The addition of "Companion Characters" to Star Wars: The Old Republic was both surprising and brilliant. From a story perspective, one of The Old Republic's tenets, companion characters couldn't make more sense. Han Solo wouldn't be who is today without Chewy, nor Luke without R2D2. Episodes 1-3 were entirely composed of companion characters, or at least that's what it seemed like seeing as they all were as empathetic as a napkin.
How would these sidekicks play out mechanically, though? G4 was lucky enough to interview Lead Writer Daniel Erickson on Crew Skills, on top of PvP Warzones and playable races. The results are again both surprising and brilliant.
A companion's usefulness in combat is immediately evident, especially if you've played a game like Guild Wars; an extra sword, shield, spell or heal has direct, positive effects in gameplay. Taking the positive aspects of having an extra pair of hands and moving them into crafting systems is... well, it has rarely been done before, if ever. In theory, it sounds amazing.
Companion characters' "Crew Skills" can be broken down into three areas:
The obvious pluses come from Gathering and Crafting. The idea of having your companions search out needed ingredients or create components without having to stand by a forge is something every gamer can support. If I had to count the hours I've spent gathering and crafting, I'd undoubtedly fall into a deep depression. They're such unimaginable time sinks.
The details surrounding Missions, however, remain quite vague. Daniel mentions they're used to acquire dark or light side points, but how that figures into the crafting is confusing. Time will tell.
What do you think about how Star Wars: The Old Republic is using Companion Characters, Ranters? Do you prefer your crafting to me more hands-on?
The Old Republic is tentatively scheduled for Spring of 2011, though likely after April or beyond, for the PC.