Just so it's clear this will offer suggested solutions to my issues with Companions.
I have grown very "fond" of my bridge officers who are the first 6 in my list: Sarah Steele, Ratbeard, Subadoi, Bonnie Anne and the (Witch) Doctor. I trust them with my pirate life, they are "simply the finest crew in the fleet." My Number 1 (First Mate) is the Bulldog from the Admiral Bundle. So I really like the game.
However, as it is, the Companion system is, I don't want to say broken but, seriously skewed.
Any other game that mandates you play with game companions lets you actually MANAGE the companions, not just put them in a certain order but actually decide what, where, when and how to use them.
Easiest example is found in the Pokemon video games. You are required to choose a starter Pokemon to begin the game but after that you are FREE to choose how you manage the rest of the Pokemon up to and including deciding not to use your Starter Pokemon at all.
There is a storage system (the PC) to put the ones you don't want and you level your team (crew) by using them in battle; you don't pay to have them level up. The more often you use them in battle, the stronger they become. You are free, at any time, to use any of the Pokemon you have acquired as part of your team (crew) and level them accordingly.
With that example in mind, and since I've heard rumors that J. Todd said real Companion management is "off the table," could KI, at the very least:
Let us decline companions unless they are story line related? I'm already skipping some side quest because they give Companions as part of the quest reward.
Abolish the ridiculous Training Points method by giving them experience when they are "randomly" (still don't think it's very "random" when a 3% chance of appearing show up more often than the 22% chance) bought into battle along with the pirate? All in battle get the same xp (it's not like you're giving out boatloads of it anyway during actual battles). If you let them gain xp along with the pirate, players could still decide to purchase training points to level them faster but there is less of a (gold) burden on the players.
and/or let us "unequip" them so long as we have a minimum of 6 (or 3 story line and 3 "other") with us at all times?
I love the game FAR more than W101, but the Companion system is, in my opinion, it's most serious flaw.