, SWTOR has junk in it: stuff you pick up by looting corpses which is good only for selling to vendors to make extra coin.  In most games, you’d have to wait to get back to town to sell off this stuff and free up bag space.   Not in SWTOR.  Left-click the companion so they appear as the selected target, right-click on their portrait and choose “sell grey items.”  In the wave of a hand, they will vanish along with all the grayed-out junk clogging your bags.  In a minute or so, they’ll return with your money.  And you can do this from anywhere.  Two caveats: 1) it appears that companions vanish in groups so you’d have to wait to un-group before doing this and 2) when your companion is selling stuff, they aren’t helping you fight.

Crafting:

One of the best uses of companions is crafting.  Most of us, I think, are familiar with the typical MMO crafting session.  You, the player, will park your toon in front of an animated something-or-other which is supposed to be a forge or a campfire or a leather-working bench and then, with reagents in your bags, churn out one thing after another to raise the level of your crafting.   Typically, much laundry, TV-watching, Internet browsing or chatting occurs during these gaming interludes because, frankly, they’re not that interesting.  EQ2 had a neat system which turned crafting into a mini-game but it still didn’t interest me much because the payoff wasn’t there.

The crafting system in SWTOR has many similarities with the crafting systems of other MMOS, but several key differences.  Players of other MMOs will recognize the trainers and recipe-based skill-ups in SWTOR crafting.  The big difference is that you don’t craft in SWTOR, your companions do.  The crafting skills are called crew skills in The Old Republic because your crew is doing them.

Clicking “N” will show your available crew members and the crafting skills you can send them on.  Click the skill under the crew mate you want to send and then select a mission for them to run to get that item.

And then run along on your merry way doing whatever it was you wanted.  Crafting is asynchronous to what your toon is doing so while you’re storming the gates of the Fortress of Doom, your crew mate can be creating something for you at the same time.  You can also, in later levels, have more than one companion doing a different mission at the same time.  At level 28, I have three companions.  While Corso Riggs (my tanking companion) and I are off shooting things with lasers, Bowdaar (my Wookie crew mate) can be scavenging for materials and my droid can be making a piece of armor I want.

Each crafting mission, except the item-creation ones, has costs associated with them and the companion on that mission will be unable to help you as they run it so plan accordingly.  Missions can be cancelled though I am not sure if the money or items are gone or if they get returned.  Also, something I found out the other day: you can send them on a mission and queue them up for another by selecting the same companion and a different mission.  I’m not sure how deep they stack, but a companion can have a current mission and then one set up to run right after that.

I have three companions and can send all three on missions at once.  While I’m running around town training or selling, each member of my crew can be doing something else.

Advancing Narrative:

Companions get involved with your character through a story line and each companion’s story is different.  My first companion, for example, was a worker at a warehouse I was doing a smuggling run for in the opening zone of the smuggler class.  My second was the result of some misadventures on Nar Shaddaa.

There will also be points along the way where a companion might take you aside and ask for some help with something of interest to them.  For example, Corso Riggs is looking for surviving family members and one quest involved me helping him find some.

Companions not only have their stories, they advance yours as well; they’re not just some animated critter that shoots mobs for you.

Random observations:

Each companion gets armed and armored independently of your main toon.  Their armor type may also vary.  For example, my smuggler wears medium armor.  My tank, Corso, uses heavy armor with aim and endurance and my dps tank, Bowdaar, wears heavy armor with strength and endurance.  You need to keep track of each companion’s armor needs (as well as weapon needs) and provide for them accordingly.  Since Corso is proving the most versatile and useful companion, I’m keeping him geared up while poor Bowdaar is getting under-geared.

Also, when getting quest rewards, mousing over an item will only display the potential stat upgrades for your main toon.  Any comparisons to determine whether an item is an upgrade for a companion have to happen with your inventory open and the character sheet open to the companion page.  This is a minor annoyance and I found you can close the quest window and do the comparison later – pending rewards will appear at the top-right hand side of your screen in a flashing notice.  Figure out what you want and then click that icon to see your choices again.

Companions are a lot more useful than pets in other games and work like a ship’s crew – adding an interesting twist to the concept of a pet class.  Companions also add characters to advance story lines – a necessity in a game emphasizing story.

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