Such fun! Now back to the otherwise-scheduled-as-normal post.
Since Fallen Empire, BioWare have introduced a couple of pre-established characters as subscriber rewards. Shae Vizla and Nico Okarr were both characters only seen in the Trailers before Shae became a pivotal part of the 3.0 story, and the infamous HK Subscriber Rewards scheme reunited people with the barmy Bodyguard-turned-Assassin Droid they had lost in the main story.
Since the Companion Subscriber rewards proved popular (which is also partly what led to the HK Scheme in the first place), I think there's a good chance that BioWare will repeat this experience, since they also seem keen to hand out Companions left, right, and centre at any given opportunity - one was a reward for completing the Eternal level of the Dark vs. Light Event, and just look at the amount of Companions available now via the Cartel Market.
We're still a long ways off from the next Expansion, but still I'd imagine that by now some people in BioWare are busy drumming up all sorts of plans for it and which Companions will be destined to return. As part of this, they'd also of course need to consider potential Sub-Reward Companions, so the question remains: who could it possibly be?
I'll start off by first looking at the characters first seen in the Trailers, since both of the pre-Expansion-launch Sub Rewards were characters of this type.
The identified characters who survived the events of the various trailers besides Nico and Shae were Satele Shan, Jace Malcom, Eleena Daru, T7-O1, and Darth Malgus.
Immediately, there's a problem. T7 is of course already a Companion and was chronologically the second Trailer character to feature in-game just behind Satele Shan. Eleena is absolutely deceased, having been killed by Malgus in the novel Deceived because she was his greatest weakness, while Malgus himself apparently dies in-game during the Flashpoint The False Emperor. Finally, Jace Malcom will die if the Player chooses to support the Empire during the War for Iokath story.
So in terms of Trailer characters, all that's realistically left is Satele Shan. Even then, she conforms to a similar problem as befalls a surviving Jace Malcom and a resurrected Darth Malgus; she's just far too important to be a mere Sub-Reward. If the former Grand Master of the Jedi Order herself was to ally herself full-time with the Player, that's something which should definitely happen for everyone.
But then apparently Mand'alor the Avenger herself has allied herself only with eligible Subscribers in the past, so I guess anything goes by BioWare's standards.
Realistically, with the advancements in the story, Nico (and T7 if he hadn't already been a Companion) was the only trailer character which it made absolute sense to make a Sub Reward, since he's a very minor character in the grand scheme of things compared to the former Grand Master of the Jedi Order, the current leader of the Mandalorians, and the maybe-maybe-not deceased Supreme Commander of the Republic.
I guess they could make it so that depending on your choices whomever you sided with during 5.2 could be the next Sub-Reward Companion, thus making Malcom an eligible option, but again this is something which has serious story implications, so why shouldn't it affect everyone?
Long story short, I firmly believe they've exhausted all the trailer character opportunities for Sub-Reward Companions. The remainders are just far too important with how the story has progressed both for them and the in-game universe.
In terms of characters already seen in the actual game there can't be many individuals left that would work properly as non-Class-specific Companions or allies. Garza, the various Keepers, Pyron, and Vowrawn are the most prominent 'survivors' from the base game to unavoidably have a specific allegiance with a given character (Trooper, Agent, Inquisitor, and Warrior respectively), so whilst it would make some sense for them to be closely allied with that character's forces, it doesn't make an awful lot of sense for them to be connected with any other Player class.
The best examples of this character type have already been used: Theron Shan and Lana Beniko, who aided the Players throughout the Forged Alliances storyline, Shadow of Revan, and Rise of the Emperor. There is only one character (or pair of characters) left from 2.7 - 3.0 who would probably make for a decent Companion (and who I'm sure some people are surprised isn't already): Jakarro (and C2-D4).
