I’ve been thinking a lot about classic Guild Wars lately — the anniversary always does this to me. And one of my favorite parts was the hero system, which allowed players to bring along NPC heroes with player-selected skills and gear to fill out a party.
At the time, some players threw absolute fits when heroes were introduced, and the skies were falling all over again when the rules changed to allow a single player to tote along seven heroes instead of just three. The complaint was that it disincentivized grouping, which relied on the idea that solo players weren’t already using henchies in the role as I was. From my perspective, heroes enabled me to do content that humans just didn’t want to do. No one wanted to do Eternal Grove for the hundredth time for a newbie, no one wanted to help you cap an elite at 1 a.m. when your guildies were all in bed, no one wanted to do the bonus in Dunes of Despair, and so on. I thought of heroes as a wonderful tool to scale party size, soloability, and even difficulty (since you had to control them plus your own character) in a way that added flavor and challenge to the game (but admittedly not necessarily sociability).
Guild Wars isn’t alone in allowing players to control NPCs to a degree, of course; Star Wars: The Old Republic, Star Trek Online, and even World of Warcraft (via garrisons) have whispers of this system. But Guild Wars was certainly among the boldest, allowing you a full party of NPCs. Do you want to see NPC party members make a comeback in other MMOs?