Created By: KoverasApril 2, 2013 Last Edited By: KoverasApril 15, 2013
Troped

Non-Player Companion

Computer-controlled aide to the player character.

Name Space:
Main
Page Type:
Trope
A Non Player Character who sticks with the Player Character throughout the game and usually has complementary skills (e.g. if you handle all the fighting, they may be a Stealth Expert or a Science Hero) and a contrasting personality to the player character.

You usually cannot control them directly, but they are nevertheless the key to beating the game, as you either need their skills to fix Broken Bridges of all kinds or can call on them for Combination Attacks to bring down powerful bosses. When you have to defend them, the entire game can turn into a continuous Escort Mission; when given Gameplay Ally Immortality, on the other hand, they often seem to be escorting you.

Their role in the story can fall anywhere from Plucky Comic Relief Sidekick and Exposition Fairy, through Deuteragonist, all the way to relegating the player to Supporting Protagonist. Regardless, they often receive the most Character Development in the game and tend to facilitate the same in the player character via Dialog During Gameplay and other interactions. They also tend to be taken away from you at some point in the game--usually temporarily, in order for you to better appreciate their presence and help. Ultimately, they commonly end up on the receiving end of the Video Game Caring Potential.

RPGs often (but not always) allow you to recruit an entire Player Party of AI companions and to control them directly when needed; in other genres, you can usually (but not always) only have up to one at any time. In games with Co Op Multiplayer, the second player may be allowed to take over the AI companion's controls--or the AI companion may be just a stand-in dummy for another player.

Super Trope to Manual Leader AI Party. See Companion Cube for when the "companion" is an inanimate object (and hence has little AI); Attack Drone for when the AI ally lacks personality and only has combat functions; and Robot Buddy for actual in-universe artificially intelligent Sidekicks.

Examples:

Action-Adventure

First-Person Shooter
  • Elizabeth in Bio Shock Infinite can open tears in the reality, keeps you (as Booker) supplied with ammo, health, and salts, and provides emergency resuscitation if you die. Oh, and she is the bona fide Deuteragonist of the game.
  • Alyx Vance starts off as an occasional ally in Half-Life 2 but grows more and more into the role of consistent companion in Episode 1 and particularly 2.
  • Call Of Juarez: Bound in Blood plays with this trope by allowing you to choose whether to play as Thomas or Ray before each level, while the other brother is controlled by the AI. Both are equally important to the plot.
  • Daikatana has two computer-controlled sidekicks, and they both suffer from the same horrible AI, made even worse by the fact that they have to survive or the level is failed.
  • Star Wars Republic Commando has not one, but three stable AI companions, each with a unique specialization and abilities (demolitions, sniper, and hacker).
  • Similarly, Spec Ops The Line has two AI companions following the player, one specializing in explosive ordnance and one, in marksmanship.

Simulation Game

Role-Playing Game
  • Diablo II introduced the henchmen system, which allows you to hire a companion in all but one towns, though only one can follow you at any time. The companion can Level Up and be equipped with better gear, but does not replace the Player Party, which consists of other players' characters online.
  • Star Wars The Old Republic has five unique companions in each class-specific storyline. Although they are discovered and recruited akin to a Player Party in single-player games, you can only bring one along at any time.
  • Similarly, in Fallout 3 and Fallout New Vegas, you can recruit several AI companions but can only bring one with you, while the rest wait for you at the hub locations. In New Vegas, you can additionally have a pet (a robotic dog or an eyebot).
  • The Elder Scrolls:
    • The Elder Scrolls III Morrowind has NPC followers on multiple quests. You can tell them to wait for you, but arming and armoring them beyond any equipment they start with is only possible in the PC version and then only by console commands. The exception is a mercenary you can hire in the Tribunal expansion, who is available at any time and has accessible inventory.
    • The Elder Scrolls IV Oblivion has NPC followers mostly in quests, though reaching the highest rank with the guilds usually grants you access to at least one follower available any time (in the case of the Arena, it's The Adoring Fan). They have a strong tendency to be Leeroy Jenkinses, but quite frankly the biggest hazard to their health is you since they love to run directly between you and the enemy.
    • In The Elder Scrolls V Skyrim, the player has the option of inviting certain NPCs to travel with them after befriending them. They can carry the player's gear and will travel with them, following their lead (if the player sneaks, they'll sneak as well), and they can be given commands such as to wait or to pick something up. The NPC's personality will determine how they react to some things--for example, if the NPC has a high morality level, if the player tells them to attack someone they'll refuse, or if they see the player commit murder they'll turn on them. The player can only have one follower at a time, though some quests will have another person travel with them temporarily without all the regular follower options. In addition to a human follower, they can also have a creature follower at the same time: they can get a dog or buy an armored troll.
  • Neverwinter Nights 2 has a standard Player Party, but the second expansion Storm of Zehir allows you to add "cohorts" to the Featureless Protagonist party you built during character creation. The cohorts are all unique and range from a hammy druid with a deinonychus companion to a batshit insane Bare Fisted Monk who never stops laughing.

Will go under the Video Game Characters index.
Community Feedback Replies: 31
  • April 2, 2013
    Chernoskill
    • Daikatana has not one, but TWO sidekicks, and they both suffer from the same horrible A.I., made even worse by the fact that they have to survive or the level is failed.
  • April 2, 2013
    Koveras
    I have heard that similar AI companions were featured in following games, but I haven't played them, so I couldn't make a proper example write-up:

    Can anyone help?
  • April 3, 2013
    Chernoskill
    Half-Life 2 has no sidekicks that are with Gordon through the whole game... Alyx comes close in Episode I, but it's still an on-and-off thing.

