Star Wars: The Old Republic has a lot of different mechanics that, while similar to concepts found in other MMOs, are quite unique in how they have been applied here. One of my favorites is the Companion Character system. While companions are familiar, in the sense that they are like the pets found in other games, in SWTOR you don’t actually go out and capture a pet or raise a pet from the game world. Each of your companions are unique individuals that will join your crew at specific points in your character’s storyline.
All companions have individual skill sets and personalities. These personalities will range from dark to light and can be very supportive or downright annoying at times. One of the things that makes the companion mechanic most interesting is that they aren’t necessarily the suck ups you might want them to be and in fact can be quite disagreeable. This can make for some very interesting exchanges between you and your companions during conversation scenes and I constantly find myself wondering how my dialog choices will affect my relationship with my companion.
An Affection Section
This brings us to the Affection mechanic. Each companion has an Affection score. This score goes up or down based on your interactions with story NPCs and with your companion. When you run missions with a companion your dialog choices may result in a change to your companion’s loyalty rating. You’ll see this as a pop up with a positive or negative number. At the end of a mission, when you receive a summary telling you the rewards, you’ll also see the total Affection gain or loss for that mission (if any).
You will also have opportunities to speak privately with your companion (usually in a cantina or other “safe” zone but sometimes only on your ship). These private interactions can lead to some significant Affection changes. Your Affection rating may also unlock new quest lines tied to your companions back story.
To put it simply, I LOVE this aspect of the game. I am not a “rush to the level cap” style of player and I’m really taking my time with the story and enjoying the dialog and mission options. I have to be honest, having the Affection rating system really makes me think twice sometimes about how I am going to answer a question or proceed. Sometimes what my companion thinks in a given situation is more important than whether I make a Dark Side/Light Side choice. (I am currently playing the Imperial Agent class and trying to play as a pragmatic soldier who understands the conflict and that sometimes things need to get ugly to get the job done. However, my Agent isn’t blindly devoted to the Sith cause and its ideals – i.e. whats good for the Sith isn’t necessarily good for the Empire at large.)
Gifts – Buying Your way to Affection
Another way to significantly affect your companion’s Affection rating is by giving them gifts. Each companion has specific likes and dislikes when it comes to gifts. Fortunately, there are some clues to this in the companion’s bio in your Codex. Every time a new companion joins you, you’ll receive a Codex update with some background information on your new Companion; their personality and expected behavior. While this isn’t a complete picture it goes a long way to giving you some ideas on what to expect and how to gift them.
There are different classes of gifts. They are classified as Republic Memorabilia, Imperial Memorabilia, Trophy, Technology, Courting, Weapons, Luxury, Military, Cultural Artifacts and Underworld Goods. Your companion will like some of these things more than others and be completely indifferent to some classes of gifts.
You can buy gifts from the Galactic Trade Network, buy them at vendors or receive them as rewards from Crew Skills missions. Gifts have ranks from level one to five. The higher the gift rank the more Affection gain you’ll receive depending on what rank your companion’s Affection is currently at. For example, if your companion Affection is currently at rank one, giving them a rank three gift will result in a higher Affection gain than a rank one gift. Conversely, if your Companion is rank 3, your Affection gain from giving them a rank 2 or rank 1 gift will be greatly reduced.
You will receive points based on how much your companion likes a particular class of gift. There are four responses for gifting: Like, Love, Favorite, or None/Indifferent. Interestingly, some companions seem to not have a favorite class of gift. At rank one Affection, with a rank one gift you will receive 24 Affection Points for a Like, 54 points for a Love, and 96 points for a Favorite.
Additionally, gifts are classified by rarity type – green, blue, and purple. Green gifts can be purchased at vendors but blues and purples only come as Crew Skills mission rewards. These quality rankings provide an additional bonus to the amount of Affection Point gain.
It is possible to gain up to 10,000 Affection for each companion. There are five ranks, a new rank is gained at increments of 2000 points.
To give your companion a gift your companion must be present with you. Simply right-click on the gift from your inventory window. You’ll receive some feedback and see the pop-up with the Affection gain score if your companion likes the gift. If they don’t like it, you shouldn’t see anything. I have not seen any negative impact from companion gifting to date. You can give a companion a gift and receive Affection gain every 30 seconds if you’re feeling generous.
*Spoiler*: If you don’t feel like experimenting to figure out which gifts your companions prefer there are several places to go on the web for detailed charts on this subject. I’ll present just one that I found by perusing the official SWTOR forums here
Finally, if you’re still not convinced that interacting with your companions is fun and rewarding in its own right, the other reason to explore the companion gifting game is because the companion Affection rating directly impacts how your companions handle Crew Skills tasks. Companions with a higher Affection rating will complete tasks faster and have a higher success rate as well as the possibility to “proc” and produce better than normal results.
(Lastly, I’d like to note that some companions can be romanced and I believe this changes the Affection mechanic to some degree. I have not explored this aspect of companions, therefore I haven’t discussed any of those options here. Feel free to post comments about your observations and experiences with companion romance in the comments section below.)