Why WoW Is Now All About WarCraft 3-Style Player Bases

Garrisons are the biggest, splashiest feature of Warlords of Draenor by a considerable margin. Players have been rhubarbing about the lack of player housing for years, and this is Blizzard answering them while drawing from their RTS roots for inspiration. Combine these factors and you get an instanced Warcraft III-style base of your very own, complete with meaningful building choices and dozens of NPC followers.

If there’s one reason to return to World of Warcraft, or maybe try it out for the first time, this is it. Let me tour you around my home and I’ll explain why.

Let’s start with the followers. In WoW, for better or worse, working your character up through the levels and improving their gear from green (uncommon), to blue (rare), to purple (epic) is the beating heart of the game. The diabolically clever thing about followers is that they echo this compelling path of progression, in a stripped down fashion. They have a race, a class, abilities and traits. They level up too. They can get better gear. They can even attempt the same dungeons and raids that you do (albeit in a non-interactive way), and there are dozens of them. Dozens of satellite opportunities for small-scale satisfaction.

Early in the Draenor experience, my subconscious committed to getting every single follower to max level and epic status before my conscious mind had stopped thinking about breakfast. I don’t even know exactly what the benefits will be, but pshaw to such petty details – I will have an army beyond compare. This is more about the journey than the destination, anyway.

My garrison is level three already (the maximum) and while I haven’t finished levelling every individual building, I have filled all my plots. In almost every case I made choices that would help my followers as much as me – that’s the kind of selfless leader I am. Let’s take a tour.

I start, as usual, in my Great Hall. My loyal followers have been out all night sweating blood and maybe even bleeding sweat for the greater glory of me, and I have about ten mission reports to review.

Missions are the raison d’etre for your followers. In the simplest terms they have a level, a duration, a threat (represented by an iconic WoW spell), and a reward. You check the threat, find a follower of the right level whose ability counters that threat, review the projected % chance of success, click ‘Start Mission’, and that’s it. Done. Just wait until the timer ticks down – it doesn’t stop, even when you log off.

The system feels suspiciously Facebooky, but without insidious microtransactions offering you the chance to spend real cash to get instant results. I would be shocked if Blizzard bring those in, but I can see why suspicious eyebrows have been cocked.

Unsurprisingly there are already at least a couple of quite nice addons that help manage the whole follower/mission business. I recently installed Master Plan, and already I can’t imagine the game without it. It helps filter missions so I can more easily see those that I am best equipped to beat based on currently available followers, and shows me a neat overview of my completed missions, including rewards. A few followers just levelled up (hoorah!), I got an exciting epic token of some kind, some follower gear tokens, and a rare bracer for me.

This last item is particularly handy as I have been running heroic dungeons pretty regularly, but haven’t upgraded my bracers yet. The epic token even becomes a weapon that is significantly better than anything I can win in the current content – the new raids aren’t out yet at time of writing.

The symbiotic nature of this relationship with my followers is rather clever. Inevitably the lustre will pall somewhat over time, but every time an upgrade is earned (for me, or for them) there’s an associated thrill.

When a mission succeeds, there’s also a good chance that I’ll get a Big Crate of Salvage. This is a perk of my Salvage Yard, and given that I can only sift through the crates while physically at the yard, I’ll head over there now.

I’ll be honest, the crates mostly contain junk, but I do get another four gear tokens for my followers. These are invaluable in my current quest, but have to be used carefully. Just like with my own progression, followers don’t stop when they hit level 100. The gear keeps on getting better and better, and is measured by what Blizzard call the ‘ilevel’, which is essentially the stat budget for a piece of gear. The higher the ilevel, the more powerful the item. Who deserves a big upgrade to their armour? Hm. Vivianne the fire mage has a really useful ability shared by only one other follower, and she’s well on her way to upgrading her quality from rare to epic. Congratulations, Viv! Now you can join your friends doing dungeons!

There are two other small buildings in this lower section of my garrison, circled around a large bonfire. I spot some peons who seem to think it’s acceptable to sit by the fire for a moment to warm their aching bones and chapped hands. I look around for a whip or cudgel, but find nothing suitable to hand. I’m watching you, peons.

