Another day, another daily grind in my garrison. I have been playing Warlords of Draenor almost every day for the past five months since its release, and I dread the daily chores that this videogame forces me to do. It’s tedious, it’s boring, but absolutely necessary if you want to progress.
The new garrisons feature in Warlords is intended to be a throwback to the real-time strategy roots of the Warcraft series. Each player can create a different “build” for their garrison, with each structure providing a different benefit or buff down the road. And you can gather resources all in the comfort of your garrison, without having to fight with other players for resource nodes in the outside world.
Blizzard’s intentions with this design are noble. If you have ever obtained a gathering profession in WoW, you will know how difficult it is to level them: you have to travel to multiple zones to pick the appropriate herb or ore, which requires a lot of online research and luck. If the node has already been plucked clean, then your progress is stifled. And don’t get me started on fishing.
Having a centralised location eases this boredom, but inadvertedly creates a different type of monotony.
One of my friends who stopped playing WoW during Wrath of the Lich King, once complained to me about the expansion’s obsession with daily quests. You needed to do them consistently in order to receive their daily rewards — usually an important currency for purchasing equipment, or reputation points with a faction. It got so odious at one point for my friend, that he eventually gave up and slowly lost interest in the end-game.
Sure, you could ignore the daily maintenance of your garrison, but your progress in leveling up your professions would be hampered; your followers won’t be able to gain any experience from missions; and the resources that you could have gathered would all go to waste. Now, multiply this tedium each time for every alt character that you have, and you can understand why many players feel so bogged down and frustrated.
The chief culprit behind this are the new crafting reagents in Warlords. These reagents are soulbound, and cannot be acquired from the auction house or other players. The only way to obtain them is at your respective garrison structure. Alchemists need an Alchemy Lab to produce Alchemical Catalysts, Scribes need a Scribe’s Quarters to make War Paints, and so on. Reagents can only be produced by turning in resources that are gathered in Draenor (or in your garrison). See the vicious cycle now? You need to constantly log-in every day to gather enough resources for conversion into reagents, which in turn will allow you to craft Warlords’ more powerful items for trade or personal use. Skip one of those steps, and you’ll lose the benefit of the other.
The garrisons in Warlords are therefore, the same daily grind from past expansions all over again, but in a different, more personalised form. You want to customise your buildings and populate it with your own followers? Go ahead, but it turns out that you don’t have much feasible options to begin with.
The Barracks for example, is one of the first buildings that the game’s story forces you to build as a mandatory progress requirement. But it is actually one of the most useless buildings in the early game. Yes, a Level 3 Barracks boosts your maximum follower count from 20 to 25, but when you are in your early level 90s, you are nowhere near the maximum follower limit to receive this benefit. And it actually takes awhile to unlock Level 3 buildings.
A Level 2 Barracks allows you to recruit followers as bodyguards, to follow you around Draenor while questing. You can obtain Level 2 buildings much earlier at around level 92, but bodyguards aren’t really necessary for boosting your DPS or helping you tank. All of the quest content in Warlords can easily be solo-ed by yourself, with the exception of some daily quests or when you are hunting elites in Nagrand.
If you haven’t got my hint already: get rid of your mandatory Barracks immediately. Replace it with something else like the Dwarven Bunker / War Mill. You can reconstruct a Barracks later once your garrison reaches Level 3.
It’s a shame for Blizzard that for all their ingenuity in introducing garrisons, the player isn’t given much freedom or variety of choice. Almost no one builds a Mage Tower / Spirit Lodge, because all of the other Large Buildings are far more important and useful (Dwarven Bunker / War Mill, or Stables for faster mounting). PVP players will most definitely want to build a Gladiator’s Sanctum, which leaves them with just one Medium Building slot left.
Everyone has the ability to recruit the same pool of followers from the same quest lines or achievements, although some followers are faction-specific. Soulbinder Tuulani, an important character in the Auchindoun storyline, can be hired by both Alliance and Horde. But sadly, there’s no way to customise your recruits or give them transmog items, to set them apart from their counterparts belonging to other players.
The recent patch 6.1 introduced new daily quest visitors to your garrison (yup… more dailies), which is randomised for every player. You can visit another player’s garrison to obtain this daily quest for yourself if you don’t have it in yours, but that’s about it.
Garrison invasions, a highly popular activity during the first few weeks of Warlords because of their ability to drop moderately high-level loot, have slowly waned in their popularity. It was the only excuse for you to visit another player’s garrison, and now, despite patch 6.1, there’s still not much incentive to stick around their garrison for long… unless they have a bank or auction house, which you can use for your own character.
But still, encouraging players to visit each other’s garrisons is a right step, and I would like Blizzard to develop on this further. The latest, upcoming patch 6.2 will introduce new garrison shipyards. Details are still sketchy, but I am hoping that this new feature will help break the monotony by perhaps providing a new change of scenery.
Five months in, I am starting to feel even more weary about logging in for my garrison chores, and I am actually quite terrified to level up a third alt character now. Because this means I’ll have to repeat the same grind for all future toons that I went to reach max level with, and it just doesn’t feel fun anymore. Warlords is still a excellent game, and its endgame content is one of the most memorable compared to past expansions.
But it is one of those rare titles where its signature feature is both its greatest pro and its weakest con.