Before diving into the specific abilities of each companion, I should make a quick note about which companions are available to you and how you gain them. If you play a Republic character, then you have access to all Republic companions. The same applies for the Imperial side and Imperial companions. There are no class divisions in regard to companions. On top of that, each faction gains four new companions specifically for Galactic Starfighter. No, unfortunately, these companions do not appear on your regular ship. They are for Galactic Starfighter only.
You may obtain companions three ways. First, the new companions are just given to you. If you have access to Galactic Starfighter, you will automatically have one companion to fill each starfighter role without having to do anything extra. You can also gain companions for your starfighter as you earn companions on the ground. A Sith Inquisitor will gain Khem Val about level 9 if she plays the main storyline as she levels via Galactic Starfighter. If another classes' companion fits your playstyle better, you can purchase that companion unlock for 1500 commendations; if you're a Jedi Knight but really want Bowdaar as your shipmate, you can purchase that unlock.
One of eight possible companions can fill the offensive role in your starfighter loadout. Each companion can have two of four different passively abilities and one of five different active abilities. Let's talk about the four passive offensive abilities first. Improved Kill Zone increases the firing arc by 2 degrees. The firing arc is the area just outside the the dead center of the screen in which you can fire at an opponent. Pinpointing increases your accuracy by 6%. I'm not exactly sure how it does this, but I'm assuming the it makes the lead reticle slightly harder to miss by increasing its size or increasing the margin of error. Rapid Reload reloads missiles and other secondary weapons 8% faster.
Obviously, players' needs will vary, but I can make recommendations based on my personal experience during testing. Last week, I suggested the strikefighter as the go-to, jack-of-all-trades ship. Keeping with that suggestion, I wholeheartedly suggest choosing a companion with Spare Ammo because missiles can be an issue if the fight last a long time. I've personally never had an issue with cooldown times, so Pinpointing or Improved Kill Zone would be the natural suggestion. I have a bit of trouble with accuracy, so for me, I would need Lieutenant Pierce on the Imperial side or Kira Carsen on the Republic side as my offensive companion.
I hate to suggest that the defensive companion role is the most important, but it more or less is. The four possible passive abilities will make or break your gameplay. Structural Support reduces damage by 9%. Quick Recharge increases shield power regeneration by 15%. Power to Shields increases the overall shield power by 10%. And Response Tuning increases evasion by 6%.
I'm sure that someone will find a tremendous use for each of these abilities, but I have found only two that work for me. Response Tuning does little for me that I cannot do with general maneuvering, and a larger shield pool does little good unless it recharges faster, too. Since there are some weapons that can bypass all shields, it's a good idea to protect the hull as well. The companion on the Imperial side that has both Structural Support and Quick Recharge is Broonmark; it's Gus Tuno on the Republic side.
The four passives for the tactical role are as follows: Peripheral Vision, which increases sensor radius by 2500 meters; Depth of Field, which increase sensor focus by 2500 meters; Comm Boost, which increase communication range by 5000 meters; and Silent Running, which dampens opponents sensors by an additional 4000 meters. For scout ships and gunships, Silent Running and Comm Boost make sense, but jacks-of-all-trades will want to see and lock on to our targets fast. I recommend SCORPIO for the Imperial side and Elara Dorne for the Republic side.
Engineering passives fill in the gaps where the other roles fall a bit short. For instance, the offensive role does not deal with the amount of blaster energy or the rate of blaster fire; engineering does. Power to Blaster increases the blaster power pool by 10%. Efficient Fire decreases the cost of blaster fire by 13%. Power to the Engines increases the engine power pool by 10%. And Efficient Maneuvers reduces the cost of component abilities and maneuvers by 13%.
Engineering remains the toughest for me to pick because I want all of those passives. I usually settle on Efficient Maneuvers and Efficient Fire because I end up using my active ability often and my blaster energy can be a bear to manage sometimes. This means I use 2V-R8 on the Imperial side and Yunn on the Republic side.
You are allowed one active companion ability, and this is determined by the companion you choose as your copilot. Your copilot has to also fill one of the other roles on your ship: offensive, defensive, tactical, or engineering. Given my suggestions on the Imperial side, I can choose Pierce, Broonmark, SCORPIO, or 2V-R8 to be my copilot.
I have found that Galactic Starfighter, especially solo, is a very defense-oriented game. That means for me, I have to shy away from offensive abilities like Bypass (35% shield piercing for 15 seconds) and Lingering Effect (a DoT of 115 damage over 6 seconds). Although crowd-control-type abilities might be useful (like Suppression, which reduces the target's accuracy by 25% for 20 seconds), I tend to focus on defensive active abilities. Both Nullify and Hydro Spanner work well. I like Hydro Spanner the best, so that means that I will have to swap out 2V-R8 for Blizz on the Imperial side (or Yunn for T7-01 on the Republic side) if I want that active ability. If the passives are more important to me, I can stick with what I have and place Broonmark or Elara Dorne as my copilot, making Nullify my active.
I know I did a lot of information dumping here, but Galactic Starfighter is infinitely more complicated that I had originally thought when it was announced. What do you think? Which companion combination do you recommend? Which is more important to you: active or passive abilities? I'll see you next week.
The Hyperspace Beacon by Larry Everett is your weekly guide to the vast galaxy of Star Wars: The Old Republic, currently in production by BioWare. If you have comments or suggestions for the column, send a transmission to firstname.lastname@example.org. Now strap yourself in, kid -- we gotta make the jump to hyperspace!