Garrisons were one of the most hyped up elements that Blizzard had been shoving into our faces since Warlords of Draenor was announced. Some felt the heat of it, while other saw it as some additional irrelevant grind being given the high stage due to the lack of a new class or race. There were many that speculated about it and a lot more gave their 2 cents after experiencing WoD beta, but now that WoD’s been out for a few weeks, we can delve deeper into this much touted element and the way it affects our present-day WoW experience.
Garrisons and the Work Load
Akin to player housing, garrisons serve as a player’s main hub (not withstanding Ashran, of course) in the same vein of the Shrine of Two Moons or Dalaran, with all features and amenities completely determined by the player, however at a more personal level. Small, medium, and large plots are available tthat unlock with every garrison level and each type of plot determine what kind of structures can be built on them. A total of 25 buildings each with their own unique purpose, are available that greatly enhance and tweak a character’s performance significantly while in Draenor.
Profession buildings allow players to have the accompanying NPCs craft things for them, and they even craft an endgame daily mat like Truesteel Bars, making crafting less of a wait and a hassle unlike previous expansions. Even if a player does not have access to or even learned the profession in the first place, these buildings will bypass the need for a crafting alt or trading with other players. However, these are limited only within the low to mid tier crafting of their profession, meaning that you shouldn’t expect to make the fancy, new 30-slot bag from the Tailoring Emporium alone or high-end enchantments from the Enchanter’s Study.
Of course, there are many other buildings that are tied to other elements than just crafting. Structures like the stables allow one to obtain otherwise unique mounts that can’t be achieved through any other means, employing an extended daily round-up of training similar to Cloud Serpent training back in Pandaria, as well as increasing mount speed and being able to interact with objects without ever having to dismount, akin to that of the Druid ability.
Most buildings also grant the ability to assign work orders that produce whatever it is a building specializes by expending the required mats for them. The Lumbermill produces garrison resources, used for the building and upgrade of garrison structures, by starting work orders from it’s associated NPC with timber. The Dwarven Bunker / War Mill starts work orders with the use of garrison resources itself and produces gear upgrades for followers and iron scraps for transmog items. It all sounds extremely awesome until one realizes how awfully long it takes for a single work order to get done – 4 hours. I can understand why there would such a limitation because Blizzard, nor the players, want the expansion so overly “finished” this early, but it can be a painful wait at times, especially more so when I have just this one truesteel bar left to finish a pair of gloves and it’s five hours away from reset. But, hey, that’s just me.
Each garrison has a mine, fishing shack, and herb garden that need not be manually built by the player. They are each unlocked just by progressing through the story and completing the quest associated with them. Obviously, as their descriptions imply, mines hold a vast number of mining nodes, the herb garden nets one the various Draenor flora and fauna that can be farmed daily, and fishing let’s you, well, fish. They’re an extended version of the Sunsong ranch element back in Pandaria, only that you need not be bothered by replanting the plots every damned day. Hooray and hurrah for that. These structures can also be upgraded to unlock more perks and more nodes, effectively bypassing most of the need to go out and farm these materials with the actual mining or herbalism skill. Oh, and did I already mention that you don’t need any profession learned to obtaiin the mats here? Yeah, made the market go crazy.
An addition that came along with garrisons are followers. These are NPCs that can be recruited into a player’s employ through the story, side quests, or unlocked due to being one of the secrets in the Draenic landscape. They can be sent on garrison missions that net players experience to level said followers, garrison resources, follower gear, and personal character gear, and even quest items. These companions come with their own neat abilities that give them an advantage in performing missions, because some assignments have increased chances of success if one perfectly matches the counter ability of the follower’s opponent, and these operations get more and more complicated as the mission level rises.
It can be such a chore at times, however, to keep track of followers on missions, especially if you’re handling several characters at a time. The process to level and gear them can be just as slow as the character’s own progress. Some missions can last up to 24 hours in real time before the followers come back and are available again for other assignments, while some can last but a meager 5 minutes. It sometimes interferes with the enjoyment of the main game because I personally get an urge to hearth back everytime the garrison tracker tells me a mission has been completed because I just want to be able to maximize the the time. I think it adds a nice layer of depth, but can, again, become absolute logistical chaos. It certainly isn’t an ideal environment for obssessive people.
