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  1. I both like and dislike what I've been reading about the companion characters in the party. Deep stories and so on are great, but there is a downside. Dragon Age is a good example of having a few very deep NPCs to add to the party. The characters in Origins were mostly all fantastic, and I enjoyed them, but there were a couple of issues. 1) The NPCs got so much camera time and were so interesting that I felt my PC was somewhat overshadowed. It felt a lot like I was just there to be a witness to all the cool things happening to these other characters. By necessity, I was somewhat of a voiceless "straight man". I could make decisions that affected the outcomes of some of those stories, but as a role-player, my character's personality didn't really matter, and didn't have a chance to evolve. 2) Again, by necessity, there was a trade-off for such depth: quantity. Every character in Origins was more or less essential to the main storyline (though some less than others). Although you could only have a couple of companions "active" at one time, they were ALL in the party. This kind of killed the replay value for me - I actually tried replaying the game as a different class, but after I was done with the different origin story, there was nothing new left to see. Exact same characters, exact same personal stories, exact same decisions. Again, decisions could be made differently, but it just didn't feel worth it to see the predictable flip sides to the first playthrough. So what are my suggestions? A) Lots of companions. Even if this means some are shallow. Not every companion needs to come with 20 hours of gameplay for their personal questline. (In fact, I'm fine with it if none do, but that's me.) Temple of Elemental Evil and Baldur's Gate nailed it pretty well; I always felt like I had a great deal of choice in who I brought along. B) "Finishable" companions. You don't see this enough. I love to see companion storylines with a beginning, middle, and end. Once you've helped the fallen knight clear his name, maybe he wants to return to court and go back to serving the King instead of following you around for the rest of his life. Once the lovestruck sorceress rescues her fiance, she marries him and quits adventuring. Maybe these characters will come back later, but they don't need to stay in my "stable" until the end of time. And then of course there're the characters who end up having to sacrifice their lives to truly fulfill their destinies. It's just lame to see every NPC default to becoming your eternally devoted servant after completing their other objectives. Make their stories make sense. Maybe a few people will want to sleep in the same room with me every night for the rest of their lives, but not every one. C) Companions with requirements. It's wonderful when an NPC is picky about who they team up with. An evil character who won't team up with a paladin. A paladin who will only team up with a cleric of the same faith. A guy who will only team up with you if you complete a quest in a certain (ideally non-optimum) way. D) Mutually exclusive companions. This is a big one. Again, in Dragon Age or Mass Effect, you can't help but "catch 'em all". Characters who hate each other, a thief who won't team up with a rival thief, a halfling with a fear of half-orcs (or vice versa), and of course people with interesting story or quest-related reasons not to work together. This also includes characters who will leave you if you make certain decisions, and others who will stay with you only if you make certain decisions. See the first couple of Jagged Alliance games to observe how beautifully this can be done. (I really enjoyed hiring a "snitch" character who would spy on the rest of the team and report on any friction. Best of all was waking up one morning to find a character simply gone ... another squad member had murdered him in the night and disposed of the body without a trace. I assume. I never proved it.) These are all ways to let the player see several different party configurations throughout the course of a playthrough, without resorting to "Oh, I want to hire this guy now, so I guess I'll fire you." They also help with replay value.
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