Despite their less than stellar writing, the companions are one of my favourite parts of FO4 and as someone who is both a writer and looking to get into writing for games I've been thinking on what Bethesda could have done differently (and hopefully will do differently in future installments of the franchise. Shoutout to u/Cato_Heresy for the inspiration behind this post who described the companions as semi-mute donkeys, which I found both amusing and accurate.
The first thing I'd do is give them more conversations. Danse, for example, only actually has four conversations with the Sole Survivor. For reference, I'm excluding plot-related conversations such as stuff he says in Call To Arms because it's mostly just him talking at the Sole Survivor for quest purposes. You can listen to it all in 15 minutes. To compare, Cullen from Dragon Age Inquisition has 14 conversations, excluding plot-related conversations. And that's just conversations that go into actual cutscenes, it's not including all the mini conversations you can have with him. To listen to all of Cullen's dialogue content it takes ~1 hour and 30 minutes.
Related to the conversations I would not have the romance be the last conversation. For a lot of people, the best part about companions is developing a relationship with them, whether or not it's romantic. For most companions the earliest you can flirt with them is the second to last conversation, with Danse it's the third to last (his second conversation, in other words). With no build-up or any real cultivation of a relationship this feels extremely forced and disjointed. I generally disagree with people who complain about characters being "player-sexual" (people said the same thing about Dragon Age 2), but the obvious lack of care and effort (or perhaps lack of skill) makes it feel like the argument has more merit in FO4.
Have the characters actually interact with each other. The only times your companions interact with each other is when you're switching between companions, but they only ever say one line to each other and it's always the same line. The only time I can really think of any of the companions properly interacting is between Piper and Nick, but that's to further the plot. I think the best way to solve this issue would be to have two companions follow you at the same time. That way they could have banter akin to Dragon Age companions. Another way would be able to allow them to interact when at the same settlement.
On a similar note, I know that companions do comment on their environment and the quest at hand on occasion, but I think they need to increase that. Really helps with the semi-mute donkey problem.
Have more physical interactions with the characters. I know there's implied sex if you sleep while a romanced companion follows you, but the ability to hug them or kiss them would have been amazing. Also ngl, as horrifying as I'm sure the Bethesda sex animations would have been I still think it would have been a nice addition. Non-sexual interactions could be stuff like sharing a drink at a bar or something like that.
The companions need to have the appearance of a life outside of the Sole Survivor. Preston kinda shows this as he has random NPCs come up to him and thank him for his work with the Minutemen, but that's really it. In theory, Piper should be chasing down stories, Nick should be working on new cases, Hancock should be managing Goodneighbour, Danse should be commanding other BoS members, etc. But they don't. I think part of the problem is that once recruited you have to send them to a settlement, whereas for the companions that have homes it would make much more sense for them to go back home (I know technically you can send them back to their homes if you don't select a settlement when first dismissing them from your service, but since this isn't a clickable option and it disappears once you do choose a settlement, I'm not counting it). Piper is literally abandoning her 10-year-old sister. It would also be kinda cool if Piper continued to publish stories, perhaps based on quests you've completed such as a story and interview with Vadim after Confidence Man. I know there are two cases (excluding DLC) that you can work on with Nick, but considering you don't even have to do those with him it doesn't really count. I'd really like a radiant quest with Nick to help him solve cases, though preferably offered less often than Preston's Minutemen quests. For companions that don't have homes, I'd like to see them interact with settlements in their own way. For example, Curie could set up a little medical shop or could walk around doing scientific research (plus imagine how cute she'd be with a little clipboard).
The companions need actual arcs and this includes personal quests. Most of them have some semblance of an arc, but none of it is impactful or really changes the companion that much, the main exception being Cait. Danse doesn't even change his Brotherhood lines post-Blind Betrayal nor do his approval/disapproval triggers change, despite dialogue implying he's begun to at least question some of his personal beliefs. The personal quests help give the companions a motivation and a want that exists outside of the Sole Survivor. Plus it's just interesting and god knows Fallout 4 needed more interesting quests. Piper, Deacon, Hancock, and X6-88 don't even have personal quests.
Companions that aren't fully formed should have either been cut or made complete companions (I'm excluding Dogmeat here because, well, he's a dog). This is really just Codsworth and Strong. I would obviously have preferred to have all the companions be full companions, I think Strong is genuinely interesting and it's a shame he doesn't have proper conversations. But yeah, if it would have saved them time to put more effort into the fleshed-out companions I would have preferred that, quality over quantity and all that.
Very interested to hear everyone's thoughts!
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