But perhaps the most interesting feature of these followers is that certain followers have the “bodyguard” trait that will enable them to accompany players in Draenor areas, fighting in their name. Complete with their own reputation mechanic similar to the Tillers, it’s a fantastic addition to the game, though it still feels like a watered down version of other MMOs that already feature a companion system due to the lack of real control of the follower and other miscellaneous UI elements that aren’t present. Still, it’s a great thing to have and something I probably won’t ever live without again.
Dailies and Dirty Orcs
Invasions are awesome events that occur randomly when killing enemies of a specific faction like the Iron Horde or the Shadowmoon orcs. Take down a lot of them and they’ll be angry enough to try and storm in your garrison. After receiving a prompt via the garrison tracker on the mini map, players can then interact with an NPC in their garrison to start the invasion. It isn’t really recommended to try it alone, so bringing a friend or two would be better. It acts much like a scenario and players fight off waves of enemies that try to destroy buildings, kill guards, and terrorize civillians. Obviously, it’s your job to make sure nothing awful happens, and a score is kept track as to the progress of the fight. Scoring up to a thousand points nets players the gold rank and some loot bags to boot that can contain powerful pieces of gear. Or gold. It could also just give you gold. While it can be just a mindless killing spree to the experienced player, it is still a lot of fun to do, much more so because of the seemingly random notifications of the invasion as well as the possible gear to be obtained. I think Blizzard did a fantastic job with it, apart from some minor bugs, but it’s all really manageable.
Garrisons also have daily assaults that send players off to one of two available areas for the day. Usually, one area is meant for soloing and the other choice for groups. These assaults are, unfortunately, nothing more than high-end kill quests, and while they net players the endgame currency, Apexis crystals, it can become quite a chore. However, it gets very interesting as there are a number of ways to finish the progress in these quests like killing farmable rares or using demolishers to lay waste on huge groups of enemies, and the occasional destruction of property.
Another interesting quest is the weekly garrison campaign that throws in a random story quest every week. It’s comprised of a number of smaller quests, taking players to areas unexplored in the earlier game and continues the story further. There are a few rewards like the Blood Champion title, but most of them are really just nothing more than extra snippets of lore that is more likely meant to artificially extend one’s playtime rather than everything being finished outright. It’s neat and totally nothing wrong, in my opinion.
Tank or Talbuk?
Outposts, as shallowly discussed in the last review in progress, provide benefits and bonuses as players travel through Draenor, deeply impacting garrison development and the story. Each choice of the two outpost options in Draenor areas have different quests and reward different followers. There is an option to change the outpost choice in the future for a hefty sum of ten thousand gold, but the questline of the replacement will no longer be available. This becomes another form of logistical nightmare as some may prefer other followers from different outposts, but they will inevitably forfeit one path.
Specific perks, like the shredder ability in Talador, enables one to destroy bramble patches that contain one-time treasures of garrison resources and other goodies, thus definitely affecting the rate at which a garrison grows. Once players start doing their daily assaults, the different outpost perks will come in handy in wiping the map clean of enemies or be a convenience, depending on what they picked. C’thun knows I thank him everyday for coercing me to pick the artillery option in Talador, making every excursion into the fray of Shattrath’s warzone a walk in the park.
The Great Bastion
Garrisons, in my opinion, have definitely lived up to the hype. They have integrated the feature seamlessly and maintains its importance throughout a character’s span of activities in Draenor and most likely for the rest of the expansion. With just so much to do and so much to unlock, the Garrison can be a whole game of its own, making the adventures against the Iron Horde far more rewarding. This feature nets a fantastic 9/10 in our book and would have had more were it not for the sordid follower grind.Column, Expansion, Review, World of Warcraft, WoW Wednesday