Warlords of Draenor – Garrison Life

I said multiple times during the months long run up to the Warlords of Draenor expansion that I was going to try to avert my eyes and ignore details about the release so as to be surprised and engaged when the launch came.

I was pretty successful in that regard, as I felt almost no sense of the final product having been spoiled or played out before I even arrived, leaving aside the semi-meta idea that we’re going to be killing ourselves a ton of orcs.  But the day I tire of slaying orcs is the day I should probably hang up my sword and devote myself full time to Pokemon or internet spaceships.

So when it came to garrisons, I had no idea what they would really end up being.  I listened to what Blizzard said about them at BlizzCon last year, when they announced the expansion, filed that away and thought no more about it.

The Garrison Slide

I pretty much just remember this slide

Now though, a couple levels and a zone and a half into the expansion, color me surprised on a couple fronts when it comes to garrisons.

The first surprise was that garrisons do not seem to be an option, a side item akin to the farm or pet battles during Mists of Pandaria, or just some sort of end game exercise to keep us busy during the next content drought.  When you finish the starter zone, you are lead by the nose to a specific spot in the zone… along with everybody else in your faction on your server, one of the great Blizzard oversights of the launch… and are set towards building your garrison.  I went with the flow for my first character, Vikund, as it seemed to be a required step on the path into the game.  Plus he is, as I noted previously, my “do all the things” character, so I’ll try any task with him.  But I will have to see if I can skip that, and how far you can get without it, when I bring my next character into Draenor.

Vikund however jumped onto the whole garrison thing with both feet and got his garrison to level 2 pretty quickly.  I am just not sure what to think about it.  Frankly, I am not even sure how it leveled up.  This post is impressions based only on what I have seen in game, and the game seems pretty cagey about indicating progress towards levels and such.

Level 2 Alliance garrison layout

Level 2 Alliance garrison layout

More after the cut because aimless verbosity.

Into the garrison.

I started to suspect that a garrison was not an optional item because a number of the quests along the way reward you with new followers or garrison resources or actually require you to go back to your garrison.  You get a couple followers quickly and more along the way as part of the quest chain in Shadowmoon Valley and are prompted to do things with them.  And when Vikund finally made it to the next zone, one of the early tasks was to setup an outpost, which is sort of a garrison affiliate, so it doesn’t seem really optional at all.  But, as noted, I haven’t actually tried avoiding garrisons yet.  An experiment for another time.

Outpost in Gorgrond

Outpost in Gorgrond

Garrisons are not housing, at least not by any strict definition I might come up with.  It is more like having your own personal instance of a town, or maybe a guild hall without your guild being around.  You get some vendors, some of whom sell seemingly unnecessary items.

What WoW needs! Exp potions!

What WoW needs! Exp potions!

I guess as somebody who ran a rogue up into Pandaria loaded down with exp boosting heirloom gear, maybe I shouldn’t mock the idea of an experience potion in Azeroth, but it certainly isn’t something I am going to waste garrison resources on, since that is what is required to buy it.  Not gold, but the garrison resources you otherwise need to expand your garrison or send your followers out on missions.

Anyway, there is also an inn keeper, a flight point, the Heroes Call board, and a few other town-like amenities.  Your garrison… well, everybody’s garrison… even appears on the zone map. (And off topic, look at the map Blizzard showed us a year ago compared with the one below. The changes are subtle, but I am sure they mean something.)

Shadowmoon Valley

Shadowmoon Valley

You get to pick a few of the buildings, but otherwise your garrison is pretty much the same as every other garrison of the same level in your faction.  I do not see any way to make a garrison really your own any more than I see a way to make an inn room in Stormwind your own.

Garrisons as a private trade skill instance is probably more on the mark.  This is the aspect that seems to be working out well for me.  I went immediately for the engineering works, which can be used to generate gearspring parts, the raw material for building all engineering items in WoD, via work orders.

