Grumpy's Companion Usage
These comments I made in a couple of emails I sent to somebody. They are good advice for using a companion. Not saying you have to do as I do, but you might find something of use here that will make the experience more enjoyable...
Combat: One thing I've always said: You have to learn how to work with them. They aren''t going to learn how to work with you (they just dumb ones and zeros). If they are using marksman weapons (or ranged spells in Atheri's case), you will need to clear their field of fire. Example: I use the "Use what I use." combat option most of the time. This causes the companion to mimic the player's weapon useage during combat (appropriate weapons must be in their inventory for this to work). Generally I initiate combat with a ranged weapon and then switch to melee as the critter/NPC gets closer. Very first thing I do before shooting is take a step to the side. This clears the companion's field of fire. If you do this, the companion kind of "gets the hint, and once you hit the critter (thus "triggering" the companion), they will move to your opposite side and begin firing.
Same thing holds true for melee combat. As a rule, I will charge an opponent, and instead of running up to them and hacking away, I'll either try for a quick slice as I move to the side, or run right past them and attack from the rear. What this does is leave the companion open to attack from the front. At that point, you have to watch the companion, cause they'll start circling as they fight the opponent. Move in the same direction as they do so you remain on opposite sides of your opponent. At the very least, try to use an "angle of attack" that is different from the companion's.
Another thing to remember is that a kind of "list" is set up for companions that are engaged in combat with multiple opponents. You can target an opponent for the companion and move on to another opponent while you deal with a second. You can do this with a ranged weapon most effectively. Take a bow shot at one. This will cause the companion to target that opponent, then you go after another.
Opponents attack the closest thing to them. Attack an opponent with a melee weapon, then leave that one for the companion and literally "run away" to another opponent. Opponent's priority is to target the player, but once you are farther from them (opponent) than the (now attacking) companion, they will engage the companion.
In summary... Move to the side.
I've heard some say that in the caves or hallways, there's not enough room, but I can usually figure out some kind of strategy to compensate for companion behavior.
I had one fellow complain about their dearth of AI during combat. I told him if he thought about it real hard, he was using the same "dumb" AI that he was accusing the companion of using ...
My bad... :D
Thing with me is that if I'm not scripting them, I'm playtesting what I've scripted. Been doing it for over two years now, so I've "fathomed" their capabilities pretty well. They work good if you apply a little strategy and learn to work with them. Not perfect, but the Devs did a pretty good job on their coding, all things considered, and some of the stuff we've done (modders) has helped too.
I always got one with me. I use one female. Same head for the last couple of years. Changed her hair a couple of times though. I never underestimate their capabilities anymore. If you haven't played all the way through Tribunal, the toughest opponent in the game is in there. A lich... Me and companion went in there twice and just as promptly got wacked. I tried 8 more times without companion to kill it and couldn't. Tried every trick I could think of to no avail. I had the save set up just outside of the room the lich was in and companion standing in wait mode just in front of me. I was frustrated to the max, but decided to give it one more try. I told companion to follow and we both had bows equipped. When you walk in there, there's a column between you and the Litch which gives you time to set up. I killed one rat, and then inched my way to the left of that column and took a shot with the bow, thus starting combat. The Lich ran forward to engage and I slid over behind a second column to my left. Lich fired her spell and it hit the column and dissipated…
Companion did something totally unexpected at that point. Instead of following me, she slid to the right of the first column and started firing. I'd hide behind the second column, load up another arrow and then move out and take a shot. Couple of times the lich was just getting ready to cast the spell at the companion, and after I hit her, she would turn and fire it at me, but I'd just slide behind the column again. All this time I'm hearing companion's bow going "twang, twang, twang..." and she was having a field day. The last time I moved out, I heard one more "twang", and companion got the kill…
I was ecstatic.... :D
As a rule, you get a 25% return on arrows out of a corpse, so if it takes four shots to kill something, you should find one arrow in the corpse. This is random based however, so it doesn't always work that way. I got six back out of the lich... That would be a minimum of 24 fired, and my best estimate based on the 600 hp the lich had and the damage that the bows and arrows we were using did, was that we fired somewhere between 30 and 40 arrows between the two of us.
One of a slew of "companion saves the day" scenarios I$#39ve had. Reason I like playing with them. That has worked the other way around a few times too. Times where I got there just in time to save her hind end. :D
All in all, I've had some neat experiences with them. Few not so neat as well, but I've learned to minimize those over time.
I remember one instance when we had entered a cave complex. This particular cave had something like a Storm Atronarch in it, but the guy was way down at the bottom of the cave and the ramp leading down there was long and convoluted. Given that this guy is a critter, once he saw me, he "triggered" into combat mode. Now also given that the companion was using the guard AI at this time, it "triggered" her, and their AI for pathing at that point is nil. Instead of using the rock ramp, she jumped straight down at the guy; we use 200 acrobatics on these characters to keep them from suffering another long-known bug of dying when going through doors, so the fall wasn't going to hurt her, but we were low level and she was going to be no match for a Storm Atronarch, and there was no way I could get there in time, so I just restarted from a previous save.
Second time I just put her in wait mode and picked the guy off myself, then went back and got her. So from that little tale, you can figure that there are going to be times when you want to leave them behind for a few minutes. In all my testing though, those times were relatively few, so she's wound being with me 98% of the time. As Gabran is using the guard AI, if you do want to keep them out of a particular combat scenario, you should insure they can't "see" what's happening, or they will engage anyway, even if they are in wait mode. I had this happen one time. Companion was down to about 10% remaining health (we were out of potions) and I knew there was a Golden Saint coming up, so I put her in wait mode and tried the Golden Saint myself. I wasn't in too good of shape either, and the Golden Saint was kicking the crap out of me. I was near dead, and companion ran up and offed her in the nick of time and just calmly walked back to where I had her waiting... "Hey! No problem there smart player person"... :D So it worked out ok there, but it then dawned on me that if I wanted to try that again, I would need to leave the companion a bit further behind and out of visual range…
One place you absolutely don't want to take them is the Akulakan chamber (MW end-game). The heart doesn't actually die, it just disappears. Once you hit it it goes into her (his in your case) "que" of opponents, and they will beat on it till the cows come home with no effect, so leave them in the ante-chamber before you go in there.
They will not follow you to the Clockwork City... That is a scripted sequence, and companions are not included in the script, so you'll have to do that one on your own (just have them wait in the temple). There are too many traps down there, and the limited AI will not get the companion past them anyway. They do function fine in the other subterranean environments in Mournhold, and are REAL handy to have around in a few of those areas.
Bloodmoon I can't attest to. I've never finished it, but these two I've cited above are the only two where you either can't or don't want to take them for the mentioned reasons. These two in the original game and the Tribunal expansion.