The main issue with Jakarro is that several people would only ever see him as "Brawny Uncivil Bowdaar" and not see the point of having multiple Wookiees. I count myself amongst the people who think that one Wookiee is sufficient enough for the time being, but still, I'd like to at least know what became of these two during the tyranny of the Eternal Empire; whether they escaped it or got caught up in the action somehow.
There are some characters from the post-vanilla experience I'd love to see return and give more of a helping-hand, though; it would be excellent to see more of Master O'a from the Consular Rishi snippet, and I wouldn't mind having more to do with Guss's 'Force Master', Isaac, either.
Then there are those who have already joined or been associated with the Alliance even if they're not Companions. The most prominent of these is Indo Zal, who helps the Player infiltrate Vaylin's Palace in Chapter VI of Eternal Throne and then later shows up wielding a rocket launcher in Chapter IX. Unfortunately such characters also include the infamous Kai Zykken, and I think Eric Musco would probably implode if ever he becomes a semi-prominent character again. Neither of these characters (perhaps thankfully in the case of Zykken) would make much sense as exclusive Companions because neither is particularly 'special'; you want a Sub-Reward Companion to make people excited in order to encourage Subscribing, not question the point of them.
One character who doubtless would have Troopers weak at the knees is Jonas Balkar, who helps the Alliance in a very minor way by helping entice Havoc Squad to Zakuul with information leaked by Theron, which then sets the scene for Chapter XI of Fallen Empire. Troopers are the only Class to learn that Balkar had a hand in it, so whilst they'd be very pleased to see Balkar as a Companion not every Class would be so appreciative, especially since he's still identified as an SIS Agent even if he had misgivings about the Chancellor at the time.
So basically, there just aren't that many characters that we've seen before who can convincingly be brought back as an exclusive Companion. I'm sure they'll be welcomed back with open arms as story NPCs regardless, but there are just too many hoops to jump through for them to become Companions.
Beyond this, things start to get tricky. Assuming that they decide to focus on characters from outside the game and only present in Comics or Novels, there are realistically only three options from the confirmed and most-prominent survivors due to the development afforded to them, and all of them curiously relate in some way to Theron Shan. This does at least give them a reason to be invested in the Player's forces assuming Theron sticks around permanently.
Before I continue onto these three characters, it is worth noting that this has been done a couple of times already. Theron himself originated in the five-part Comic Lost Suns before appearing in Annihilation and eventually meeting players in-game in Patch 2.7 as part of Forged Alliances. Similarly, now-former-Moff Gelmid Lorman also appeared in writing long before he appeared in-game, as he also appears in Annihilation and has thus also had a history with Theron Shan.
Theron just gets all the attention these days.
The first of these is Marcus Trant, Director of the Republic Strategic Information Service and former boss of Theron. As shown in Lost Suns and Annihilation, Trant is a very capable operative and has skills which certain Player classes would (theoretically; I am very aware that a character becoming a Companion does not necessarily mean they'll get much due exposure in the story) like to have amongst their arsenal since he is basically a more experienced (yet much more womanising) version of Theron.
The main problem is that Trant, as Director of such an important organisation as the SIS, is someone who is best used as a "story facilitator" NPC, potentially alongside Jonas Balkar, for everyone to interact with should the story require the Player to spend time on Coruscant. Additionally, if Players who aligned with the Empire in 5.2 get to interact with him, he won't take kindly at all to them since they had a hand in Malcom's death (I hope if he does appear he's not going to take a "this guy became a fool so I stopped supporting him" moral stance as some characters have been wont to do since 4.0) and potentially abandoned the Republic in doing so (this stance may also affect his views towards Theron, similar to Malcom's documented initial reaction). Basically, whilst I hope we will eventually get to see him I think there's ultimately zero chance of his becoming a permanent Companion.
