SWTOR’s new alliance system is a combination companion compendium and character listing. In Knights of the Fallen Empire, for the first eight chapters, you’ll meet a limited set of characters, mostly focused around companions, that’ll sprawl out into an encompassing amount of characters in the ninth chapter, which will allow you to gain access to the full alliance system, introduce you to many of the characters you’ll interact with in later chapters, and work to min/max your influence.
Before I begin, companions work in the same respect that they did throughout the base game. The major change is that you can now earn influence with non-companions (as part of the alliance system), and companions are now shared amongst everyone (the specific new KOTFE companions). You can still equip, gift, etc.
As you interact with various NPCs, either through cutscenes, completing quests, or other activities (such as a chapter completion), you’ll gain influence. Influence cannot decrease, so choosing a negative option for a character earns you fewer or no influence than choosing satisfactory options. Sometimes influence is gained or loss, and characters can and will die.
This is all tracked in your new companion and contacts window. Everyone is split in various categories, from contacts to main characters, along with a listing of characters that may have perished throughout the story (and the ability to reclaim their gear).
Influence and companion rank is important, because the higher a companion’s rank, the more useful it is. Companions can give you additional buffs and boost their crew skills as they rank up (along with, assumingly, different dialog options as the story advances from here). Contacts use their influence to determine how much they like you or don’t, which should influence quests moving into the future.
Companions in Knights of the Fallen Empire are handled a bit differently than previously. Companions join and/or leave your team as the story progresses. You can have access to various other class’s companions (for my playthrough, I was able to unlock Scorpio around Chapter 7/8).
Companion ranks also play into the achievement system, providing achievements usually for every 10 ranks of influence, up until it caps out at rank 50. The maximum rank is 50, although some may only have up to 20 ranks.
Recruitment is a big part of the system and plays into the story and your alliance’s power. You can recruit new followers / companions / contacts through exploration quests. This often involve meeting either new or old characters who, after the quest, will either join you or not, based on your dialog options.
Gifts operate the same manner as before, but instead of increasing your companionship with the companion, they increase the influence. Each contact / companion / etc. has their own likes and dislikes in regards to gifts.
You can track various major choices in the companions and contacts panel. For instance, with the companion Koth, if you make a choice to destroy a specific object early on, this will be remembered by him and probably referenced at a later point.
My biggest advice in this new system is after Chapter 7, pay close attention to all dialog, as the various options will lock / unlock various contacts, which may or may not play an important part in your incoming story in Eternal Empire.
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