Today I want to talk a little about the companion characters in The Old Republic. They’re probably the most unique aspect of the game (Okay Guild Wars might have done something vaguely similar, never played it though) and for some people one of the most compelling. Bioware have a long tradition of creating memorable characters, it’s probably the one most consistent thing you can expect from any Bioware title, and The Old Republic is no exception. Lately, however, I’ve been noticing some things about the differences between playing a male and female character and the relationships you have between your companions that are, frankly, a little disturbing.
If you play female characters, your relationships with your male companions are pretty straightforward. Let’s start with the Smugglers. A smuggler’s first companion is Corso Riggs. Corso’s a country boy from Ord Mantell, he’s as dumb as a box of rocks, but full of honest charm and good-natured wit. He’s loyal to his friends, old-fashioned about protecting the women-folk and honest as the day is long. Adventuring with Corso is like wandering around with Jon Bon Jovi at your side. Choose to start a romantic relationship with him and you get pretty much what you expect: he falls head over heels for you and soon enough is talking about the two of you settling down and running a ranch on Ord Mantell. He’s a good, straightforward, decent guy.
Play as a male Smuggler and your obvious romantic option is Risha. Risha’s unique among the female love interest in that she’s strong, capable, can manage just fine without you and makes you work hard at chasing her down. She’s complex, has a mysterious past, has no time for bullshit of any kind and can be quite cold and ruthless if the situation demands it. She is, in my opinion, easily the most well developed female companion.
Playing as a female Jedi Consular your first love interest is Tharan Cedrax. Tharan’s a technical genius who also happens to be a vain, self-obsessed slimeball with a vastly over-inflated opinion of his ability to get into your knickers. He has his own sidekick, a holographic AI named Holiday who’s personified as an empty headed, simpering bimbo who hangs on his every word. Yes, this sleazebag actually created a woman to adore him, he’s THAT sad. When/if you kick his advances into touch he even starts sniffing around Nadia Grell, your Padawan. Nadia’s a child! Nice one, Bioware. You made the first female Consular love interest character a paedophile.
Your next choice is Lieutenant Felix Iresso. He’s pretty much the Consular version of Corso. Strong, loyal, reliable, but somehow lacking in character compared to everyone’s favourite smuggler sidekick. There’s nothing wrong with Felix, he’s just not going to excite anyone much.
This pattern continues with the female Trooper (voiced by the amazing Jennifer Hale, the female Trooper IS Commander Shephard!). Your only choice with whom to get it on is Aric Jorgan, a no-nonsense, by the book Republic Trooper. He’s incredibly boring. Thankfully if you play a female Jedi Knight you eventually meet up with one of my favourite companions on Balmorra – Doc.
Doc’s been trying to get into Aluriel’s (my Jedi Guardian) knickers since the very first second he clapped eyes on her. This says nothing about Aluriel and everything about Doc, he tries to get into everyone’s knickers. He’s not a bad guy, he’s a highly dedicated combat medic and cares strongly about saving lives, he just absolutely cannot keep his trousers zipped up. One of his side quests involves saving a doctor for whom he once embezzled a fortune from a gangster cartel so she could set up a hospital for Alderaanian war wounded. Years later the gangsters have figured out where their money went and they’ve kidnapped the doctor and are holding her to ransom. Doc saves the day and you’d expect her to be grateful, but no. It turns out that Doc skipped the planet after the hospital funds were secured and left her at the altar on their wedding day. When confronted with the evidence of his perfidy his response? “That was just pillow talk, baby!”
Yes, Doc is Lando Calrissian. If you play a female character and plan on making Doc your squeeze, I recommend you make him work for it.
Now we get to the interesting stuff. The romance options for male characters. And when I say “interesting” I mean “disturbing, creepy and vaguely insulting”. We’ve already looked at Risha, so that leaves us with the Jedi Consular, Jedi Knight and Trooper companions. First a quick summary of each. See if you can spot any patterns emerging.
A Jedi Consulars’ only female companion is Nadia Grell. Nadia was raised on a planet where Force-Sensitives were very rare, as a result she was feared, shunned and ostracised by her peers. Her father, Senator Grell, sheltered her by taking her with him on his diplomatic travels. As a result she spent most of her childhood with no friends, surrounded by aliens and with no guidance on how to control her powerful Force abilities. You take her on as your Padawan. So to summarise, she’s a shy, introverted, lonely, insecure child with whom you have a teacher/student relationship. And you get to do the nasty with her.
Next up we have the Jedi Knight companion – Kira Carsen. (SPOILER ALERT!! Skip to the next character if you enjoy your surprises and haven’t played a Knight past Nar Shaddaa) Kira’s a sarcastic, irreverent, wild Jedi Padawan. She has a snappy answer for everything and little respect for authority, yours included. Except it’s all a front. She was brainwashed and inducted as a child into a mysterious cult of Imperial sleeper agents known as The Emperor’s Children, but broke free of their programming and escaped to live rough in the alleys of Nar Shaddaa, stealing for a living until she was found by Master Bela Kiwiiks and brought to the Jedi Order.
So to summarise, she’s a shy, introverted, lonely young woman who hides her insecurity and fears behind a brash front, with whom you have a teacher/student relationship. And you get to do the nasty with her.
Finally, we end up with the Trooper love interest. Sergeant Elara Dorne. Elara grew up on Dromund Kaas, the Imperial capital. She defected to the Republic and joined the military, but due to her strong Imperial accent it’s obvious to everyone where she’s from. She’s been the butt of cruel jokes since the day she signed up, no-one trusts her, she has no friends and to top it all off, she’s viewed as a traitor by her family and a potential traitor and security risk by her superiors. As a result she throws herself into her work, being the best Trooper she can be in a vain effort to prove herself to people who don’t care, don’t like her and don’t trust her. Then you come along, recognise her for the excellent and loyal soldier she is and offer her the chance of her dreams, to join Havoc Squad, the Republics’ top Special Forces unit.
I think I see a pattern emerging. She appears to be a shy, introverted, lonely young woman with whom you have a superior/subordinate relationship. And then you immediately abuse her gratitude by trying to get into her plasteel armoured panties the second she agrees to work for you.
Yes, Bioware, we get it. All women want is a strong man to shelter them from all the cruelty in the world and then immediately take advantage of their vulnerability. It’s almost as if Bioware think that everyone playing The Old Republic fantasises about being the kind of tough, strong and ruggedly handsome man that damsels in distress everywhere need to shelter them from all the ugly in the world.
You gotta hand it to them. They really got that demographic nailed.