My kind of place

My kind of place

The gearspring parts can be hand created via a recipe or through work orders placed at the engineering works, which you can queue up to run while you are away.  Both need ore… no need to process metal into bars first now… which I can dig up on a daily basis through my newly found garrison mine.

Mine is mine

Mine is mine

The mine opened with a big battle where I had to clear it out.  After that it seemed to regenerate ore once per day for me to mine, so I have a regular supply of ore aside from what I get out in the field.  I cannot complain about that.  Crafting tends to be a solitary thing anyway, why not do it in your own private instance?

For other buildings, I opted for the enchanting kiosk, since it offered up the opportunity to disenchant soul bound gear rewards from quests.  At level 93 I am still wearing mostly my Siege of Orgrimmar LFR gear… thanks Obama stat squish… so I have had quite a bit to disenchant.  And then I went for the trading post based solely on the description, which seemed to be a mistake in hindsight, as I haven’t found a use for it yet.  Nothing worthwhile had shown up for sale.  Maybe that will get better as it, and I, level up.

Then there is the whole followers thing.  As with the rest of the garrison thing, I dove right into that, following the prompting of the game, and started sending my first follower out on missions.  The game is good at guiding you to… or in some cases, outright handing you… new followers to beef up your mission running profile.

Here, have a rare follower... and an achievement!

Here, have a rare follower… and an achievement!

You sent the followers out on their missions.  Each follower has some sort of specialization which can counter certain hostile attacks on missions, making their success more likely.  I kept myself quite busy with that for a while until a thought struck me.

How is this followers thing not just Mafia Wars or some like game from the now failed “social” game set, with just the more odious bits… bug your friends and an extortionist cash shop… removed?  Here is what seems to be a mini-game that consumes garrison resources… and hey, I need those for upgrading my garrison… and which seems mostly focused on leveling up my followers so they can go on higher level mission so that they will level up some more.  Occasionally a mission will reward some gold, and maybe once a day there will be a rare mission that will reward a piece of blue gear (which still won’t replace my current purples), but the focus seems to be on leveling up followers.

It isn’t like I am dying for garrison resources… the garrison itself generates them in a handy crate over time, so I can wander by and pick them up once a day when I come to mine… but I am also not keen to waste them.  So I stopped throwing my followers into every mission possible in an attempt to keep them active at all times and started being more selective.  On the assumption that, at some point, having a host of followers at level 100 will yield benefits, I have been trying to keep them going, but I have been picking only high probability wins and the like.  I’m not down on the whole followers thing, I am just going to be annoyed if this doesn’t lead somewhere beyond a few cheap achievements.

And then there is the garrison “get out of jail free” card, which came in the form of a new skill that I put on my hot bar and then forgot about almost immediately because it reused an icon that was used for something else that I never ended up really needing to use.

That icon

That icon

I actually remembered it only when I was going through screen shots for this post, so went out and tried it.  It appears to be for a quick application of force if you need to burn down a big mob or are getting swamped by adds.  And it changes what it does depending on which zone you are in.  In Shadowmoon Valley it summons four followers.

Vikund and his posse

Vikund and his posse

But out in Gorgrond when you use it, it turns into a mech that includes a flame thrower attack that pretty much one-shots all normal mode mobs.  I used it to burn down a whole village of hostiles.

The Gorgrond special

The Gorgrond special

All of which is kind of neat, but really links to the garrison in only a tangential way to my mind.  They could have given me such an ability in any number of ways, down to telling me “It is dangerous to go alone! Take this!”  And, knowing Blizzard, I wouldn’t put using that reference… again… past them.

Then there are other little bits.  I showed up in the garrison at one point and the chief of the guards had a quest for me which turned into a scenario-like garrison invasion event.  However, I am not sure when I get to do that again.  The chief is standing around muttering about hostiles assembling for an attack, so I assume that I only get this sort of even every so often…maybe once a week.  It was kind of fun, and had a reward, but I am not sure I would rather do that than go out and quest.

And, finally, because this is Blizzard, there must be the poop joke.  You can click on it to complete the joke.  Go ahead, I’ll wait.

