With the launch of World of Warcraft’s latest expansion, Warlords of Draenor, less than two months away, the current beta is reaching its very final stages. A major feature of this expansion is the introduction of garrisons, an alternative take on the player housing that has been demanded by many for years. Unlike housing options found in other MMOs, Blizzard has created a very deep, customizable experience that reflects the theme of war and strategy present in Warcraft’s earlier games.
Instead of a simple player home to customize cosmetically or to use for extra storage, Blizzard has created the garrison system to reflect the experience of being a commander developing a base of operations for adventures and military expeditions. The key aspect of this experience seems to be recreating the creation of bases in Warcraft III from the first person perspective of the commander. Certainly, the strategy is much more streamlined, but the overall experience is much deeper and more unique than many other gameplay features added over the years.
Since the beta is entering its final weeks, it is a great time to get to know the garrisons of Warlords of Draenor. With that in mind, the following visual guide will show you some of the most important aspects of your garrison, its leveling process, and the key tools available to you as you develop and customize your new base of operations. Keep in mind though that this tour will not touch on all aspects of garrisons, as they are quite detailed and complex.
As you build your initial garrison, you are given a small settlement made of wood and some stone. The main entrance is rather unspectacular, as you can see here. The overall architecture is very rough and in need of refinement, spurring you to take on more quests to collect the resources necessary to develop the structures.
Thankfully, a level 1 garrison is not useless, despite its less-than-impressive looks. A handy quest board is provided, much as in the major cities, giving you access to quests that introduce new areas and major quest lines. While the quest board has been present for several expansions, its immediate access at your personal base is a very welcome addition. As you can see here with the presence of Cordana Felsong, unique NPCs will be present in your base to provide other important missions.
Another important tool you get access to early on is the Mission Specialist, who provides you with unique quests, reflecting your status as a commander of an important military base. This helps flesh out your garrison in terms of theme and function, making it more than a personal home. Instead, your garrison is treated as a major part of your character and your role in the game; you are a military leader within your faction and the garrison is both a symbol and a tool representing that power. Blizzard has crafted garrisons into a feature that actually feels like it has a real connection to the game world, and provides you with tangible rewards.
As mentioned earlier, unique NPCs will be present in your garrison, even central story characters such as Vindicator Maraad, who has been built up as a major player in the expansion. This provides you with another source of story quests that play with your garrison and your status as a military commander.
Of course, the garrison is very customizable. Sadly, there is little in the way of cosmetic customization, but functionally the options are impressive. The Garrison Architect and work table shown here will provide you with a place to look over your garrison’s layout, the possibilities for expansion, and will allow you to determine which structures to develop.
As you work on your garrison, you will eventually be able to level it up. This unlocks new features, more areas for useful structures, and a very nice visual update. Additionally, you will notice more NPCs working in the garrison with knights patrolling the area. The garrison will grow from a small settlement made mostly of wood into a stone fortress with towers.
Another important feature is the personal town hall. This structure will grow into the central building of your garrison, serving as a home for NPCs that provide some of the key garrison activities. There will also be an innkeeper who will sell you consumables and provide you with a garrison hearthstone. This will allow you to transport back to your garrison at any point, much like the regular hearthstone which sends you back to your city of choice.
A major addition to your garrison is the presence of several unique vendors. Among the most important is one who will sell rare and epic level gear in exchange for currency collected via garrison missions. This provides an excellent alternative route for gearing at the endgame, adding more variety to your options for high level play by making the garrison a tangibly rewarding feature.
As discussed, there will be plenty of quest givers in your garrisons, from the quest board and Mission Specialist to unique NPCs. Here is an example of a simple quest that functions in tandem with your garrison, providing the resources necessary for developing your garrison, its structures, and for sending out followers on missions.
You are provided with a Garrison Report button at the top of the screen, next to the map, allowing you to view followers and the missions they can be sent on. There are many unique followers to unlock, each one with their own class, special abilities, and professions. Each follower can be leveled up, providing you with more useful services as they grow.
Over time you will have the opportunity to send out your followers on missions, as mentioned. These can be kept track of via the Garrison Report button as well, by clicking the “Report” tab on the bottom.
Your followers will be physically present in your garrison, giving you the option to have them follow you on patrols around the garrison to fend off possible attacks by NPC enemies.
As you reach the final level of your garrison’s development process, it is turned into a fully functioning stone fortress. The scope is very impressive, as at this point your garrison overshadows many of the NPC settlements throughout the game, and is on par with a small city and some of the most important areas of the game, while providing personalized functions.
The town hall grows into a towering structure, serving as the center piece of your fortress both visually and functionally.
At the entrance of your town hall, as well as several other locations throughout the garrison, you will find pedestals where you can mount monuments gained by completing certain achievements. These include unique trophies for PVP activities, raiding, pet battles, collecting resources, leveling professions, and completing key story missions.
Within the town hall, you will find an NPC who can “retell” your deeds and adventures to you or visitors by allowing you to re-watch cinematics you have unlocked.
Throughout the whole process of developing your garrison, you will be able to add structures via the architect table, as mentioned earlier. Here we see an example of the menu at the highest level. The garrison is filled with plots of land in a variety of sizes, ranging from large to small. Each type of structure you can build fits a certain size, reflecting the value they add and physical space they take up. You will have plenty of plots at the highest level, but they are still limited. This encourages you to carefully plan out your garrison in a way that will compliment the rest of your game play activities. These options include a mount stable allowing you to collect a wider variety of mounts from the wildlife on Draenor, PVP arenas for practice, and special buildings for all the crafting professions.
Additionally, you are given extra, locked plots that serve predetermined functions but also must be developed. One is a pet battle trainer, and the others serve as sources of crafting materials such as herbs, ore, and fish. Here we see an example of the Lunarfall Excavation which provides important metals for crafting gear. As you develop these sites, they serve as a place where you can more easily collect crafting materials and even set up work orders to speed up the gathering process.
As mentioned, you will have access to unique quests throughout your garrison. A central source of missions is the Strategic Assault Table, giving you a daily quest. Each day, you can choose to take on a solo quest or a group activity. Completing these missions rewards you with Apexis Crystals which can be used at important vendors in your garrisons, including the rare and epic gear vendor.
By the end of the process, your garrison becomes an important base of operations for your adventures, and plays a role in the game’s world by providing access to important quests and resources. The garrison grows from a small outpost to an important fortress representing your own character’s growth and personal choices. More than that, it becomes a very flavorful and enjoyable way to be immersed in the world as you are given ownership of a growing part of the game.