Garrisons: The Good, The Bad and the Ugly

When I first started playing the Beta, I was almost determined to dislike Garrisons because they weren’t player housing. I started out critical because on the back of playing Wildstar, the biggest thing I felt WoW was missing was my own little corner of Azeroth. I wanted to be able to decorate, to hide out and grow huge possibly man eating plants in solitude.

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However as with most things, my feelings towards them have softened the more exposed I am. Sure there are still things which bug me, for example I’d love a shared Guild area attached to our own private space, perhaps with some of the functionality of Stormshield, i.e an Inn minus the quests for drunken parties or a banking facilities where you could hang out but on the whole, the positives outweigh the negatives for me.

The Good

Familiar NPCs as Followers

Having for example the Firebeards spending their extended honeymoon tending the Alliance Stables is a lovely touch for those of us who helped them get married back in Cataclysm. It’s always good to be able to tie the current incarnation of the game to what came before, giving that sense of a real world in which it’s not just us the players who change but the NPCs too. They grow up, form relationships and decide to explore new frontiers as well.WoWScrnShot_121214_133959

Your Battle Pets strolling around and following you

Okay, it’s a bit disconcerting when your buildings are besieged by your creepy crawlies but it adds a personal feel to the whole place. The only thing I’d suggest to make it better would be if it worked the same as the Stables, picking favourites rather than at random but really that’s a minor change.

The choice of Buildings

I’ve visited garrisons belonging to others as well as having seen screenshots and it’s interesting just how diverse they are. Mr Harpy and I have almost the same buildings but managed to lay them completely differently which means I keep getting confused and annoyed whether I’m visiting. I also liked the fact that I wanted more buildings than the game allows which gives you motivation to push alts if you have them although I can imagine this being exceedingly annoying if your not an Alt person.

The Weekly Garrison Campaign

It’s just not the extra 800 apexis crystals you get for completing the bonus objective but the rewards and storyline I love about these. So far I have a mole machine outside my Garrison which takes me to Gorgrond, a bundle of garrison resources and the title of Blood Champion not to mention this rather attractive disguise:

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I also like the potential this has as the game progresses, each patch can add more of these campaign missions to explore lore, hand out followers and fancy toys. According to the Followers list for example, we should be able to recruit Thisalee Crow or Choluna depending on your Faction at some point in the future through these.

Missions: The Rewards

On the face of it, I do question whether 645 loot should be obtainable by sending your minions out to fight whilst you sleep, work or watch tv but given that it does happen, it’s a great way of gearing up especially if you’re slowly leveling alts in the background. Whilst RNG hasn’t been that kind to me, Mr Harpy is currently working on his 4th or 5th piece. My little Shadowpriest already has 615 gear waiting for her despite being level 92 because her followers are already lv 100 and it will be interesting to see if once those followers have geared up, she can start stockpiling 630 and then 645 pieces. I also like the fact that you get toys, tokens for old mounts and followers from the missions because you never know what will show up next in your list.

Garrison Attacks

Attempting to get better and better scores makes these attacks fun in my book. I also like the little details, rescue civilians caught in the open, catch snipers or saboteurs before they can wreck havoc.

The Bad

Missions: The Timesink

Feels a bit like those free to play games you get on your phone where they want you to check back every 30 minutes to 12 hours to start off a new project. In order to maximize the rewards you get, there is that feeling that you need to check regularly and make as much use of your minions time as possible.

The choice of Buildings.

Ignoring aesthetics and personal favourites, if you are a completionist the easiest way to tick off everything available from Garrisons will be to have multiple alts each working on different things.

 The lack of Festive decorations

I’ve mentioned this once or twice before, but I feel our Garrisons need that tie with the old world more than anywhere else in Draenor. I’ve got my fingers crossed for a Winter Veil tree and some candy canes next week.