  • April 3, 2013
    Koveras
    ^ Yeah, I was thinking about Alyx, but I didn't know how much involvement she had in the main plot. Thanks for clearing that up.
  • April 3, 2013
    StarSword
    ^She's with you a lot more consistently in Ep 2, not counting the part where she's incapacitated by a Hunter, or the defense of the missile silo.

    As for the Fallout series, I'm not sure about the earlier titles (haven't played them enough) but Fallout 3 has them wait for you at hub locations when you're not using them. Probably closer to henchmen.
  • April 3, 2013
    Jaysef
  • April 3, 2013
    Koveras
    ^^ How many companions can you take along with you in F3?

    ^ How exactly is it implemented? Because if Raynor is a controllable Hero Unit, like in the original StarCraft, it doesn't count. I also don't think it counts if Raynor controls an allied faction in that level...
  • April 4, 2013
    Bisected8
    You can have one companion in Fallout 3. Fallout New Vegas lets you have 2, but the second partner is more of a "pet" (you can have a robotic dog or an eyebot).
  • April 4, 2013
    Koveras
    ^ Thanks, added.
  • April 5, 2013
    Koveras
    Bump.
  • April 5, 2013
    Dawnwing
    • In The Elder Scrolls V Skyrim, the player has the option of inviting certain NPCs to travel with them after befriending them. They can carry the player's gear and will travel with them, following their lead (if the player sneaks, they'll sneak as well), and they can be given commands such as to wait or to pick something up. The NPC's personalitiy will determine how they react to some things - for example, if the NPC has a high morality level, if the player tells them to attack someone they'll refuse, or if they see the player commit murder they'll turn on them. The player can only have one follower at a time, though some quests will have another person travel with them temporarily without all the regular follower options. In addition to a human follower, they can also have a creature follower at the same time: they can get a dog or buy an armored troll.
  • April 5, 2013
    Koveras
    Added.
  • April 6, 2013
    Surenity
    Would Tails from the Sega Genesis Sonic the Hedgehog games count?
  • April 6, 2013
    Koveras
    ^ I dunno, you tell me what he does in which game.
  • April 7, 2013
    Koveras
    Bump.
  • April 7, 2013
    Koveras
    Bump.
  • April 8, 2013
    Arivne
    The word "foil" in the Laconic: I do not think it means what you think it means.

    "Assistant" or "aide" might be better.
  • April 8, 2013
    Koveras
    ^ I have tried to explain that in the description: the AI companion has skills that the Player Character doesn't and often serves to bring out the character traits in the PC by contrasting them. I think that is what foil means...
  • April 10, 2013
    Koveras
    Bump.
  • April 11, 2013
    Koveras
    You know, I really think we need this page... How can I get more people to give me feedback and otherwise support this YKTTW?
  • April 11, 2013
    Prfnoff
    Trope descriptions shouldn't talk about how they can be done poorly or done well. But the rest of the description is mostly good.

    Some games ostensibly designed for two-player co-op will assign a single player an AI partner whose role is more or less identical to that of the player's character (and may be an alternate character choice). It isn't clear from the description whether or not this sort of thing would count. I would specifically exclude it.

    There's also the relation of this trope to Attack Drone to consider.
  • April 12, 2013
    Koveras
    I have fixed the "done poorly/well" part to better reflect what I actually meant.

    Why exactly do you think such co-op examples should be excluded? I have mentioned them in the write-up but I am not sure about the exclusion.

    Thanks for pointing me to the Attack Drone trope. I have added the distinction to the write-up. In short: AI Companion has personality, Attack Drone doesn't. So, in Bio Shock Infinite, Elizabeth is the former, the mechanical gunners and Patriots she summons are the latter.
  • April 12, 2013
    Koveras
    Bump.
  • April 13, 2013
    Koveras
    They see me bumpin', they ignorin'...
  • April 14, 2013
    Koveras
    Bumping for last hat so I can launch this tomorrow...
  • April 15, 2013
    StarSword
    • The Elder Scrolls:
      • The Elder Scrolls III Morrowind has NPC followers on multiple quests. You can tell them to wait for you, but arming and armoring them beyond any equipment they start with is only possible in the PC version and then only by console commands. The exception is a mercenary you can hire in the Tribunal expansion, who is available at any time and has accessible inventory.
      • The Elder Scrolls IV Oblivion has NPC followers mostly in quests, though reaching the highest rank with the guilds usually grants you access to at least one follower available any time (in the case of the Arena, it's The Adoring Fan). They have a strong tendency to be Leeroy Jenkinses, but quite frankly the biggest hazard to their health is you since they love to run directly between you and the enemy.

    I already hatted this, it seems.
  • April 15, 2013
    StarSword
    Also:

    Simulation Games:

    • Tachyon The Fringe allows you to hire a wingman who will follow you when you go out on missions. They each have their own dialogues, personalities, and stats and can suffer Character Death (apart from the robots, who are replaceable).
  • April 15, 2013
    McKathlin
    The title AI Companion makes me think of in-universe AI, like Siri on the iPhone, or Jane speaking to Ender through his earpiece in Speaker for the Dead. I think that the title Non Player Companion would be clearer as to this trope's meaning.
  • April 15, 2013
    Koveras
    ^ That works, too.
  • April 15, 2013
    StarSword
    RPG:
  • April 15, 2013
    McKathlin
    Exposition Fairy is a subtrope or related trope, and might be worth mentioning in the description.

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