So, while waiting for the companion changes i decided to level up all my companions and then go to preview to make some testing on how good each of them is at fighting. I post here some of the results.
Disclaimers: 1) I have around 100 companions, but i didnt test all of them. 2) Some testing was done on live, but a big chunk of it was done on preview, so i could have them legendary and max level, to witness them in their full glory. 3) I dont know the full extend of the companion changes, but with the removal of bondings i assume fighting companion will start becoming viable again, at least some of them that are not Xuna or Abyssal Chicken. The testing was done on this assumptions. 4) For reasons that cant be disclosed, some of the companions wont be named or wont be given details for. 5) No augments were tested since they aint doing nothing other than giving stats. 6) What i post here is what i saw happening. By no means i claim to be all knowing or that i did everything or whatever. If you came here to see who's knowledge is bigger, LEAVE! NOW!
Btw, im a pally tank. Im mentioning it because of some examples ill be giving.
Now, for the sake of it, i will divide them in 3 categories, based on the severity of their case: 1) Decent/Good 2) Dumb 3) Completely Broken (for various reasons and in carious ways).
This is a category i wont go into much detail about. Pretty standard stuff in here. You punch something, they will start punching it. You leave they will keep punching it. They will aggro a horde of mobs for no reason whatsoever, you know they mobs are just standing there being mobs, doing their thing, some miles away, but for some reason your companion aggros them... Now, they got some issues with target selection, say if you fight a group and hit something and then hit something else the companion might get confused like "where am i going? which one am i hitting? what am i doing with my life". But in general they do their job, they punch stuff.
Many companions belong in this category, probably the vast majority. In general they get confused as to what to do and, in some cases, they become 100% useless. Some companions will just get confused what to punch, especially when you use aoe skills or starts hitting different things. They get over it, no huge deal. But there are companions who are actually so dumb, they render themselves completely useless. I will use one specific example, the "Fawn of Shiallia" (except from the colors is the same as the "Snowy Fawn"). For context, said Fawn has 2 active skills 1) create a healing orb that heals around it for 10 seconds 2) cast a heal-over-time effect on the player. Now, at the start of combat the Fawn will run to you and use its first skill right at your feet and then go away, for the rest of the combat the fawn will try and stay away from you, but it wont try to avoid red zones, or if mobs start hitting it it will just stand there. And as i say it will try and stay away from you the healing orb it creates with its first skill is always cast at each own feet, and once it casts it, it will run away from it. No matter what happens the Fawn will always place the healing orb at its feet and then run from it, it may be full health, it doesnt matter, you have been surrounded by hordes of enemies and you are nearly dead, you aint getting the healing orb anywhere near you. And it casts it as soon as its out of cooldown and its cooldown is something like 35 seconds. As for the second skill, good luck. The Fawn will only use its heal-over-time skill ONLY if you are below 50% HP and, mind you, this skill has 10 seconds cooldown. The Fawn will spam the ability with the long cooldown and will almost never use the ability with the low cooldown. The Fawn of Shiallia is a special case of incurable stupidity, its AI is almost non existent. But a lot of the companions i checked were actually doing incomprehensible stuff. I was standing a little further away from a group of mobs checking some things on the companion i just summoned, the companion run up the the mobs, punched them and then it ran up to me, with the mobs chasing it. One other just stopped punching stuff and just stood there staring at the mobs while i was fighting. Now these are some examples, but for a big part, a lot of the companions were just dumb.
3) Completely Broken
This is my favorite category. I love those companions. For context, every companion that has a heal is in this category, along with some more. Now let me start off with the healing companions. I mentioned earlier that im a tank, i have around 13% incoming healing, the BEST ever heal i received from a rank40 legendary companion was *epic music intensifies in the background* 2357 HP. Yes, you read that correctly, the best heal i received was 2357 HP, in my 900k+ HP which can i increase to well over 1mil, this is absolutely nothing. My Holy Avenger enchantment can heal me for more than that. Mind you, the 2357 heal was on a critical, the non-critical one was also 2357. I will say no more. Now healers are one part, companions that are supposedly buffing you, either with skills or passively. I wouldnt count on those buffs. The "Harper Bard" is a companion with an active skill that will give you bonus Power and critical strike when you are above 50% HP and defense and something else when you are below that. Imagine a rank40 legendary Harper Bard. Prepare for the Power buff. Ta da! Your Power was just buffed for 500. Not 500k, just 500. This is not a joke. The thing about the healers was not a joke either. Now, if anyone has ever checked what are the skills of "Angel of Protection" you have noticed that it passively gives "5% damage reduction". Nah mate. You think. Its actually 5k defense. At least this is a decent buff compared to the others, If you exclude the fast that the Angel is completely useless outside of that. Now, i will go back to my beloved Fawn. Outside of those 2 skills, the Fawn has also another passive skill which unlocks at rank30 if i remember correctly, whenever it uses skill number 2, the heal-over-time one, it triples its power, so, because we get