The Ugly

Garrison resources

To be fair, this is mostly the fault of RNG as Mr Harpy got two followers with the scavenger trait straight out of the gate and has been capped on Garrison resources for a while now, whereas I wasn’t quite so lucky and am hanging in there at around the thousand mark because every time I get more, I need to upgrade something. However having listened to guild mates complain about their lack of resources I suspect it’s a problem for a lot of people.

Herbing and Mining

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Don’t get me wrong, I love my herb garden but I do question why I who has neither profession should have a bank full of mats without having to use the Auction House or trade them from a friend or alt. This is the first incarnation of the game in which I haven’t had to spend any money whatsoever on leveling Engineering and it does seem a little unfair to those who were hoping to make some money from their professions.

Finally these are a few of my hopes for my Garrison going forward.

Seasonal decorations: When it comes to the various Festivals in WoW surely these will be mirrored in our Garrisons as what better way to show our troops exactly what we’re fighting for and also to make a tiny corner of a foreign planet feel a bit more homely. I mean we don’t want them deserting in droves do we.

The Druid Tree in the corner of the Alliance Garrison which is currently a little quiet, a little reserved: I hope that at some point, perhaps tied to the Garrison Campaign mission concerning Thisalee Crow which appears not yet implemented will make a better use of this tranquil space.

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Some sort of building which makes reference to your either your class/race or both: Obviously as a Nightelf Priest, a Moonwell would be the obvious choice but coming up with something for everyone shouldn’t be too hard. For Human, Dwarf and Forsaken Priests it could be a chapel, although the Forsaken version would look like the chapel you begin your Forsaken career in. Rogues might have a trapdoor leading to a secret lair and Warriors something reminiscent of Fray Island with their followers stacking the stands.

What if anything would you like to see added to your garrison?

A lonely impulse of delight: On Flight in Draenor

They say honesty is the best policy so before I start, I thought I’d nail my colours to the mast. As a girl flight fascinated me. The Wright Brothers were heroes of mine and the first Latin I learnt was the motto embroidered on my Father’s uniform so that it lay across his heart, Per Ardua ad Astra or Through Adversity (or Hardship) to the Stars. I loved the angry roar of his squadron’s fighter planes as they powered down the runaway and shot upwards into the sky. Like Icarus I wanted to soar amongst the clouds on wings of my own, seeing the world below as if it were nothing more than a patchwork quilt spread on a old bed. Even now, I get a physical kick from flying, the harder the take-off the more that jolt of burning flame hits my stomach so when Flying was first introduced into WoW whilst I had major misgivings for World PvP over all, I was secretly excited. After all the world looks so different from up there, you’d get a whole new perspective and so many more screenshot opportunities and I couldn’t quite shake my feelings for the Irish Airman who W.B Yeats had utter these words:

A lonely impulse of delight

Drove to this tumult in the clouds;

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Somewhere over Canada

As it turned out, Flying did kill off World PvP but that tide was turning anyway, so many battlegrounds and arenas meant that fighting over tiny strips of non instanced land didn’t interest the majority anymore and like many things it became a convenient habit especially with mounts like the Headless Horseman’s available.

Fast forward to Draenor and when I first read about the lack of flight, my gut reaction was one of a backwards step. Blizzard had given us something and now they were taking it away which whilst always within their rights to do so was frustrating. I thought about the various Flying Mounts other’s had purchased from the Blizzard store for cold hard cash and that only added to my annoyance. Surely selling things and effectively making them obsolete in the current version of the game was a tad unscrupulous. I went on a tour of all the little secret hidden places I love so much, the borderlands, the gap between the hedgerows where anything and everything seems possible and thought how much I’d miss finding places like this in Draenor. The thought of no flying built itself up and up becoming almost a deal breaker for me.

