Neverwinter has over 123 different companions with different ranks, classes and abilities. The major classes are augment, leader, defender, striker and controller. But since the beginning of Neverwinter people only wanted to own one type of companion, an augment like an Ioun Stone, Cat or Chicken, because it provides your character with a constant buff of additional stats.
Sad if you ask me, because since the early days of Neverwinter the companion system got some upgrades and changes. One example: Bonding Runestones. A Bonding Runestone provides the companion with a huge amount of stats like a dual event enchantment (at max 840 power or defense) but it has another effect! It can activate a buff called Companions Gift. This buff can only be activated by normal companions, because it needs an active ability and an augment companion has none.
Companions Gift has a not closer defined chance to activate if the companion uses one of his powers. Let’s take the Young Yeti. He has exactly three Abilities. The Yeti can “cast” every two seconds a normal strike that generates additional threat to a foe. In addition he has a roar ability that deals more damage and more threat than the strike and can be casted every 6-8 seconds. The last ability activate with strike and roar and grants the Young Yeti a damage bonus. Some people would say it is useless but the damage the companion deals seems to be tied with his threat generation: More damage = more threat, which makes the Young Yeti very useful as a defender.
Basically every 2 seconds we have a chance to activate the Companions Gift. The Companions Gift last 20 seconds and grants a part of our companion’s stats. How big this stat increase is depends on the rank of the Bonding Runestones (Lesser is 20%, Normal 35%, Greater 50% and Perfect 65%). That sounds not much but the Companions Gift can stack! If you have three Bonding Runestones it can stack up to three times. If you have three perfect Bonding Runestones you get 195% of the companions stats. Only for a short period of time but this is a nice boost.
Companions Gift activate really quickly. If you enter a battle it needs around 8-10 seconds to activate the first time and then continues to activate more Runestones with every attack of the Young Yeti. 14-16 seconds into the fight you have the maximum amount of buffs that lasts for another 16 seconds and then decrease slowly as the buff time runs out. After a short internal cooldown period of around 4-8 seconds the cycle starts again. While the battle continues the procs settle: You get fewer peaks with three stacks but more constant two stacks with little down time.
Does this affect my damage? Partially. In short battles you rarely benefit from the Companions Gift which means less damage because you could use a augment companion that gives you the stats constantly, BUT if the battle is so short, do you need the buff? I personally would say: No, because you are already powerful enough.
In longer battles it looks different. I tested my Young Yeti with two perfect Bonding Runestones and one normal and I had a damage increase on the training dummy. While I had around 40-50K DPS and sometimes hardly reached 50K DPS (exact timing of skills, abilities, etc.) with my Ion Stone, I could easily reach 52K DPS with the Yeti. I looked at the ACT and with an augment companion I get a more flat DPS line with some peaks at around 60K DPS when abilities added up.
With the Young Yeti and the Companions Gift the DPS line had more peaks that almost reached 80K DPS for a short period of time, but also more valleys. But the peaks compensate this kind of drought greatly. In more practical combat I couldn’t feel a loss of DPS either.
Let us compare both companion types on BIS Level (it is easier to display). As augment companion we have a Cat and as normal companion our Young Yeti. With BIS Gear and Legendary Rank our augment companion grants us 6,149 power, 4,652 critical strike, 1,658 armor penetration, 636 recovery and 13,668 hit points (we slot dual event enchantments for power and critical strike, including one Eldritch Runestone in the defense slot). That means the cat gives us 16,512 stat points in total.
On the peak of his power the Young Yeti grants us 10,168 power, 6,640 critical strike, 2,741 armor penetration, 1,052 regeneration and 1,052 defense. This means the Young Yeti grants us 21,653 stat points in total. The down side is that we do not get hit points with the Companions Gift buff. BUT you don’t need it. 10K additional hit points won’t save you from being one or two-shotted from elite dungeon mobs and normal monsters in the daily area can’t scratch you anyway.
So if we subtract the defensive stats of both companions (recovery on the cat remains) the cat grants us 13.095 stat points and the Young Yeti provides us with 19.549 stat points. Even if the Young Yeti grants only two Companions Gift you get around 13.498 stat points from him which is still better. Only with one or less the Cat is superior and like I said, the Companions Gift settles over time for a constant output.
And the Young Yeti has another vital perk. He is a defender, which means he is indeed a tank. My Young Yeti is now epic and can tank small boss mobs like the first and second boss of eLOL. He can take a lot of punishment for the team and even if he dies, I can slot a Lliiras Bell and revive him instantly with damage immunity for 10 seconds. On top of that, an epic defender gets damage immunity from time to time automatically anyway and he has nearly no problem with threat control even with BIS geared characters in the team.
You only need to watch out for your companion not to pull unnecessary trash. I saw such behavior with leader companions that I tested. She had no attack ability, only buff abilities, and ran straight to a monster group close by (Sehanine Moonbow derped out), but defender seems different. A defender companion only attacks if I receive damage (and he runs to the monster to tank it) or if I attack (and tanks the monster I attack). Since the rework of the Dungeons the path to the endboss is very straight with less to none possibility to skip a monster group which means in dungeons it is not really a disadvantage and it has another perk: Costs. Augment companions are hilarious expensive. The cheapest augment companion is the Ioun Stone of Allure that costs around 600.000 AD while some equally ranked companions cost only 100.000 AD or can be acquired for free at events (As example: Neverembers Guard was for free at the Anniversary Event).
But defenders are not the only companion class. Striker can deliver around 2,600 to 3,000 DPS. That doesn’t sound too much but if we consider the constant search of some players for more DPS the Legendary Striker with around 3,000 DPS could mean a 5-10% damage increase. In addition he provides the character with said companion gift and some strikers have useful utility to further enhance the groups damage. Like -10% defense on target foe from a companion or constant combat advantage. Or Dog-Striker can prone the target foe. Leader provides heal and/or buffs. The Dread Warrior provides his ally with additional 10% damage. The priestess of Sehanine Moonbow grants a small AOE and increase the critical chance by +15%. Lillend grants healing to the whole team. Controller like the Green Slime can pull great monster group together and slow them down which gives the character an opening for an AOE attack. There are plenty of companions that provide decent effects for the character and his team.
I don’t want to say normal companions are plain better than augment companions. I don’t think so. But Module 6 made both types of companions viable in the game. So it only depends on your playstyle and personal preference which companion gives you the most fun to play with.