The second is the as-yet unseen Kel Dor Jedi High Council Member, Master Gnost-Dural. His most-recent significant appearance was also in the novel Annihilation, where he accompanied Theron to destroy the Ascendant Spear and confronted his Padawan-turned-Dark Council Member Darth Karrid in the process. Before this and prior to the launch of the game itself, Gnost-Dural, voiced by none other than Lance Henriksen, 'recorded' several entries in his journal which outlined various crucial moments which construct the moderately impressive 'backbone' of the SWtOR story, such as the fall of Revan and Malak. As he was one of the earliest known characters, he is long overdue for an appearance, despite having received a verbal callout during Shadow of Revan and Knights of the Eternal Throne.
Similarly to Marcus Trant, we don't know exactly how the faction decision will impact things. As a Jedi and former associate of Malcom it is unlikely that Gnost-Dural would truly support an Imperial-aligned Player, but five/six years under the rule of the Eternal Empire might have changed the Jedi Historian's outlook somewhat since the Order itself has fractured and is only just now repairing itself. Plus, he may also wish to document the Force Enclave and the fact that Sith and Jedi are working as one under Sana-Rae if the Alliance still exists in 6.0. It is also much easier to justify his being only a Sub-Reward compared to Trant, since he isn't the leader of his organisation and there are more prominent Jedi characters (*cough* Kira/Nadia) who can be utilised as story-facilitators in his stead.
Additionally, it's not as if they'd need to do an awful lot of work to construct his character, since all Kel Dor unfortunately look the exact same as each other in SWtOR. Unless as part of the fabled refocusing on customisation they've come up with an exciting new way to create Kel Dor characters...
I can dream.
The final is the Twi'lek Teff'ith, whose past repertoire has included spells of slaving for the Black Sun and being a hired killer for Rogun the Butcher. She has also worked with Theron numerous times (also appearing in both Lost Suns and Annihilation) in the past, and was one of the first to contact a Republic Player following Theron's self-exile after the then-apparent murder of 'war hero' Colonel Darok. She's quick on her feet and capable in a messy situation, so would suit a particularly rough-and-tumble Player. I particularly want to see how she interacts with the Smuggler, who has also had dealings (albeit less favourable) with Rogun.
Of the three characters, Teff'ith is by far the easiest to convincingly create as a faction-free character because she has done just so many odd-jobs for different people in the past. The most significant problem is that Teff'ith is to Theron what Vette is to many a player; a quirky, on-and-off annoying and sister-like Twi'lek. Thus, similar to Jakarro and Bowdaar, it may feel like more of the same, especially if people left Vette to die in Eternal Throne because they regarded her as annoying and couldn't wait to be shot of her. Jakarro is different enough from Bowdaar that people should be able to look past the differences for good or for ill, but I have a feeling that Teff'ith and Vette will definitely be too similar for a lot of people to stomach.
It is also worth noting that whenever Zenith comes out of hiding Teff'ith would potentially be the third Twi'lek to join the Player's side as a Companion. I know, I know, there are roughly fourteen Humans who could have allied themselves with us by now with about eleven more to come, so a grand total of three Twi'leks definitely wouldn't be the end of the world. It's still worth pointing this fact out, though.
If I had to pick between these three characters, my pick would easily be Gnost-Dural. Not only does he already have a voice actor, not only has his species been left completely untouched in terms of Companions, but in terms of functionality a Jedi Sub-Reward would be absolutely unique compared to the rest: all three of the previous Sub-Reward characters have been Tech users, being a Gunslinger, Vanguard, and Powertech archetype respectively. Additionally, another Companion was included at the end of the HK Rewards Scheme, ZO-OM, and she was yet another Tech user, being a Scoundrel archetype. I'd wager that both Trant and Teff'ith would be Scoundrels, although there may be some leeway for the latter being an Operative.
