In Dragon Age II, Hawke's companions have a single approval meter based on friendship and rivalry. A companion with high friendship considers Hawke a friend while high rivalry indicates the companion respects Hawke but disagrees with Hawke's views. Companions will support Hawke no matter what, but if they're Hawke's rival, there will always be a bit of tension between them.
Gifts still influence friendship and rivalry, but the number of gifts in the game has been significantly reduced from Dragon Age: Origins. Companions react differently to gifts depending on their friendship/rivalry score. If the player gives a gift to a companion who approves of the gift, they may express gratitude, while a rival may perceive the gift as an insult and tell them to keep it.
Both friendship and rivalry have rewards. Bonuses along the rivalry path are often combat related while those along the friendship path tend to benefit Hawke or the entire party. The objective of the system is for the player to be consistent in their decisions and push every companion towards either friendship or rivalry.
As a general rule, the way friendship and rivalry works is that friendship means agreeing with and supporting the follower in what they want to do, no matter how crazy, illogical or dangerous to self and/or others. Rivalry means opposing their big cause, often for the right reasons. So it's very possible to be a better friend to someone by choosing the rivalry path, since you're trying to stop them from giving in to their own self-destructive whims. It's not always the most intuitive, but friendship does not necessarily equal doing the "right" thing and rivalry as doing the "bad" thing. It's just as likely to be the other way around.
Hawke's relationship with their companions is measured on a 200-point scale that ranges from rivalry to friendship. The player can see a visual representation of Hawke's current standing with their companions in the active party at the character menu screen.
The following are the general game settings regarding friendship and rivalry.
- No matter if Hawke is speaking to them directly or addressing a third party, companions will react to the players' conversational options in accordance with their own unique personality.
- Completing companion quests and increasing the relationship gauge to the 50% and 100% thresholds in either direction will unlock special mid-stage and final-stage companion conversations that serve to advance and formalize Hawke's relationship with their companions.
- Another way to further a relationship is to find and deliver gifts, a small selection of items that will usually increase friendship or rivalry.
- Developing the relationship gauge to 100% in either direction will lock it in at that point, preventing you from decreasing the gauge. At this stage, further relationship alterations are disabled and that companion will be completely dedicated to working with Hawke as either a friend or rival.
- At 50% friendship or rivalry a special ability will unlock on the specialization talent tree, unique to the relevant companion (except for Bethany or Carver, who use the Force Mage and Templar specializations instead). This unique ability is not required for the other skills in the tree; you can freely take any of them you wish prior to the 50% mark.
- It is possible by the end of Act 1 to acquire the achievement or trophy Great Minds Think Alike. Other party members will have very high scores, requiring only 1-2 large (10-15) gains in Act 2 to reach the maximum.
- Have prior knowledge of how the individual group members will respond in a quest and then tailor starting recruitment and quest order for maximum friendship and rivalry.
- The player must opt for party switching during quest lines, instead of bringing only one party through from start to finish.