I make a quick stop at my Engineering Works to get a bit further with my tradeskill, and then I skip past the little bank I’ve got and head to the more interesting buildings on higher ground.

Ah, the tavern. It doesn’t really have a proper name, but I call it the Smog and Strumpet. Inside, a couple of characters plucked from WoW’s vast backstory loiter, booze it up, but more importantly give me quests. They change every day. Today, this chap Moroes wants me to find a barrel of acid. Hopefully he doesn’t remember me killing him over and over again in a raid seven years ago. Unless… that’s what the acid is for? Crivens.

There is also a lady troll in here called Akanja. She’s a headhunter – literally! Haha. Ha. Once a week, she lets me get a new follower instantly (rather than scour the world for them, as is usually the case). I can even define which particular ability or trait I need, which is incredibly useful for ensuring that my followers have a fairly even spread overall, and are able to tackle whatever missions come our way.

Next door is my fully upgraded barracks. It has a sinister prison in the basement which is as yet unused, and a blood elf warlock loitering outside. She is one of my followers, but I have temporarily taken her out of the pool and assigned her to this building because she has a specific, quite rare trait. She can be my personal bodyguard. This means she’ll follow me around as I quest and such, until she inevitably tries to take on a hundred mobs at once and dies horribly. Oh Aeda Brightdawn. You so cray. I actually build reputation with her specifically as we plough a murderous furrow through Draenor, and once I reach a certain threshold she will learn useful new abilities.

I continue my tour with Aeda at my side. Orc grunts stop and thump their chest in salute as I pass. I nod magisterially. The stables don’t help my followers at all, and are my one concession to selfish pride. Not only does this building showcase a handful of the many mounts I have collected over the years, reminding me of triumphs past, but gives me the chance to capture, break in, and own a bunch of new beasts local to Draenor. One of them is a hippo. It’s pretty sweet.

Once I have wrung the stables dry of mounts and achievements, I am likely to just swap it out with something else. I hear that the war mill is a very direct source of follower gear, so that’s a good bet.

I am momentarily distracted by another peon industrially smashing a harmless patch of snow with a large hammer. “That’s better!” he exclaims. Okay then.

Tour over, I pause to survey my domain. Every follower who isn’t currently out on a mission can be found somewhere in my garrison. They take strolls, dance with each other, and chat to me as I approach. Shadow Hunter Rala is supposed to be working in my herb garden, but I watch as he casually saunters into the tavern and downs a drink in one. It’s barely lunchtime, man! I mean, troll.

Suicidal and alcoholic tendencies aside, I feel rather proud of my gang. Many of them are the same level as me, with gear that’s pretty much as good. The truth is, I am not an efficient player. I do not use websites and spreadsheets to maximise results in the minimum time possible. The truth is, my quest for an army of purple followers might not be the best idea. The truth is, I don’t care.

Garrisons aren’t optional. They don’t sit alongside the core experience, they have become an integral element of it. The daily demands on my time have increased, without doubt. There is more upkeep than ever, but there’s also a crucial elasticity to the time I can invest, and the return on that investment has been gauged very carefully to feel worthwhile to as many players as possible.

I’m going to keep on levelling my followers and making them as powerful as possible because I know that, all other benefits aside, I’ll be able to look at them in a list, in a little interface, know what it took to achieve that, and feel genuine pride at the accomplishment. Honestly, my followers might raid before I do. And I’m okay with that.

Want more WoW? Read Tom’s Warlords of Draenor review.

32 Comments

  1. Moraven says:

    After a day of work, it is nice to come back to Garrison full of Work Orders to collect. (4 hours for each Work Order).

    Then I move to my Herb Garden and pick some Flowers. Sometimes a podling that sounds like a Minion from Depicable Me appears in a fury. Dispatching it nets more flowers as I clean his body.

