The Test Realm Companion Update
Already, the Pirate101 Test Realm has been updated twice, so it's understandable if you missed the most recent announcements. This is what Bonnie Anne posted on the official boards:
The manner in which companions earn Epic Talents has changed in order to make all companions more viable at all levels. Beginning with this update, companions will earn additional talents as they progress in level, in addition to earning Epic Talents for each promotion. Previously, companions that you received in the high-level worlds (such as Marleybone and Aquila) were simply granted bonus talents to account for their high-level stature. This new change means companions that you gain in the early worlds– such as Bonnie Anne, among many others-- will gain epic talents as they level up, putting them on an even footing with latter companions like Catbeard and Hawkules. Each companion's total number of talents is a combination of both level and promotion rank. Companions will receive an Epic Talent at levels 15, 35, 55 and with each completed promotion quest. Please note that, although all companions will eventually be better off in the long run, some companions may have fewer talents than before at low levels. We will not remove assigned talents from any companion, but if you respec a companion and they should have fewer talents than before, the new total will be enforced at that time.
Companions who haven't yet reached one of these level tiers won't see any new epics. There was some concern that resetting your companions would mean less epic talents, but make no mistake - there's no reason NOT to reset companions if your units are level 55 or above. What you may find is that if you have Bonnie Anne at level 10 with quite a few epic talents, resetting her may remove a couple of those epic choices, but they will be unlocked at their appropriate level tiers.
Epics. Epics Everywhere.Now that we understand the update, what is its significnce? The obvious is the fact that companions are now more powerful, but it's more than that. One of Pirate101's specialities that always made it stand out from Wizard101 is its diversity in gear. There is no "best" set of gear, or even a best weapon, or even items people generally use for a set. It's completely and totally random for every pirate. Same with their pets. Why? Because that's the why the programmers designed it - they didn't throw empty stats on gear, everything was carefully thought-out.
Up until this point, companions had been an exception to that rule. Generally, there were one or two solid builds for a companion that just about everyone used. There's always be a few who wanted one copy of one talent over another. I may have been an oddball in wanting Overwatch 2 for Bonnie Anne over Quick Draw or Double Tap 2. But companion setups were really pretty uniform, and the companions people used were uniform. Some of the best companions are class or backstory-specific, but beyond that, there was the general idea that you used El Toro, Bonnie Anne, and a wild card that might be your Kraken Skulls companion, one you picked up from the crown shop, or another that you fell in love with.
This is not the case any more, for two reasons. First, now you have access to enough epics that you get not only the basic build, but also all of the really desirable epics a companion has to offer, then you have leftover options. This is where things get unique! Now, it's down to personal preference, and you pick what works for you.
More epics also mean more companions can now be competitive. Formerly, you might never have used units like Lucky Jack Russell, but now he's not a bad pick at all. Ratbeard can now function as a super-tank, and I am seriously considering adding him to my crew, even without Relentless. Lemba is now a great Nausica counter, especially in that she will eat up the epics so that my Musketeer pirate doesn't have to.
PvE Difficulty CurvePirate has been a favorite to many who disliked some of the difficult fights in Wizard101. Minus, maybe, Moo Manchu's tower, Pirate101 is largely able to be soloed, and that's a big plus. There are certainly advantages to working together, but being able to accomplish things on your own means you aren't relying on anyone else's schedule to play.
More epics mean that companions are stronger. We know that. But that also means that PvE (Players versus Enemy - questing, farming, and so forth) is getting slightly easier, too. Those evil Satyrs in Achaea might not be so bad now... okay, might not be AS bad now. If there was formerly something you were stuck on, this update might be the time to revisit it.
PvP Shift of FocusRecently, a very critical change has been implemented to deal with hidden. The third ranks of First Strike, Quick Draw, and Intuition (all preemptive strike epics) will not only see hidden, but remove it. I'm not sure this is the solution we've been looking for, but that's a post for another day. New epics means you might actually be able to get away with training the third rank of one of these talents on your units without sacrificing the must-haves.
Generally, they're ones I avoid, because they require the attacking unit to be the same combat type as my companion, and unfortunately, that leaves me little control, since I will primarily trigger these epics as a result of my opponent attacking, who ought to be smart enough to attack units of a different combat type. (If you're unfamiliar with PvP, it's often a good practice to use ranged units to take down melee units and vice versa, especially when you are at a disadvantage with buffs.)
The diversity in companions created by the fact that old companions with new epics are now realistic for PvP use means that you may no longer need to bring El Toro just to combat your opponent's El Toro. You might actually have to think about your companion choices. It also means that what were formerly extremely powerful companions like Nausica, who get no new epics, may have some competition.
No matter how you play Pirate101, you're about to unlock a whole new world of fun with your companions.
What sort of setups will you be trying?
Thanks for reading and see you in the Spiral!