The Companion Problem



BioWare's Star Wars: The Old Republic has a problem. Yes, another one. An overabundance of companions. All of us have our own favourite TV Shows, Movies, and Video games. For a great many of us this is Star Wars and it's expanded content. It, like a lot of other shows and movies, has a great deal of memorable characters. Characters from the new era such as Darth Vader, Luke Skywalker, and Han Solo to the Old Republic's Revan, Bastila, and moreGiving us a sense of enrichment through good-story telling and most importantly, unique design and creation. We all have our favourites, those that we hold close to our hearts. Sadly, this is where SWTOR's problem start's and yet, don't end. The modern trend in the gaming industry is to overload the players with content, attached to a ridiculous extra price tagSWTOR is not innocent of this, since the launch of the MMO in 2011 we have seen an increasing focus on the games Cartel MarketA veritable virtual gambling platform for players to lose countless hundreds of dollars on.


Among this dreaded gambling platform we are teased with un-lockables, from mounts, to weapons, companions and moreTo discuss the countless moral and ethical issues with this system would take far too much time, nor is the point of this articleSpread out through this platform are the much loved Handler Licenses, a form of new creature companionThese companions, such as the cute Akk Dog, gigantic Wampa and Nexus Beast aren't inherently bad, they provide us with a unique new type of companionYet, with moderns trends the gaming industry seeks to push the boundaries and break into unwanted territorySince their initial conception, a large amount of new Creature Companions has been releasedSlowly building up and up, with every new companion the quality and uniqueness of the last degrading to a cesspool of garbage These issues are not limited to Creature Companions, with the release of recent expansions such as Knights of the Fallen Empire, we have been drowned in companions. This is by no means an exaggeration. Companions that were once interesting have had their personalities, abilities and traits either completely removed or cloned and replaced into 15+ new companionsSuch as the recent Nightlife Event's Gamorrean Bodyguard, KotFE/ET's Arcann, Koth Vortana and more. All rehashed attempts at once great characters, and qualities found in the base game.


The major problem faced now with the huge quantity of companions isn't so much the numbers, it's with the inability to form unique new ideas. A large majority of new game companions have very little to no personality, and this is a big problem. When players are faced with a lot of different choices, which are monotonous and bland we get bored. The values and love we hold for other areas such as part companions starts to get washed out, why? Because the same values have been spread too thin. Such as the quote from Lord of The Rings, "...sort of stretched, like butter scraped over too much bread". When these issues start to approach the paying audience we are, un-amused and even a little bit angry. For example, subscribers are offered with a unique bonuses as a reward for subscribing through certain times. This included the very interesting Mandalorian known as Shae Vizla. However as we found she plain, and had almost all her personalty removed, given to us as a companion with little interaction and further growth. Instead, what do we see? More companions, one after the other, some with short stories and others with none. Adding a brief spotlight to a later dead and forgotten character.


This is where issues lie, the memorability of companions and characters. If the player is given a constant amount of new companions then our ability to form meaningful attachments and connections is ruinedNot to mention that outside of the brief companion stories each companion uses the same combat abilities and attributes. Removing the vital elements that provide the characters with personality. It's about time this issue was fixed, it's been a controversial topic for over a year. With the new update 5.10 Jedi Under Siege BioWare will confront more and more issues, fixing a vast number of existing bugs and design flawsSolutions to this problem could be cutting off the flow of new companions and expanding the focus of existing companionsPossibly adding a unique combat method to each character, dialog and voice lines and a renewed story with romance options, conflicts and dramasIt's about time the companions we fell in love with during our class stories were richly enhanced and exploredOffering unique side stories for each companion, giving us a greater connection and sense of life to the Old Republic Universe.


Despite the amount of issues faced at BioWare it appears we are on a path to better things. Having experienced 5.10 first hand I have a new found hope in the longevity of the MMO. I am confident that in the coming years many of these issues will be addressed, leaving us the players and payers happier