    Then into the mines as my female (male seem to be missing) goblin miners slave away to unearth ore from the riches of the earth. Sometimes they even share coffee and archaealogy fragmens in mining carts. At level 3 I now have guards to patrol against the Goren thread. They are basically mean looking Goron (from Zelda).

    To the Pet Menagerie as I complete against the new challenger in the pen. Today is a vicious looking parrot that picks my critters apart.

    Oh, I have an Invasion Event? The Iron Horde attack my town as Rylaks and Allience Opportunists try to sabotage my buildings. Lose no buildings and get over 1000 victory points and you get a Gold rating. Maybe your epic bag will give you epic lewtz.

    I have a friend come visit and use my Enchanter building. They are able to disenchant their own soulbound items at the enchanter well there.

    Now… I can venture out into Draenor…(Mission Name Completed). Back to the command table and set our next invasion point! No time for Draenor when my followers must be commanded.

    • brotherthree says:

      Holy Christ… So you are basicly paying 15 bucks a month to play an interactive farmville.

      WoW should be released for tablets. I see a huge market there.

      • Moraven says:

        1) Gather Herb and Ore
        2) Gather Work Orders. Submit Work Orders (which requires so much of that buildings crafting material)
        3) Attach followers to buildings to get better work order yields and other bonues
        4) Send followers on missions which reap gold, items for you, XP, and many other things

        There is a lot of buildings and you are limited by so many plots. On an alt I went with a Goblin Workshop, which has a new set of inventions each day. Or I could make a Barracks and have a bodyguard follower follow me around in the world as I do things and assist me in combat.

        Or you can completely ignore the Garrison stuff after the required missions for it.

  2. SkittleDiddler says:

    It seriously took them this long to add player housing? No wonder they’re losing subs.

    • Moraven says:

      It is not full on player housing like you would expect. There is limited customization.

      Barracks level 3 lets you pick the guards and banners.

      Pristine Archaeology artifacts can be displayed in your Town Hall.

      You can achieve Monuments that take a lot of doing certain things.

      This is not DAoC, SWG, EQ2 type housing. No furniture, no wall decorations, no setting up windows, floor pattern, wall pattern, etc.

      I like it a lot since it is so interactive and part of the experience. Player housing in games… its fun and all and nice to visit, but rarely will anyone ever see it and its use is limited to the same stuff Garrison gives you (optional bank, NPCs, crafting stuff, etc).

      • malkav11 says:

        I like garrisons way, way more than the player housing systems in other games. Garrisons, as pointed out in this article, are an integral part of playing WoW in this expansion (apparently they won’t be continued into the next, as Blizzard feel they’ve already committed to too many game systems and don’t want to further bloat things. I am all for further bloat, myself.). They’re integrated into the questing, the loot, the raiding, the dungeons, the crafting, the pet battles, the archaeology, pretty much everything, really. In most other MMOs I’ve played, player housing serves no actual game function and is just a spot for you to indulge your inner interior decorator and maybe have people over to do some roleplay, if you’re into that sort of thing. I am not interested in decorating and although I enjoy roleplaying, I have zero desire to do it in an MMO, so that sort of housing is completely irrelevant to me.

    • Asurmen says:

      Because some might consider far more important things, like actually playing the game? It’s losing subs simply because it’s getting old.

      • SkittleDiddler says:

        So housing wouldn’t be considered part of the actual gameplay in WoW? Funny how other MMOs manage to make it work.

        • Distec says:

          Not all MMOs are the same. Player housing is not some constant in the genre, and its implementation has greatly varied in its “fun” and actual usefulness.

          If Blizzard hasn’t bothered with player housing, you can be sure it’s because (outside of a vocal minority), nobody has clamored for it.

          • Moraven says:

            People want it, but Blizzard is not one to put something in unless they can make it meaningful and fun.

    • drinniol says:

      They just hit 10 million subs, so whatever they did worked.

  3. Moraven says:

    link to curse.com

    Get it. It works lovely with Master Plan. While I do not always follow the suggestions, it is a great way to load out all your 100% missions when you are in a hurry.