Something similar to the comparative uniqueness of Gnost-Dural is why my favourite of the Fallen Empire Companions is Choza Raabat; new species for a Companion (Ithorian) and an awesome new Jedi friend as well. Plus, until Guss became a fully-fledged Jedi, Choza was the first and only male Jedi Companion the game had ever thought to introduce. The only real problem with this is that Gnost-Dural would be yet another alien male Force-User, and we really need an 'attractive' humanoid one (Lord Scourge doesn't count by virtue of his true age) by this stage, since the more aliens we receive draws more attention to the fact that all but one of the female Force-Users are attractive humanoids.
Heck, depending on how some people view Nautolans, perhaps all of them count thus. Regardless, she and Dark vs. Light exclusive Companion Master Ranos are the only ones of the seven (eight if you count the untrained Force-Sensitive Raina Temple) who can't be romanced.
Regardless, if done well, I believe that Gnost-Dural could be a very popular choice indeed, even if just for the sheer novelty value of finally seeing the guy in-game. Granted, they'd have to pay a considerable sum of money to get Lance back again but then they did recently get veteran voice-artist Kevin Michael Richardson back to voice Jace Malcom (and John DiMaggio back for Nico in 4.0), so it is definitely possible.
Just a little aside here.
Whilst writing this article, I realised that there has been an interesting little pattern developing with each of the three current Expansion-launch Reward Companions. Each of the three has been placed in their own specific room in a clockwise direction, starting with Nico in Hylo's underworld den, then Shae in Aygo's military wing, and currently culminating in Master Ranos in Sana-Rae's Force Enclave.
"Wait, hang on, Master Ranos? She wasn't a Sub-Reward...", I hear some people question already. I agree wholeheartedly, but in a way she was, since Eternal Level of Dark vs. Light was pretty much only attainable by a concurrent Subscriber, due to the Event requirements to reach Level 65 with an Imperial and Republic character and complete the Fallen Empire story along the way.
Regardless of the very different methods of acquiring her compared to Nico and Shae, she was still an exclusive Reward Companion dished out at the start of a new Expansion, which is why I'm including her in some of my 'calculations'. I'm definitely not treating her as a true Sub-Reward.
As a bonus, HK-55 and ZO-OM, who were chronologically both Reward Companions before Shae and Ranos, have been placed between the underworld den and the military wing in guarding the Commander's personal quarters, with Zeeyo being just a tad closer to the military wing than HK. Thus, they also conform in their own unique way to this pattern.
This leaves Oggurobb's laboratory as the only room to not have a Reward Companion of some sort, and thus it has the fewest possible Companions at 4. The Force Enclave and underworld den both have five possible Companions, and the military wing has the most at six. Removing the Reward Companions sees the Enclave, laboratory, and den all with four, whilst the military wing still 'wins' with five.
So based on this I'd have to say that the next Companion should be someone who can be sent to Oggurobb's laboratory. At the same time, however, I honestly don't think there are that many outstanding characters left now beyond Consular Companion Tharan Cedrax who could be sent here, since Oggurobb states that he only want those whom he thinks can be useful tools for his artistic output, and none of the possible characters I've outlined above really fit the bill.
"I'd also ask you to keep a keen eye out for new research associates--having a new creator who can more efficiently use what is onhand is better than merely gathering more material!"
- Oggurobb, when asked what more the Player can do for him.Then again, this hasn't exactly held true.
Arcona war-historian Hemdil Tre ends up finding a home in the laboratory, Talos Drellik is an Archaeologist as opposed to a creative visionary scientist, and Ak'ghal Usar is just the product of Talos's research and offers nothing to Oggurobb himself outside of a fascinating research specimen. Whilst Talos and Hemdil are good researchers, neither is a good creator; only Yuun conforms to this aspect of Oggurobb's exact recruitment parameters, and he can't exactly work with the theoretical history and archaeological fragments, which are products of Hemdil and Talos's work.
Even then, Hemdil's main desire as a member of the Alliance is to document the Alliance Commander's heroic deeds and not merely to research as he did before. It's explicitly stated that this period of living history is a unique time in the Arcona's life, and we don't know how much time he dedicates to researching as opposed to documenting.
