We’ve well established here on Bio Break that I’m somewhat of a pet nut when it comes to MMO classes. If I have the opportunity to whip out a combat pet to help me in my adventures, then rest assured I’m going to do it.
Yet there’s something I love even more than that. If one pet is great, then a GROUP of pets approaches nirvana. Now, this isn’t something you see in many games. I imagine it’s a bit of a headache for developers, some of which decide not to do it at all. So while there are plenty of MMOs that give you an option to wield a pet (and one game, SWTOR, that delivers this to everyone), only a handful of titles deliver classes with multiple pets.
City of Villain’s Mastermind? Oh yes, I still mourn the loss of this class in its many incarnations, including Thug Life and Robo-Madness. Cackling while I send a fleet of bots against bad guys is something I deeply miss. Guild Wars 2’s Necromancer in full minion master mode was a blast too. And every landing party in Star Trek Online consists of me and four of my closest virtual friends.
There’s a marked difference between running a single pet and being part of an entire pack. It’s like roaming around with a full party, wrecking havoc and conjuring the illusion of unstoppability. While being part of a group of players can create the same visual effect, I find that an NPC pet party is less stressful to lead. Everyone defers to your whims, is out to protect and help you, and sticks with you instead of heading in five different directions (unless, of course, the pet pathing gets messed up).
Oh, call it anti-social if you must, but for me it’s plain fun. It makes me think back to all of my favorite CRPGs that involved full parties and how I would get into the lives of each of my companions over the course of our adventures, at the end of which I saw them as “real” in a sense.
Of course, MMOs don’t quite go as far as those games did. You rarely get to hand-customize the builds and classes of your gang of NPCs, and with the exception of SWTOR, they don’t have the individual personality and backstory. I’ve always thought that one of SWTOR’s biggest missteps is that it didn’t let you take out more than one companion at a time — I loved how BioWare’s other games would have the companions talking back and forth as you traveled.
Anyway, playing Star Trek Online these past two weeks has reminded me how much I love the virtual party feel in a game. Hey guys? The Klingons killed me again. A little help here?