[Warning: This article contains spoilers for the Garrison Campaign.]
One of the more beloved features of Mists of Pandaria was the patch 5.1 quest chain (Dominance Offensive for Horde or Operation: Shieldwall for Alliance) that was told in chapters as players advanced their faction reputation. Blizzard acknowledged the reception for this design by implementing a similar system with the Garrison Campaign upon Warlords of Draenor’s release. Roughly each week since release, a new chapter became available to players with tier 3 garrisons, and now all twelve missions are available. Sadly, player reception has not been as kind as it was during Mists.
The primary complaint about garrison quests (not counting bugs that would prevent players from even attempting them) has been the rate of progression. In patch 5.1, the reputation required to unlock the next set of quests usually was about two or three day’s worth of daily quests. So players could log in daily and about twice a week find new content to advance the story. In Warlords the Campaign was not tied to any factional reputation, as the story advanced with each weekly reset. Without the reputation requirement to keep players occupied doing daily quests and the brief turnaround between chapters, players found themselves bored as they were stuck waiting a full week after receiving roughly thirty minutes of content.
In some ways, this turned WoW into a TV show – follow the weekly story for a half hour and then wait until next week to find out what’s next, same WoW time, same WoW channel. It is ironic that a “new media” property such as a game would wind up mirroring an old media strategy, especially since old media is increasingly abandoning that model. For an expansion where garrisons have harshly divided players on how to handle playing at max level, amidst many complaints about a lack of content, the Garrison Campaign provided ammunition for those who believed that content was scarce.
That said, the story itself was engaging. It follows up on Azuka Bladefury, who became Warlord of the Burning Blade clan after the player kills her predecessor. Azuka establishes herself as a nemesis of sorts, confronting and taunting the player until she is promoted to one of the major Warlords of the Iron Horde by Grommash himself. Her biggest role is when she leads an invasion on your garrison to reclaim an artifact that can awaken an ancient Magnaron, striking at your usually safe home base. The finale involves leading your garrison forces to the Iron Horde’s doorstep on the Talador/Tanaan border, and defeating the Magnaron before engaging Azuka in combat. Although she is defeated as expected, it is surprising that her fate was to combat the player so soon.
Blizzard had taken some criticism for not featuring enough women characters, and it was impressive to see them give Azuka a role not just as a recurring character throughout the expansion, but also to ingratiate her in with the other Iron Horde warlords of lore, placed alongside the likes of Blackhand and Kargath as an equal. And as Blackhand and Kargath are to fall as raid bosses, so too did I expect Azuka to continue to serve as a foil for the player throughout Warlords only to fall in the final raid upon Tanaan. While her death felt deserved, especially for Alliance players, it seemed to happen too soon. That said, Blizzard did a good job using her as the “boss” of the Garrison Campaign by building her up and then disposing of her within the twelve chapter series. Defeating her felt necessary and earned after the quests that came before.
The other complaint regarding the Garrison Campaign questline is one of factional equity. When Azuka raids your garrison, the results are slightly different for the Horde than the Alliance. Horde players find one of Azuka’s lieutenant’s assaulting a peon who subsequently dies a meaningless death. The Alliance experience is anything but meaningless. Instead of killing a peon, Baros Alexston is slaughtered during Azuka’s assault. Baros is the architect of Stormwind and has been in the game since launch. He joins the player on Draenor to serve as the chief architect for their garrison (another familiar face in a cavalcade of familiar faces that is your garrison staff) and his and Lieutentant Thorn’s dialog suggested a mutual courtship was developing.
That courtship is interrupted by Azuka’s seige, and in Baros’ final moments, he shares a rose with Lieutenant Thorn. After completing the quest, a single rose in a vase is now found on her desk. For Alliance players invested in the characters and the lore this was a powerful moment, while for Horde players there is no such emotion. Azuka is an annoyance for reclaiming the artifact from your garrison, but the loss of an unnamed peon is in no way comparable to the loss of Baros given how Blizzard started to set that moment up with Baros’ comments about Thorn early in the expansion. The Horde quest is a relatively empty experience, while the Alliance quest highlights just how well Blizzard can tell a story. It is disappointing that Blizzard could not find a way to provide players of both factions with a similar emotional journey.
Overall, I enjoyed the Garrison quests, and I look forward to the story advancement at the Iron Docks in 6.1. Hopefully, Blizzard can improve the pacing of events as well as the factional experience, to make the quests engaging for all players going forward.
Patch 6.1 PTR notes! My favorite part is the “Last updated 01-DATE-2015” that may be fixed by the time you read this. http://us.battle.net/wow/en/blog/17561381/
The S.E.L.F.I.E. camera made it to the PTR. A game like Warcraft should be more dignified than allowing players to take self-serving pictures of themselves. NOW WHEN WILL THAT HAT DROP FOR MY XMOG!?!?!! http://ptr.wowhead.com/item=122637/s-e-l-f-i-e-camera
Blizzard teased a new mount. Given history, this will also cost $25. https://twitter.com/Warcraft/status/560481950645768192