    The Goblin WorkShop has been the most fun on my alt. I wish I had it originally. Nukes? Yes please. Rockets that fly for one minute and anyone else can use them? Sure! Sticky Grenades that deal a lot of dmg? Take down those rares a lot easier. I highly suggest it.

    I have multiple alts to 92-96 where I make sure to have full work orders. Darkmoon cards, Hexweave bags, reroll stat items. All these are selling high and require little input other than having Work Orders running and a level 2 profession building.

    Then it is hard to avoid doing their follower missions. By the time I level alts to lv 100, they will have a full set of ilvl 615 gear just from follower missions. Maybe by the time I get to playing them they will have sets of 630/645 gear…

  4. bramble says:

    I’ve been infected with the MMO bug since asheron’s call, and yet I’ve always avoided WoW. An absurd feeling of superiority kept me away as I spent my time mainly on everquest 2 and City of Heroes. WoW always occupying in my mind a space for unsophisticated players and mechanics, an ironically teenaged notion that the popular is bad for being popular.

    I’ve started playing as a result of the buzz if this new expansion and I’ve been more than pleasantly surprised by the experience. CoH may have had a more engaging theme, Secret World may have better storytelling, and countless MMOs have better graphics, but taken as a whole game, WoW is just better. I love logging in to a world full of people, being able to decide if I want to spend my time questing alone, running dungeons, or working on filling various bars (crafting, reputation, fishing, etc…) and the game is always fun no matter what I do. Nothing feels under developed or tacked on, and I just have fun.

    WoW has a deserved reputation for a young and often offensive community. But I’ve found blocking and reporting the worst offenders is easy, and just being friendly and expressing gratitude in chat or to random dungeon groups has led to plenty of new friends and positive interactions. I’m not even past level 25 yet, and I can’t wait to go forward.

    • malkav11 says:

      Other MMOs might have better graphics tech, but perilously few actually look better. WoW is gorgeous, especially in new areas like Draenor and Pandaria, and it’s mostly down to Blizzard having really great artists. That said, you do have to appreciate their somewhat cartoony aesthetic to get the most out of it. I do, some people don’t.

      • Moraven says:

        The new models are great and were well needed. And did not cost you needing more RAM like Everquest updated models…

        Also the Everquest updated models were very hit and miss.

  5. Martel says:

    I’ve been off the sauce for over 3 years but hearing all the stories finally pulled me back in. And I love it. I’m sure it’ll wear on me over time again, but for now it’s a lot of fun and the Garrisons are awesome. I’ve definitely gotten my money’s worth so I’m happy.

  6. crindy says:

    So apparently druids can top DPS charts now? I don’t like change ahhh

  7. Arglebargle says:

    Sounds like they’ve done a clever upgrade here. Blizzard’s Special Sauce has no hold on me though: I found WoW (and Warcraft before it) to be poorly written and designed, with an uninteresting mythos, and filled with ‘Nyuk Nyuk’ humor that didn’t appeal to me either.

    Of course, I don’t think they’re very sad that millions of folks don’t share my opinion.

    • Smoof says:

      As an avid WoW player and lover of Warcraft 2, the lore is absolute shit. I preferred when it was as simple as Orcs vs Humans.

      That said, what I really enjoy about WoW is the little vignettes. The little bits of story and life you get from doing some of the quests. They aren’t all like this, but some stick out and become part of my headspace. I couldn’t give a damn about the Iron Horde or what have you, but I can’t help but think about and wonder what’s going on with Sunwalker Dezco, a Tauren Paladin who I met in the Kasarang Wilds and assisted in helping him attempt to save his pregnant wife.

      The little stories from quests, NPC chat and visual storytelling are what keep me interested in WoW. The gameplay is funish, if a bit stale, but it’s still nice and easy to jump into and muck about with for a few hours and then go do something else. I can’t play like I used to, but I’m have a great time leveling up my new Death Knight and looking forward to finally seeing the new expansion content.

      TL:DR: Chris Metzen is a hack, but the small stories in WoW are really what make it interesting and lively.

