A large portion of RoM's player-base has been foaming at the mouth for companions who aid you in battle, ever since open beta when Frogster hinted at it. Updates had continuously come and gone with only aesthetic pets and the warden's requisite pets being added. I was starting to think that pets were reserved for the warden and possibly future classes, but I was happily proved wrong.
This system is huge! It's only in its infancy, and it already has 100 different pets that can be obtained, named, and trained. Each one has its own level that can be raised by feeding or merging two pets together; a handful of base stats -- similar to a character's base stats -- that affect a wide variety of differences in strengths; a quality rating that determines how high some of those base stats can be; a unique attribute that gives a pet a specific set of skills it will use in battle; a set of passive skills that you can spend a pet's talent points on to further customize how it can help you; and a production interface for creating craft resources.
Gotta catch 'em all
Pets actually start as eggs that you get by "catching" a cavy. A cavy will randomly spawn from any mob you kill. You can see all about catching cavys in the new tutorial video that Frogster released. I felt I was pretty lucky when one of my first few catches yielded a level 25 blue-quality egg with 2 wisdom, 3 strength, 4 stamina, and had the attribute of light. Not only are those stats great for my knight/priest, but the light attribute means my pet gets one of multiple complementary active skills that periodically restores some of my character's mana. How much power a pet possesses for assisting you is also greatly increased by its level, in the same way a rogue with dexterity will continue to dodge better as the character levels up. Having a level 25 pet with good strength and stamina base stats means I have a very good little helper. After spending the free talent points that each egg starts with, I now get well over 1,000 extra HP and a big boost in all defenses, just for having my pet summoned.
Since egg quality is ranked similarly to armor and weapon quality, there's the possibility of getting a purple or even an orange egg that could have base stats with higher numbers. However, the numbers seem to be assigned randomly across all the pet's stats. That's why I feel I'm lucky to have found a pet so quickly with the two highest stat possibilities for a blue-ranked egg, just where I can use them best. There's far more than luck involved, as there are many ways to control customization of pet skills and level.
The care and feeding of pets
There was a small farm instance added in RoM, to accompany the pet-system. You can milk cows and feed chickens to gain some free foodstuffs for your pet, if you don't want to spend gold on the expensive cuisine. Through the feeding of your pet, you can raise nourishment and other maintenance bars. The new chicken-feeding quest will also periodically reward you with golden eggs that are used to convert points from one bar to another -- allowing pets to gain talent points. The talent points are then spent on buying or raising your choice, from a selection of skills that all pets come with.
Merging the pets is fairly easy and awards boosts in stats and levels. A merge can also raise your pet's level, making the pet stronger and allowing you to raise certain skills' levels. Right now, I have a passive defense skill at level 2. Unfortunately, until I raise my pet's level and earn more talent points, I can't raise this skill anymore . You can only merge pets that share the same attribute or ones that have no attribute at all.
Another cool thing I found out from just fighting with my pet for a long time was that it will talk to you. I've only had it happen twice so far, but periodically a message window will appear giving you a question and a selection of answers to choose from. Different answers to these questions will reward you with different bonuses that give your pet free points in different growth assist points.
Last but not least is the production ability by which pets can produce crafting resources. Buy the appropriate tool, pick the resource you want it to make, and click start. Pets have mining, herbalism, and woodcutting skill-levels, just like player characters do. You have to use large amounts of expensive tools to get it to produce the resources, which in turn raises its production skill, and allows it to produce higher level resources. My favorite part about this is that you can load it with a stack of 99 axes and it will continue to produce all the resources while you play.
Hunting doesn't stop at the first pet. With so many different pets to find and choose from (as well as the ability to keep merging pets and to own more than one at a time), every day will be Easter in RoM from now on. Golden eggs are hard to come by, and food is expensive, so expect to be spending a lot of time and gold raising your pet. This is not a flimsy two-dimensional feature that you can expect to "complete" or attain mastery of in a few weeks. RoM's pet-system is more like a full-blown crafting system or another character class. There's a lot to constantly improve, maintain, and use from the day you get your first pet until the day you decide to quit playing.
If you haven't figured it out from reading my past articles yet, I tend to love incidental gameplay-features more than giant mechanic-altering additions. That's why I couldn't be happier that there are currently over 100 different and cool-looking pets to choose from, and the kicker is: I can name them all. Thanks to my niece, I now have Mark the newt, and Pippy the fungus. I'm still finding new pets every day to help me decide which ones I want to keep. If you love to min/max and are looking for a really good explanation of how to make the strongest, most leet pet you can, look no further than in the RoM forum.
As you can see, RoM's new pet system is pretty much full-on Double Rainbow. Have you seen all the different pets there are? Just link to a screenshot of your pet(s) within a comment and try, just try, to tell me the first time you got a pet, you didn't summon it while saying "I choose you...".