Companions are simultaneously one of the most intriguing and one of the most frustrating aspects of Neverwinter, not to mention a subject that I’ve been pondering for a few days now.
They’re a cool idea, if not utterly unique to this game. Every player can equip a companion to help round out his or her combat style. Some companions tank, some heal, some DPS, some crowd control, and some merely buff stats. Every companion levels up, can be equipped with gear, changes appearance at certain level milestones, and gives players a specific buff when equipped. You can build up a stable of companions to rotate through, which is a good idea since the time spent training them can get lengthy.
Cryptic knows that companions are a big money maker for the game, which is why you can only buy basic (white) companions for in-game gold. These only level up to 15, versus level 20 for green, level 25 for blue, and level 30 for purple. Getting up to level 30 is attractive because it opens up a third companion skill that’s often quite helpful.
So the way Cryptic makes money on these is multi-fold. First, to upgrade a companion’s quality to the next level takes a huge chunk of astral diamonds, which can either be graaaaadually ground out or paid for via Zen. Then, there are companions that cost both astral diamonds and Zen, and naturally these are pretty darn good (although a purple companion on the Zen store is around $30-$35, so yeouch). Some companions only come with Finally, special companions are a major attractor for the lockboxes, since you can’t get those any other way.
Now I’m pretty much a cheapskate when it comes to this, which means I’m the type of player that Cryptic probably hates: Invested in the game but very unwilling to drop money unless it’s a special occasion. I did purchase a ghost companion for my rogue, but now that I’m working on a cleric, I’m not as inclined to do the same.
Fortunately, I have options. I’m fortunate to have my account flagged as the hero of Neverwinter thingy, so every character I make gets a purple-quality panther from the get-go. It’s a pretty straight-forward attack pet, but I am not complaining about getting a free purple. Then I get the free white companion at level 15, which I chose a tanky guard. I don’t think he’ll be useful in the high levels unless I can upgrade him, but it might be nice to have when I’m facing certain bosses.
I’m looking forward to the holiday event starting Thursday, since two of the rewards you can earn are companions (including a frosty mimic chest which looks awesome). That’ll be my goal, since I missed out on getting the skeleton fighter from the Halloween festival.
For upgrading purposes, I’m being very diligent with both praying twice a day at altars (since you get two chunks of ADs that way) and working on my leadership profession on two characters. I’m up to 69,000 ADs, which isn’t a ton, but at 300K I can take a white to a green.
While the animations and attacks by companions are cool, I do wish that they’d banter a bit with you a la SWTOR. Maybe that’s too much to ask for this game, I don’t know. More than that, I hope that some of their AI would get fixed. Sometimes my companions just take too long to get into a fight, showing up right as I deliver a death blow or completely ignoring other enemies. That’s less good.
Anyway, while companions might be a money pit — or a money web — a little patience in this area pays off. At least there are options instead of a hard wall that only money can climb.