      • Arglebargle says:

        I can certainly believe that. With as much content as Blizzard’s worked up, there have to be some individual writers who were good. Nice to hear about that actually. It’s also something I’ve noticed in other games, little vignettes that were clever, really funny, really moving, etc. Ran into it in a GW2 mission where you get a shrinking potion for a Giant, so he can ‘go visit some friends’. Turns out, he’s going to a graveyard to give his regards to his old adventuring buddies. (I suspect some of these were ArenaNet casualties as well). It was poignant. There was a mission in City of Villains where you discover that the local city power had a spike every 666 seconds. Sweet, subtle little easter egg. Only if you do one of the later task forces do you understand what exactly that meant…..

  8. meeper says:

    I hope I’m missing something obvious, but just ‘ugh’ on the headline. I’ll take a pun-filled headline any day. This one reads as ‘The 3 Wacky Things You Can’t Believe You Didn’t Know About WoW. Players Hate This!’

    • Josh W says:

      Yeah it’s a bad headline, it’s actually purporting to describe the contents of the post (the horror), and doing so incorrectly.

      Why this is being done is never mentioned in the post, only that it is being done, and exactly how. The word why stands in to distinguish a title from a generic description of the contents, without adding anything. Ironically, the url “Wow, garrisons” is superior because it states the content, the vaguely positive opinion, and sounds like a statement of it’s own.

      But we can do better (worse):

      All about the base garrison.
      Watering holes of Draenor
      Purple Horde

      …. something about “progress quest”…

  9. spaceboots says:

    #wizardchores

  10. Jake says:

    The garrison is extremely addictive (in a facebook way I suppose) and a lot of fun. But it’s also a pretty terrible idea if you ask me. It’s a single player experience in an MMO, and instead of hanging around in a big city now everyone just exists in their own ghostly garrison interacting with NPCs.

    Also if everyone could just put their work orders in the same place I’m pretty sure we could increase Horde efficiency by 70%.

  11. satan says:

    It’s a bit frustrating trying to work the only avenues for upgrading your followers (war mill/bunker/salvage crates/bonus dungeon satchel things for tanking or healing) and turning up nothing but junk day after day because they’re all lotteries.

    • brotherthree says:

      Don’t worry, you no longer have to roll for loot. You no longer get loot that you cant use. The STATS on the fucking loot you get will switch with your spec.

      WoW is easier than it ever has been, and yet still people complain about it.

      It should just be redesigned to be like cookie clicker, but instead when you click a cookie successfully lights and noises go off, and you get a purple piece of gear! Because that’s about the level of challenge I see in WoW currently.

      • Moraven says:

        He/she is talking about follower upgrades, who have their own ilvl.

        What you said has nothing to do with follower’s.

        On the positive note, Blizzard is retooling everything every few days. I think followers are not meant to be rushed to ilvl 645, as they are more rewarding missions.

        Keep doing the War Mill, Salvage and Missions.

  12. luckystriker says:

    I have a question. Are garrisons a guild thing or can solo players enjoy the content as well?

    • Moraven says:

      Garrisons are a 99% solo thing. It is an integral part of the questing process. You can use it to craft items on your own, even for professions you do not have. You can obtain gear for yourself from follower missions, without ever stepping into a dungeon or raid.

  13. Tei says:

    Well, this is clever, and more salt in the wound of the people tryiing to copy wow, withouth tryiing to be what wow is tryiing to be.
    Also, in internet terms: Blizz, “we have put a MMORPG in your MMORPG so you can MMORPG while you MMORPG”.

    • airmikee says:

      Copying WoW? This appears to be nothing more than Fleet Starbases in Star Trek Online, mixed with the Companions from Star Wars:ToR, with a hint of Duty Officer missions from STO again, missing the customization of nearly every other MMO player housing system. I don’t think the competition needs to worry about copying WoW, the competition has been doing things similar to this for much longer than WoW, this is WoW copying the competition.

  14. mickhavoc says:

    Tom,

    What combination of add-ons are you using to achieve that very clean interface you got going on?

    Thanks