Then with drums and crashing servers, the expansion arrived and somehow my opinion suffered a sea change. I found myself tightrope walking in the Spires of Arak desperately seeking archaeology fragments because no bit of purple rope was going to get the better of me. I spent time figuring out how to scale giant mushrooms to win myself battle pets in the shape of pretty spores and I fell both up and down cliffs in pursuit of trifles wrapped in sparkly boxes. For the first time in a long time, I had to engage my brain and think about the best path to places, levitate and goblin gliders have both been invaluable I admit but more than that, it’s been fun. I haven’t been knocked off my mount and forced to fight to the death against a horde of pesky mobs as I feared which given that I’m a Holy Priest who hits like a wet noodle is a very good thing but more than that I feel engaged in the world around me. The sight of something glittering amongst the trees, well that’s the beginning of a puzzle. Yes some are way harder than others and at times Mr Harpy has a distinct advantage as a cheating, leaping warrior but the sense of satisfaction seems so much greater than just swooping down out of the sky would do.

At no point so far have I felt let down by being grounded. Most cliffs are climbable somehow, the trick is figuring out where. I don’t feel particularly slowed down by having to ride across country either and having a level 3 Stables takes some of the potential bite out of that anyway. We no longer need to physically get to raids so that’s another potential issue removed entirely. I don’t even miss the convenience of being to go straight from A to Z without having to stop off along the way. Of course, when I return to the old world, I still fly but we accept that there are different ways of doing things in the real world so why not in Azeroth. Perhaps when the last patch brings the shadow of Draenor’s final curtain then flying would be appropriate but in the meantime, I think we’ll survive.

Seven Days In – Thoughts on Warlords

So seven days have gone flying by since we passed beneath the portal…  Despite all the server “issues”, Mr Harpy and I arrived at the level cap on Sunday which I must admit surprised us both, especially since he was working Thursday and Friday. We’ve got level 3 Garrisons, ticked off the Silver Proving Grounds achievements for our respective specs and are planning to head into dungeons in pursuit of gold, gear and toys courtesy of the Garrison Inn quests at the weekend. In the meantime though I’d thought I’d talk about my over all feelings towards the expansion as a whole.

The Good

The whole leveling experience itself. At least from the Alliance perspective, the quest chains were powerful, interesting and used cut scenes to convey emotions and show things which wouldn’t have worked in cold hard quest text. Compared to say Uldum and it’s cutscenes where I found myself reaching for the ESC button the second Harrison Jones appeared, this time around, it’s a completely different story.

Yrel as a character also surprised me. I don’t think Blizzard fell into any of the myriad traps they could have with her. Yes, she starts out unsure of herself as a leader, but everyone has to start somewhere and as you progress through the zones, she’s not the weak annoying character she could have become. Her voice does grate slightly though.

The sheer quantity of pets and toy items to be discovered hiding around the world.

Garrisons (when they choose to work). On paper at least, I wasn’t a fan but now I have this quiet corner of Shadowmoon Valley which is mine and mine alone, my feelings have changed. Already I have my own little hideaway where I can sit, watching guildchat go scrolling by.

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The Bad

We hit 100 and were left looking at each other. We have five dungeons on normal if you could Skyreach which we’d already run for the legendary ring quest and the proving grounds quest in our Garrisons but there didn’t seem to be a clear path towards better gear. Yes, there are level 100 elites who have a chance of dropping something, you can buy things with Apexis crystals and of course make things if you have the relevant profession but we essentially stumbled our way into these things. Perhaps a bill board in the Garrison suggesting where to look would have helped, instead of pushing people to search the internet themselves.

The Ugly

Ashran. From everything I’ve read on the forums, every Ashran seems horribly unbalanced. On our server, there is around 100-150 Horde plus a large rock guy sitting in the Alliance base slaughtering the 15 or so Alliance brave enough to enter. I don’t understand why they didn’t follow on from the Tol Barad method where numbers are capped, for example if there are 20 of one faction, the other faction can only have 30 players to at least give tactical play a chance. If Mr Harpy and I had any intent of PvPing seriously this expansion we would have to server transfer to ensure we weren’t miles behind when the area season starts and that to me is just wrong.

