I’ve spent way too much time in the World of Warcraft beta for the Warlords of Draenor expansion, and after leveling three toons to 100 and another to 96, the thing that has kept me most intrigued is my garrison.
Garrisons are a new addition in this expansion. The plot point is that this is your base of operations now that you have come 35 years back in time through the Dark Portal to stop renegade Mists of Pandaria bad guy Garrosh Hellscream in this parallel timeline. On Draenor (an un-imploded Outlands from The Burning Crusade expansion), you are commander of your garrison and make all the decisions on who to recruit, what to build and what missions to go on.
Recruiting followers, building your base, gathering resources, running missions … it has been an enjoyable side experience to dungeons and raids and the grind of leveling. And then I realized why I was enjoying it so much. I have loved RTS games as much as I love my WoW. The garrisons are configured in much the same way as Warcraft 3 or other RTS games for that matter: build your base, expand to the next level of technology, manage resources and gather hero units that increase in level to get you more goodies.
Blizzard mixed its RTS into my MMO.
Granted, it is not an exact translation (and for those that picked up on this long before I did, I’m slow), but the concept may be just enough of a twist to breathe some new life into Blizzard’s aging 800-pound gorilla. So let’s take a closer look at these private instanced garrisons. This is not meant to be any sort of definitive guide, just what I found fun and RTS-like from an Alliance perspective:
Building Your Base
After the initial intro quests that set the stage for your foray into Draenor to stop the Iron Horde, you are allowed to build a Tier 1 base. Your town hall — its really more like a guard shack — is the hub, and your first required structure is a barracks. Standard fare for RTS base building. In addition, you have one small “plot” where you can build another structure, usually reserved for one of your profession buildings, such as a blacksmith or tailor shop. Also included in your base are four mandatory structures that can eventually be upgraded: a mine, an herb garden, and fishing shack to aid in the pesky and occasional tediousness of the basic professions, and a menagerie for those into pet battles.
As you level your character and complete various zones, you will get blueprints that will allow you to unlock new Tier 1 structures, or upgrade buildings to Tier 2. Halfway through the first zone, and around the time your character hits 92, you will be able to upgrade your Town Hall and base to Tier 2, giving you more plots to building a medium building and another small profession building. By level 96, you have unlocked some new blueprints for Tier 2 upgrades, and level 98 yields even more options. By level 100, you will be able to upgrade your garrison to Tier 3, giving you another large plot, another medium plot and one more small plot.
So, aside from a limited number of plots in a confined space, base-building is straight out of the RTS playbook. The only thing missing is base defenses, which really aren’t needed unless you choose to do “invasion” quests, and then guards and followers will automatically help you dispatch your foes with nary command from you, sadly. And there won’t be a race to build your base as quickly as possible without power-leveling your character to 100 at the same time.
Again, as with the RTS formula, you can’t build without gathering resources and spending gold. Early on, quests will give you enough resources to build your buildings. Killing rare monsters in the wild will also give resources, but eventually you will need to start producing your own resources to have enough spending power to upgrade your whole garrison to Tier 3.
Keep in mind that here, resources are not gold through mining. Your mine does not serve that purpose. It’s gold through questing, and resources through quests, kills and just normal base operations. There are even some missions for followers that reward resources.
However, as you progress you will need more resources, and you will eventually be able to build two structures within your base for pure resource purposes: the Lumber Mill (hey, that sounds familiar), and the Trading Post. The lumber mill will allow you to cut down trees throughout the world. Upgrading the mill lets you cut down bigger trees for more lumber. As if the comparison wasn’t already obvious enough, the lumberjacks for the small trees even use some of the same sound files (“ready to work,” “off I go then”) as the peasants and peons from Warcraft 3. The other building is the Trading Post, which allows you to convert items that you have gathered — such as ore, herbs or profession materials — into base-building resources. You get 20-30 resources every three hours, as long as you have submitted the work orders to start the process.
So while the definition of resources is a bit different here, the concept is basically the same. So getting a strategy early so you don’t run out of resources is still just as important as in an RTS. Upgrading your Town Hall to Tier 3 requires 5,000 gold and 2,000 resources. Large building require 900 gold and 1,200 resources. Oh, and the blueprints to build the new buildings will cost between 750 and 1,500 gold.
I think I have found or recruited most of the followers in the beta at this point across all my characters. It has the same mystique as gathering pets, except these followers can get an instant boost through the luck of a random upgrade roll when you add the follower. An uncommon follower can become a rare or epic follower instantly if the random number generator is kind. As with the hero units in an RTS, each follower has special abilities and traits based on their class, with other random abilities and traits added when they progress at level 100 from uncommon to rare to epic.
The minigame begins when you mix and match these abilities to send your followers on missions to gain them experience, XP for your character, gold, items for your character, or even resources for your base. Once they hit 100, they can be augmented with better gear for more advanced missions and better rewards. And with it all in real time, you can come back to all kinds of goodies after being logged off for the night.
This has taken the hero concept a bit further than Warcraft 3. Of course, you don’t want anyone upstaging your character as the actual hero of this campaign. But the feeling of “You gotta collect them all” is definitely present. The hard part comes in the 20 active follower cap (25 if you upgrade your barracks to tier 3) and deciding which ones to keep active, level or deactivate.
One hint: Have at least one or two followers with the Scavenger trait. Sending them on resource missions will triple your resource reward if they are successful.
What It All Means
If you prefer to play the Warlords of Draenor in a vacuum as I did the beta and not look at any guides or forum discussions, then jumping into your garrison for the first time in the expansion will be a pleasant and welcome surprise for RTS players expecting the usual MMO mechanics. There are so many things to keep players busy in the game, and garrisons are just another layer Blizzard is adding to provide some variety to its stagnant player base. Offering players a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup by adding some RTS to their MMO is a nice diversion and should prove to be as enjoyable for RTS fans as adding pet battles was to Pokemon players.