stats from our companions, this should also buff up your power pretty nicely. So the Fawn technically belongs to both broken categories, healers and buffers. Now let me tell you, if you manage to escape from the horde of mobs hitting you to get to the healing orb the Fawn has just placed below its feet before running away, hoping that it will help you survive the onslaught, you are gravely mistaken, the healing orb doesnt heal, it doesnt do anything, it just exists there. Now lets go to the other skill, the interesting one. Now, if you ever manage the Fawn to actually use it, keep in mind that the rank40 legendary Fawn healed me for a little over 500 per second, nothing to write home about. But, please Fawn, after getting here at least buff my power a bit. Nah b****. When i managed to make the rank40 legendary Fawn use this skill, my Power was buffed up by 0, so i was like, "oh, okey, for some reason i dont get the bonus Power, but the Fawn must have gotten a nice buff to its Power". NOPE. The Fawn didnt increase its Power at all. Zero. *im here to hide the rest of the text* Good stuff, aight? Whats more, whats more. Oh yeah. The buffs most companions give are on the same scale, 0-1000, maybe, just maybe 1500? But poor me not so sure, because at this point my brain was already melting. Did you noticed how i said "most companions"? Dont get your hopes too high. A couple of companions are pretty bugged (bugs already reported). Not just bugged. Ill just say that one companion was so bugged that if you used it, your grandmother who is deaf, blind and is unable to communicate with her environment, would know that you are exploiting. (at this point id like to apologize to anyone who might find this this offensive in any way, but its sadly the truth.) Some companions are also so slow at using their skills its painful. I could go, make food, eat, get a nap and return to the game, but the helmite paladin ghost would still be trying to cast his skill. I want to make an honorary mention to the poor Kuo-toa. Please buff this little poor thing. It has only 1 skill, its too weak. Even by the standards of weak, the Kuo-toa is weak. I feel bad about the poor thing.
There are many, many more things that can be said for the categories 2 and 3 and many more examples, but this wall of text is becoming too big and food is almost ready, so lets wrap this up. From what i can understand, with the mess that we call mod16, companions were buffed a bit, at least stat-wise, aaaand thats it. Nothing else. No one ever took the time to check if the companions were doing what they were supposed to do. Some of them do, yes some companions can still punch stuff. But everything else is just not working nearly as it was supposed to be. And even for the companions whose only job is to punch stuff, its just... Xuna and Abyssal chicken can do more damage than a lot of players, some can do decent, the vast majority are just not even close. And the Chicken has an unmatched ability at bugging everything.
And im saying all these because, really, even with the upcoming change to the companions, aka the removal of bondings and some other things we dont know, unless they address those issues, we will still live in the age of Augments, Xuna and Abyssal Chicken, because everything else is either not on par or completely useless.
Edit: Something that i forgot to mention. Cryptic please fix Preview. Having to farm on live is one thing, having to farm in order to test stuff is another thing. I have to do quests and farm to manage to reach companions to max level so i can test them. And unless you already have something on the toon that you copy on preview, there is no way of getting it. And that doesnt only apply to companions. If you want people to go on Preview to test stuff you have to make a lot more things available. Including the weapons and gear from mods 17,18 and 19. Because the only stuff currently on Preview is from mod 16, a couple years ago...
The problem with the (healing) companions is that they have like... 15k power. And the formula takes into the consideration the companion's stats. If the rework would mean that your companion will reach triple the stats it has now (no multiplication through bonding), the side effect will be in much higher (healing) potential - even if they do not touch the formula.
But if they really do not touch the formula... oh, there will be an emergency patch to fix Xuna's bloodbath and AbbyChick's onslaught on day one.
The AI is another matter. And I am afraid that we can't expect much in that area.
The issue is that even with the removal of the bondings, we will still take their stats multiplied. Gear doesnt nearly give enough stats to compensate for the loss of stats otherwise, unless they reword all gear, which i highly doubt.
In my opinion, the only way to fix healers and all companions in general, is to make gear give us all the stats we need and companions just giving us slight bonuses, like the companion bonuses we already have. And the companion's purpose is to give us aid in combat rather than defining how strong we are on our stats. I dont think they will ever find a formula as long as companions give us stats.
Plus, as a note, companion bolster will now reach 100%. This, in my opinion will add to the already high elitism, people will start, like mount bolster, arguing who has it bigger.
And in the announcement there was statement that the gear and rune stones will be rebalanced. So it is too soon to judge. I can claim that the bonding state now is awful, but I have too little information to claim the same about the rework.
I agree 100% that most "active" companions are useless/stupid/broken - exception being Xuna which I use on one toon if i fancy rolling my face across the keyboard or having a snooze while she kicks the ;;;;;; out of those big demons in the Glyphworks etc
I'm interested in the companion changes etc and whilst getting rid of bondings seems stupid to me i am willling to give it a go.
But yeah, stupid companions which aggro mobs a mile away then run back to you so they can insta kill you isnt big or clever!