 

All in all, I’m having the most fun I’ve had in WoW in a long time. Yes, the launch wasn’t brilliant and I admit I had a minor rant to Mr Harpy who develops software for a living, pointing out that if his work went live so prone to falling over, he’d be out of a job by now. His rational and reasonable response was simple, 10 million people aren’t all trying to use his software at once and should they do so, no doubt it would be a disaster. Plus, apart from the odd queue last weekend and one or two sticky episodes where my Garrison’s gravity trapped me for an hour or two, we didn’t have many issues.

 

Home Sweet Home – The Garrisons are coming

Given that I won’t be leveling straight away due to Mr Harpy’s work schedule, the first thing I’m probably going to do when I wake up on Thursday morning is start establishing Garrisons for the many Alts. This naturally has required some planning and whilst I’m still torn about a couple of buildings on some characters, I thought I’d share my rough Garrison master plan.

Snowflower – Holy Priest and mostly main

My ultimate goal for Snowflower will be as follows:

Building Name Size of Plot Rational behind choice
Dwarven Bunker Large Given that I haven’t raided at all in Cataclysm, a slightly higher chance to get decent upgrades whilst questing would be useful.I like the transmogrification sets, especially the cloth one which can be gathered through the Bunker.Making my seals of tempered fate go further will be useful given how much I hate farming.
Stables Large Show me a list and I’m hooked. Collecting whether mounts, pets or toys is a massive draw to me so being able to get mounts through the Stables is a big part of the attraction.As a Holy Priest being able to gather quest items on the go rather than necessarily having to dismount and fight suits me when solo.Being dazed is up there with the suppression rooms in terms of my pet WoW hates.

Riding 20 percent faster on Draenor means getting places faster and could be handy for that odd bit of world PvP.

Lunarfall Inn Medium Ignoring the RP aspect, i.e. how can you have a Garrison without an Inn.. this appeals again to the collector in me. There are two pets, the adorable Everbloom Peachick and the Sentinel’s Companion available from questing through the Inn as well as toys like Gamon’s Braid and the Void Totem.
 Trading Post Medium Whilst reputations are perhaps less important in this expansion than they have been in the past, i.e. not providing much in the way of gear upgrades, they do give toys and pets.  I’m also particularly interested in both Wrynn’s Vanguard as they allow you to acquire some PvP gear and also the Sha’tari Defense whose goodies are only available through the Trading Post.
 Engineering Works Small One of Snowflower’s primary professions
 Alchemy Lab Small One of Snowflower’s primary professions plus I’ll already have a herb gatherer in Draenor before Snow due to leveling constraints.
 Enchanter’s Study Small Because disenchanting always comes in useful.

 

I chose to leave out the Barracks because I’m not hugely interested in the whole follower side, I know not having it will slow down my efforts to get 20 followers to 100 in order to upgrade my Dwarven Bunker but I can live with that. I also don’t like the idea of having a “body guard” whilst out and about given that I already have one in the shape of Mr Harpy and our experiences with NPCs has been lacklustre to say the least, i.e. pulling extra mobs, keeping them in combat with you whilst you’re trying to shadowmeld to avoid dying etc. In fact I’m not particularly keen on this building on any character but Mentzelia will probably draw the short straight mostly because I’m not that good at being a Boomkin.

Whilst I love the look of the Mage Tower, I didn’t feel that it brought enough to the table other than looking pretty. My Mage however will obviously have one because … well you can hardly call yourself a Mage without a Tower now can you! My Warlock will also probably have one because she wants everything that Mages have.

Sproutling will definitely be picking up the Barn, both because it’s useful for tailoring and also because being a Gnome she wants to get herself a pygmy cow.

Saying no to the Gladiator’s Sanctum was hard on my main but I suspect my Mage will be picking up and blowing the ashes off the bones. Plus out of combat regen isn’t particularly important to a healer.

