Rather Disappointed by Pillars 2 Companions
Ok so we go from 11 Companions in the first game to 6 in the second, and that isn’t in itself a problem. Less companions means more focus on those who are left, more personality, more dedication, more individual plot arcs, like Baldur’s Gate vs Baldur’s Gate II. So I don’t object to the lower number, my issue is the choices, let’s talk the purpose of companions.
Companions in these sorts of games are what keep you active and focused on the world, they are your main form of engagement. Its like your buddies in a D&D game, they provide friendship and give you a reason to care about all this. Bioware is really good in this department, even when the main story is boring (Origins), incoherent (DA:II) or makes no sense (Inquisition) the core focus of engagement on your companions stays strong, these guys are your friends. Except Blackwall, he sucks, but everybody else are interesting unique people who you care about and get involved in their lives. And Pillars 1 was already kind of a step back in that direction, only a little banter, pretty basic personal questions, and about half of what they say is exposition. Like with the original Baldur’s Gate, they work better when they ipmly a larger personality rather than showing one, which is why Greiving Mother, Kana, Durance work so well, and while Aloth and Pallagina are so much weaker, they are just generic.
The other role companions fulfill is teaching us about the world as a whole, this is doubly important for a work with its own unique setting that we the audience don’t know. Lets use DA:II as an example. We have
Varric, who introduces us to Kirkwall, Surface Dwarf Culture, and the storytelling traditions of Thedas
Fenris: Who teaches us about Tevinter, Elven Slaves, the Religion of this world, and understanding anti mage Bigotry
Anders: Who teaches us about Apostates, the Circle, the Pro Mage Position, Spirits, the Fade and Abominations
Merrill: We learn about the Dalish, BLood Magic, Ancient Elves, Demons, the Fade, and the world’s approach to history.
Isabella: Shows us Rivani, sexual politics, the role of women in Thedas, but mostly the experience of the every day people in this larger world, since her reaction mirrors most people in the city.
Sebastian: The Chantry and more complex theology
Aveline: Fereldin, Orlais, gender roles again, the role of the military, and Kirkwall
Tallis: Stuff about the Qun
Oh and Caver/Bethany are there too, they are doing stuff.
Through them we learn about the world and get more connected to the overall experience of the setting. This is kinda done in Pillars, but it misses a lot opportunities in the first game, because the biggest problem with Pillars is that they have this super unique interesting fantasy world but instead focus on just rehashing all of the basic shit you can get in any fantasy world. I mean why are we in Drywood, generic Europe/Colonial America when we hear about these much cooler places we won’t be able to go too. Oh there are two opposing factions who are unreasonably fanatical that you have to choose between and one of them happen to be knights, you don’t fucking say? This is a world where reincarnation is provably true? Huh I wonder how that would affect the religious and daily life of the people, and in what ways would people change, gee that sounds like it could have lots of interesting societal/theological implications and…oh we just aren’t going to address it beyond a few throw away lines, ok, sure. Not like we have actual societies that believe in reincarnation whose ideas we could incorporate.
Oh you’re world has a generic italian setting full of civil wars, art, trade, ships, bad tempers, vendettas, culture and fine food? Gee, I would have never guessed, don’t suppose we could have something a little more unique? Oh they are all black…huh well that something I suppose.
Hey you have these Godlike who are full of interesting possibilities and people reaction to them…..oh that isn’t coming up like…at all…..thanks Pillars, thanks alot. And yes, I am still bitter about playing a Godlike and getting no reward for it.
Pillars is a much more interesting game which constantly seems to want to generic itself, which is the same problem I have with D&D actually. And that brings me to the companions. Because lets look at the new people here we have
A human Druid, an Aumaua Druid, a Wild Orlan. No Pale Elves (again), no new Godlike (the Godlike being emblematic of pillar’s larger problem), no Boreal Dwarves, only 1 Orlan and 1 Aumua. I’d mourn the lack of Mountain Dwarves but honestly, who cares, utterly generic. And then of the returning characters……gah.
OK Eothas is returning so that is like a whole thing, I get it. So Eder being there is likely important cause he has a relationship to his God’s death and all that. I understand taht. And the Devs said that they felt they didn’t do a good job with Pallegina (not shit?) and want to give her another chance, ok that makes sense I suppose. But Aloth? not only was he the worse character in the first game, he had his story line, it was all about the Leaden Key, he is done, its over, we don’t need him anymore, go home. Its weird that literally half the companions are hold overs from the first game, I think it was very wise of Bioware to make sure that only a few companions returned in each game. But even beyond that, if you had to have three old companions return, instead of Aloth why not you know…somebody connected to Eothas….like the guy who fucking killed him? Wouldn’t Durance have like…opinions on this whole affair? He is also less crap than Aloth as a character.
None of this means that the games will be bad or the characters will be bad, or even that this won’t be better than the first game, its just that right off the bad i’m seeing choices that ignore better opportunities for a story. The Sequel should be an opportunity to do what DA:II did but with a less shit ending, to embrace what makes its unique and distinct and use the second game to really differentiate itself from fantasy mythology as a whole, not fall back unto old habits.