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Thursday, November 29, 2012

Side Quest Companions: For Better or Worse?


Introduction // Pirate101 offers you a number of interesting companions, from Crown Shop reworks to side quest rewards. Those of you who remember Beta remember it as a collector's paradise, in which everyone scrambled for every possible companion, showing off their rarest ones in Avery's Court. However, as Beta neared its end, some realized that they might not have made the best decisions.

It was a question that I, among others, began tossing around. The surface issue was whether or not you should pick up side quest companions. You see, the smaller your crew, the better chance you have of getting any given companion, with the exception of the Firstmate, which always remained at 100%. However, the issue had a lot more depth than I realized.

"Useless" Companions // Whether you pick up sides or not, you're going to get some companions that aren't half as useful as others, and there's a reason. J. Todd Coleman compared it to playing cards. If you only drew Aces, the game wouldn't be very fun or challenging. Consequently, you play with the whole deck.

How, suppose you take your deck, and start pulling the low cards out. Keep some face cards and Aces around, and a couple little numbers for good measure, and call it good. As it turns out, that isn't too hard to do in game, either.

So, About These Side Quests // The question is whether or not you should pick up companions from side quests. The real issue with getting these extra companions is that you end up with a larger crew and more companions that might not really be any use to you. Sure, one with a two epic talents might seem like a steal at a low level, but when you get to level 50, it'll be one of the companions at the end of your list.


But, in not completing these side quests, you give up any rewards that might have come with the quests for companions. You also forfeit any badges you might earn for completing certain sets of quests. Besides that, some people are still, good old collectors that want all of the companions they can get. So, before we look at the decision, maybe there's a way we can get around it. 

The Elimination Proposal // During Beta, as I stated, we all picked up as many companions as possible, and that meant we had multiple pages of them. Some battles were and still are labelled as epic battles and allow you to choose your companions. However, there are some equally challenging fights that do not allow you to choose companions. You might get those ones with one or no epic talents that just aren't any good. That can spoil a whole battle.

My proposal was that you start a battle which you can handle, of course. You send your companions that you aren't fond of to the front lines to die off, and once that "mission" is complete, you finish the battle with any of your favorite companions that might have ended up in the battle. In summary, battle by battle, you'll allow enemies to defeat the companions you dislike.

By the time you narrow it down, you can't get a bad companion in any battle at all. In fact, if you're bold enough, you could narrow it down to three companions, so that you constantly had your top choices. Since you normally bind to life fountains automatically, and they don't offer any advantages other than teleportation and companion restoration, there's no need to use one. 

Elimination Issues // The only flaws here would be found in operator error situations, such as accidentally clicking "x" on a life fountain. You'd also have to keep your chosen companions alive if you didn't want to have to redo the whole setup. That, or keep enough chosen ones alive that the death of one or two was insignificant. Realistically, though, this is tough to set up, and even tougher to manage. So where do we go now?


The Decision // It seems inevitable, really, unless you're a determined collector looking to try Elimination. Other than the Crown Shop, side quest companions are the only companions which you can control the flow of. You get a say in whether or not they join your crew.

I think that this big debate isn't really a disagreement at all, though. In fact, I think that just about anyone thinking of Elimination or avoiding side quest companions would agree that you should pick up some of them. Take Cool Ranch's Rooster Cogburn for example. Through a series of long side quests, you eventually fill the jail and collect him as a companions, introduced with no less than five epic abilities. Now who wouldn't want that?

There are other companions, though, with a couple or none at all, that never get promotions. Fortunately, sites like Pirate101 Central have users who have been putting together complete, up-to-date, and live-game-accurate companion guides for your viewing pleasure. Here, you can plan out your entire crew before ever logging into the game.

As the Crew Builds // As you progress to level 50, you won't be able to avoid grabbing some nasty companions from main quests. As of now, you can't say "Nar" when they ask to join your crew. Based on J. Todd Coleman's thinking, you probably won't be able to, either. To me, that's not only justified, but the decision I'd make myself. 

You'll soon be able to move the companions you aren't too fond of to the end of your ever-growing list, and by recruiting only "good" companions from side quests, you'll decrease your chances or getting the "bad" ones, and build your crew variety.


A Consideration // There is something that could change out of all of this, though. Rather than take these companions that they worked hard to create and have them end up at the end of everybody's companion lists, why don't they give them some new epic talents that deal with different things? Rather than permanently sort your companion list at level 50, why not change it up for each battle? After all, you change your deck for every battle in Wizard101, so why should we use the same companions in each and every fight?

KingsIsle obviously has Marleybone, Aquila, and a Valencia extension in the works, but I insist that they revisit some of the old companions before moving forward, to avoid their programmers turning the artist and builders' work into something at the back of a list, just because it didn't get a couple of epics. 

Rather than simply make some companions better than others, why not add a range of various new epic abilities, some that are seemingly minor additions, and others that are highly situational, and even more that are helpful in general. Then, you take a load of hitting and healing talents, and put them on a companion like Bat Masterson. Then, grab some resistance-increasing flanking-type epic abilities, and throw them on a companion like Barnabus. 

By doing this, KingsIsle completely recreates their companions system. They take an old setup that was almost an unavoidable sorting of companions in all cases, for all classes, and begin to shift that to an ever-changing setup that increases time spent in game, strategy, and fun!

For example, those resistance talents will come in handy when fighting tough bosses who hit hard. Or, you might move worthy musketeers to the top of the list when fighting Armada soldiers with guns, because you know your companions are more powerful, and will be able to have talents like Quick Draw triggered. Maybe you need all of your ranged companions, in combination with offensive flanking for additional damage. The possibilities for various setups become endless.

Conclusion // Whichever path or paths you decide to take, I think you'll find that companions in Pirate101 are just a lot of fun in general. Be sure to make use of the various guides available in the Pirate101 community, as you'll oftentimes find some helpful things in making companion decisions... best of luck!

Thanks for reading, and see you in the Spiral!

2 comments:

  1. Wow Swordroll, it seems I had a similar thought process as you concerning side quest companions.

    One of my main grievances had been the fact that SQ companions were, in basic terms, "useless". Take my Monquistador Explorer, who I just promoted recently. I love having the monkey, but Ratbeard simply does his job better hands down. There are some SQ companions I have yet to redeem because I feel they'd just be another mouth to feed TP wise.

    I like the Coleman's Deck of Card approach, I really do. And like you, I would enjoy a few more SQ companion upgrades, particularly variety. Special epics or talents that only they have, maybe situational ones.

    I mean I've had an idea for a SQ companion that has extremely weak regular attacks, but comes with a large number of ally summon cards. Just something like that to make them really unique.

    I think my greatest fear is to have SQ companions be weaker carbon copies of MQ companions, when they could be so much more.

    -Psylent Night (URL wasn't working)

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  2. very interesting that you make reference to the coleman's deck of cards approach, interesting way of putting your collecting problems. Great site by the way.

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