Needless to say that by Friday, this table could be completely obsolete.

For proper Garrison suggestions, driven by something other than what in my personal option looks good, check out the Godmother’s wonderfully awesome Garrison guide complete with everything you need to know about Garrisons.

Filling the Toybox – Part 1

One of my favourite new additions to Warcraft is the Toy Box. I find myself almost wishing that I didn’t have to wait another few days for the next patch before this feature is released into my hot little hands. It’s first of all a list plus it’s going to free up beautiful and desperately needed bag space across so many of my characters so what’s not to love.

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I’ve tried to be a bit systematic here, things I’m currently attempting to farm are green, items which aren’t yet available in game are red and items which come from Trading Cards are purple. Anything which is purchasable for any sort of currency whether gold, Timeless Coins or some sort of token is orange.

 

So to sum up page 1, that’s currently 8 items definitely not obtainable until the expansion starts in earnest with a further one item as a maybe. Then we have three things from varying branches of Archaeology, 5 drops from various mobs currently in-game and one item purchasable for Champion’s Seals. As things stand out of these 18, I possess a whopping four items, although I do have enough seals to purchase the Argent Crusader’s Banner so I suppose my current score for page 1 is 5/18.

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Well based on the first four pages, it’s going to be while before I get my hands on the achievement and reward for 150 toys. So far I have twenty two of these out of a possible 74 with a further 22 unavailable until Draenor aligns itself once again with Azeroth.

The Brewfest and the Toybox: A Word of Warning

Despite wanting to fill my forthcoming Toybox as quickly as possible, I nearly made a silly and rather sloppy error. Yes, I committed that cardinal sin of assuming I had done something when the truth turned out to be the opposite. There are currently three items available from the Brewfest which will fit into the Toybox:

and now is the time to ensure you have them all. Don’t be like me who had three of one across various characters and none of the other two!

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Beta – First Attempt at the Proving Grounds mark II

Today on logging onto the Beta I noticed that my Garrison was offering me a quest to go and try the Proving Grounds and perhaps more importantly offering me a new and shiny weapon for completing the Bronze wave in any of the disciplines. Despite the fact that I’m playing the Beta with no addons and no proper keybinds, I thought I’d go and give it a shot. As a Holy Priest wearing mostly the bits and pieces Blizzard give you for making a level 100 Premade, Bronze was extremely easy. I have no idea if it’s tuned correctly but my mana didn’t go below 75 percent and I barely cast any solaces at all. In fact I felt slightly guilty taking the weapon because if I played like that in a proper group setting I’d feel rather guilty. On the positive side, the NPCs felt better at moving out of bad but unfortunately they were equally good at moving out of my sparkling disco floor too.

I didn’t have time to look at the Silver level, the one which Blizzard have stated everyone will need to enter Heroics through the Looking for Group mechanism but if it’s just a step up from Bronze I really think that the Healing Proving Grounds should be in the grasp of anyone who has healed at least a leveling dungeon on their healer. However hopefully tomorrow I’m going to make time for trying the Silver and seeing just what it’s like, especially in comparison to the Proving Grounds currently in game.

Turning completing Bronze into a quest with a useful reward for brand new level 100s is I think a brilliant idea. Now it should become one of those things you do on reaching the leveling cap, just like doing the Arena Scenario for the Blue weapon was almost compulsory at the start of MoP on every new character. I do wonder though if there should be a quest for completing the Silver and Gold versions too, just as that added incentive to those who feel uncomfortable with the idea of the Proving Grounds. I haven’t run any dungeons at the level cap yet as I haven’t been the most diligent Beta tester recently but in terms of the items I have seen, this weapon is by far the highest item level coming in at lv 610 with over a 100 more spell power than the one which Premades get.

In the Alliance Garrisons, you can collect the quest from Lieutenant Thorn, Mission Specialist so I imagine that in the Horde Garrisons, you pick it up from her opposite number.

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