The garrison outhouse

The garrison outhouse

That is my collection of not very well connected thoughts about garrisons so far.  This shouldn’t be taken as anything either strongly for or against garrisons, but more a matter of my trying to look at the various parts and how they fit into the whole of the expansion and the game.  I wrote a whole post about various forms of housing in MMOs when some people in the beta seemed to be overly disappointed  about garrisons not being SWG housing what they wanted.  This is an attempt to figure out exactly what we got as opposed to wishful thinking about what I would want. (Answer: EverQuest II style housing, complete with a furniture creating trade skill.)

I am still scratching my head about the whole garrison thing at this point.  Leaving aside what garrisons are, there is also how they fit into Blizzard’s philosophy.  In the past Blizzard has rejected the idea of housing because they wanted a vibrant and active world and housing, especially instanced housing, pulls people out of that world.

And yet, with that statement out there, here we have garrisons that seem to do exactly what Blizzard said they wanted to avoid… pulling people out of the world… but which also do not seem to provide the “stickiness” that having a place that you can make your own in a virtual world can provide.  Why go there for this?

Again, the expansion is new, I am not very far along, and my mind is still reasonably open on garrisons.  It is more a matter of not knowing what to think (or over think, as the case may be) as opposed to having declared “for” or “against” garrisons.  But those are some of the questions that are swirling about my head as I start out in Draenor.

How are garrisons working out for you?  How do you think they fit into the game?

Addendum – Mission reward I found when I got home:

Shiny new axe

Shiny new axe

That kind of upgrade could sell me on missions.

6 thoughts on “Warlords of Draenor – Garrison Life

  1. wowstorylines

    I’m still fumbling my way through the Garrisons and trying to figure out the nuances of it. Still only have the Level 1 Garrison at this point – when I played Beta, this was so broken that I actually did stop playing with it until “live” – now, I think that Garrisons are going to be the “end all-be all” for each one of your characters.

    From what I have read, if you do skip the Garrisons you will get fewer quests out in the field for your character to do. Dunno, haven’t actually run into anyone yet that has skipped this obstacle yet.

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  2. dachengsgravatar

    It turns out that I’m quite enjoying the Garrison game, so much so that it is seriously eating into my actual leveling time. It’s nice to be able to break up the solo leveling with a bit of Garrison time.

    All the same, it’s not good for group leveling. I start to get twitchy when I know there are followers who have finished a mission, and are now lounging around, drinking my beer. That inevitably ends up with a visit to the garrison, and the group’s questing is put on hold until the slowest farmer is done.

    Plus I’m doing more mining now in my garrison’s mines than my actual dedicated miner ever did.

    One thing I did notice is that a lot of the materials produced by the garrison are on sale in the auction house at knockdown prices.

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  3. SynCaine

    Will be interested to follow your progress on this. Right now it sounds very much like a New Blizzard idea; still has that Blizzard polish and feel, but lacks the deeper ‘why’ stuff that kept us playing WC3, D2, early WoW for months/years.

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  4. Wilhelm Arcturus Post author

    @SynCaine – The followers thing is polished and has the compulsive, OCD triggering quality of a good freemium iOS app. I was somewhat obsessive about it for the first couple of days until I noticed the need for garrison resources. There are a couple of posts over at Alt:ernative chat that go into followers that cover much of the vast tracts of the feature I left out or have yet to discover.

    But yes, the “why” thing is stuck in my head now. I may just not be there yet. We shall see if, at level cap, I still keep that going.

    I do know that the whole garrison thing might end up being a pain once I start in on alts if there is a compelling “why” that means I need to run one with every character.

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  5. Vitaeus

    So this is what they meant by “WoW is Warcraft IV”, I wonder if it will evolve into an RTS clickfest at some point?

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  6. Lonegun

    One bit of advice for those wanting more followers, I earned followers by completing some of the most random quests. So tap into your inner zone completionist and you will be rewarded with followers and resources.

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