There is, of course, also the usual level cap bump and new storylines to pursue, plus a much needed graphical update to the original player races, alongside a pile of other tweaks and additions. All of these are sure to interest players still invested in the game but looking for some new horizons to conquer.
Garrisons seem to be Blizzard‘s way of tempting some of the old guard back into the fold. Sort of a cross between the much-requested player housing, the follower mission system from Star Wars: The Old Republic and a more typical quest hub, the garrison serves as both a symbol of your strength as well as a means to become stronger.
Each new adventure zone in Draenor will eventually offer a quest which, when completed, grants a zone-specific ability tied to your garrison. For example you can call in an artillery strike on your target, along with some troops for backup, or generate a magic orb that hovers over your shoulder sending powerful blasts of magic at your enemies.
Technically these are just more abilities to fire off, of course, but tying things back to your garrison is a nice touch of flavour. Other regions have building sites at quest hubs where you can select certain improvements over others to further customise both your garrison, with different kinds of soldier, as well as what form your garrison support ability takes in a zone.
In between running errands for lazy NPCs or delving into dungeons with your friends you can return to base to perform a number of tasks specific to your garrison. Leveraging the clever instancing of regions first seen in Cataclysm, your garrison is your’s alone. You won’t see other players in there, unless you’ve invited them, nor will other players see you poking around their barracks.
To begin with your garrison is quite small, with room for only a couple of buildings. Buildings can only be constructed on specially designated plots, with small buildings being primarily crafting related while the medium and large buildings can offer more or better guards for your garrison, the ability to log specific trees in the open world for building resources or even construct your own inn.
At the centre of your garrison is a town hall, much like the Warcraft games of old. You’ll need to upgrade that starter building to tier 2 and eventually tier 3 to unlock access to more buildings.
An upgraded barracks lets you assign a follower to be your bodyguard in your adventures. It’s not quite as good as an actual human, but more firepower rarely hurts. Unfortunately only certain followers with a specific trait can tag along. My tiny goblin rogue had a towering, heavily armoured ogre following him around, which was pretty nifty.
Other buildings, when upgraded and staffed with one of your minions, can offer additional items for sale or greater capacities for work orders, as well as physically being present at the building in question, slaving away at whatever task they’ve been given.
The main thing you’ll have your followers doing is running their own sets of missions which you select from within the town hall. Each follower has their own character level and gear, along with some specific attributes. Some might do missions faster than others or have a particular strength against a certain enemy type. Rewards for successful missions range from XP for your followers to gold, garrison resources and even an occasional item.
Whether those items will be of any use long term is questionable as they’re rarely any better than what you’ll get as regular quest rewards, but any time you receive an item as a reward there’s a chance it will be upgraded to the next tier of quality.
Once you hit level 100, the new cap this expansion, your garrison offers quests to defend it from assault by assorted enemies, or you can go out into the world and attack your foes where they live. Defending your garrison is similar to a tower defense game, with waves of enemies invading while your guards and your character dash around kicking butts. Infiltrators occasionally try and sneak through your lines and the whole thing ends with a large boss battle.
Garrisons are not quite as customisable as I would like them to be, but they offer a different enough experience from regular gameplay to actually stir a little excitement in me.
With Warlords of Draenor not due until November 13th, there will doubtless be numerous improvements still to come. With some more personalisation being made available the garrisons could be quite special.