Regardless, it can be implied that Oggurobb has at least some fascination with the research side of history as well as the art of hands-on science, which leads us right back to Jedi Historian and Archivist Gnost-Dural, even if he would probably be suited just as well for the Force Enclave.
Of the remaining characters I'd outlined who have the most Companion-potential, Jakarro would suit the underworld den best, Trant the military wing, and Teff'ith would fit in both locations happily. They would break this otherwise perfect pattern until someone is found to be placed in the laboratory, at which point it would reset to the underworld den and the whole process begins once more.
Of course, the Alliance itself may cease to exist during 6.0 (which does raise the question of what exactly should happen to the Alliance HQ since it contains a unique vendor), so it is possible that conforming to this pattern becomes an impossibility in the future.
There are probably many characters which I've just glossed over in creating what is basically a long-winded way of saying "look, BioWare, Gnost-Dural still hasn't made an appearance yet, we haven't had a Kel Dor Companion, or a Jedi true Sub-Reward for that matter, and we still only have three male Force-User Companions compared to the seven/arguably eight female Force-Users, so why not make all these ends meet?"
In truth, I honestly don't know how many other characters they can pull a prospective new Sub-Reward Companion from, since as I say story updates and importance has nullified several of what would otherwise have been ideal picks (I'd love to have had Jace Malcom as a Companion, for example).
The ideal situation, no matter who they decide upon, is really to go for a story-neutral character whose importance outside of the Player's Companion Roster is absolutely negligible in the long run. Lore-breaking would be avoided if possible, but Shae Vizla being given to all players via the Holocommunicator has dashed that somewhat (even though she thankfully can't be brought along to fight herself on Rishi, she can fight alongside herself against Revan on Yavin IV; LOGIC!), so I guess anything goes as far as this is concerned.
Nico was an absolutely perfect choice because of this; he had virtually been written out of the SWtOR lore prior to his brisk reintroduction prior to the launch of 4.0, and as a result his being 'eliminated' from story proceedings means nothing.
Conversely, I still believe to this day that Shae Vizla and HK-55 being made Sub-Rewards were absolute mistakes.
In the case of HK-55, he's someone who everyone receives as a Companion as part of Fallen Empire, and yet only those who were eligible for the Rewards Program can get him back; new players who find him to their liking are completely screwed over.
Shae is even worse, considering that she leads the Mandalorians, quite a major faction, who could be seeing something of a resurgence in the storyline; with the maybe-beloved Mand'alor as a Companion is there really any chance of them doing something drastic in the future which will require her leadership? Require her to become an antagonist to the Players she's potentially joined? Whatever the potential the Mandalorians had, it's been kneecapped quite considerably by this development unless they just decide to oust Shae, or she steps down, for whatever reasons the writers come up with.
Nobody knows of course whether or not they actually will give us a Sub-Reward Companion whenever 6.0 is ready to launch either this year or next (I'm thinking next year is more likely since 5.0 is progressing along nice and slowly and is more focused on bringing in medium-scale new things slowly but surely along the way). As I hypothesised earlier, there is a good chance seeing as it was a popular feature, but it does need to be done right. Story developments must be considered faithfully so as to not accidentally screw things up in the future as they may have done with Shae.
Basically, developments are taking things to a rather convoluted level. Whether or not we'll be able to escape whilst wrapping it all up 'cleanly' is something we won't find out for a year at least; it is apparent that, even though they may never be able to aspire to the grand plans of the past, BioWare are at least attempting to return to a more normal story atmosphere.
Even though after certain story developments 'normal' is basically too far-fetched to be a sensible and logical story path. Hunters going from ruling the galaxy to merely hunting bounties again; such joy.
Returning to the original point, if they do decide to give us more Companions via Sub-Rewards, I hope they'll at least start doing something different, and not give us yet more bloody Tech users, but only time shall tell.