Avowed, the upcoming first-person RPG from Obsidian, mixes and matches a few RPG standards in its approach to companion characters and their stories. Before we get into details, some basics—in an interview with game director Carrie Patel and gameplay director Gabe Paramo this week, we learned the following about Avowed's companions and party management:
We'll meet multiple companion characters throughout Avowed (Obsidian isn't revealing how many there are yet), and they'll hang out at a "party camp"
Two companions can come with you on adventures at a time
There are "a few cases" where you must include a particular companion in your party because their knowledge or expertise is relevant to the situation, otherwise it's up to you
It sounds like you can issue some basic orders to companions, but you won't "micromanage" your party in combat
There's no "approval system," but conversations may influence our companions' decisions and stories
Avowed takes place in the same world as the Pillars of Eternity CRPGs, but its approach to companions and party management is much more like that of a Mass Effect game, or Obsidian's own Fallout: New Vegas. We might rely on their help in combat, but we won't be giving them granular instructions or controlling them directly.
"They have moment-to-moment gameplay combat abilities," Paramo told us. "They also have, outside of combat, more environmental interaction abilities. And so you can kind of order them to do those abilities both in combat and out of combat."
"We don't want players feeling like they have to micromanage a party," said Patel. "So, you know, certainly their abilities are there and they're very useful. But you're not going to be pulling up pause and feeling like you have to move them around every 30 seconds."
Storywise, companions will each have a "personal arc," said Patel, and they'll all be involved in each playthrough—it's not like Baldur's Gate 3 where you can walk by a hand sticking out of a portal, shrug it off, and leave Gale to his fate.
"You could recruit some of them a little bit earlier or a little bit later, but they all will join your party by certain known points in the game," said Patel, "which allows us to weave them a bit more intricately into events, conversations and all of the action that's happening."
We didn't want players feeling like they had to choose the 'right' options in order to maintain their companions.
As has been so popular in Baldur's Gate 3 recently, the party camp will be a place for "heart to heart" conversations. Don't expect romance, though—it didn't come up in our interview, but it's not really Obsidian's thing—and there won't be an "approval system" that makes companions like the player-character more or less.
"You definitely have quest-based interactions with [companions], and they each have their own personal arc," said Patel. "As with all of our games, talking to them through [that arc] and influencing them down a particular course or another can shape what their story is, and maybe how they see some of their personal challenges.
"We didn't go with a strict approval system. We didn't want players feeling like they had to choose the 'right' options in order to maintain their companions. So it's not about maintaining their approval, it's about getting to know them, building relationships with them, and you know, finding points of commonality and strength where they're learning things from you as the player character, and you're getting a little bit of their perspective on the world."
From our interview, we also learned more about Avowed's combat, which may take after Vermintide, and its "classless" leveling system. Xbox has also posted a breakdown of the recent Avowed gameplay trailer with commentary from Patel and Paramo.
We don't have a firm Avowed release date yet, but it's scheduled to release this fall.