Every World of Warcraft expansion tends to have at least one big feature that provides a new way to play the game. When Shadowlands releases later this year, the biggest new feature will be Torghast, Tower of the Damned. The dungeon is instanced endgame content that will scale for one to five people and features a roguelike structure, with players climbing the floors of a literal tower until they die.
We had a chance to play Torghast during the Shadowlands Alpha and have some thoughts on how this new endgame feature could be a major game-changer for World of Warcraft long after Shadowlands is over.
MMO Meets Roguelike
Blizzard’s official preview of Torghast, Tower of the Damned explains that the new content is “highly replayable and inspired by rougelike games.” In the Alpha, players can queue for multiple difficulties just for testing purposes, but when the game goes live, players will start on the first floor and have a relatively easy time making it to the goal. As players climb the tower, each floor will offer a progressively harder challenge.
Twitch personality Towelilee interviewed Blizzard developer Paul Kubit on his channel last week, and Kubit shared quite a few details about Torghast, including the fact that, while each level’s design is fixed or static, the creature spawns on each floor will be procedurally generated. Each playthrough for players will be different, although Kubit did say that you’ll eventually learn the strategies for everything once you’ve played through the dungeon enough times. There will also be a list of set events that happen in every run, like a boss fight on every sixth floor.
One of the most interesting things about Torghast is that it can be run solo or in a group of up to five people like a traditional dungeon. When I first jumped in, I queued solo as a Frost Mage. It was…pretty slow going. I used my Frost abilities to kite the mobs one or two at a time, being careful to stay out of range of their attacks as much as possible. Just making it to the sixth floor and the first boss fight felt like a huge accomplishment.
But for the next run, I queued up with another player. The more people that queue with you, the more enemies the Tower will throw at you, but teammates also help make progressing from floor to floor feel like a smoother process. I was a shadow priest for my second run and played alongside a fire mage. I would deal some damage, hit the mage with a bubble or a heal, and then go back to killing. Whenever I got in trouble, the mage was able to jump in and take aggro off of me or distract the mobs long enough for me to get away.
In Torghast, death is a very big deal, so having at least one or two people around to have your back when you’re in trouble might end up being the optimal way to play.
In The End, Death Claims Us All
If you do die too many times, the game does give you a chance to push reset on your mistakes and continue the climb. When a solo player or group hits a pre-determined number of deaths on the same floor, the Tower will summon a spooky figure called the Tarragrue.
The Tarragrue slowly marches from the start of the level to the end. If he catches you, you are kicked out of the tower and the run is over. Beat the Tarragrue to the level exit and you’ll be able to start the next floor with the death count reset to zero. I only encountered the Tarragrue once on my runs, but I can confirm that having a figure that is basically the Grim Reaper hunting you down does add quite a bit of excitement (and stress) to the dungeon.
While this is an Alpha and certain elements are subject to change, the current death caps are three per floor for solo players, five per floor for 2-player groups, seven per floor for 3-player groups, nine per floor for four-player groups, and a whopping 11 per floor for 5-man groups. Groups share these death caps, with each death counting towards the group’s total. So if you have a 5-player group and four people are doing well but the fifth person dies 11 times, all group members will have to deal with the Tarragrue.
Make it to the next floor and the group’s count always resets to zero, without or without a Tarragrue summoning. Fall off the tower (or get knocked off by a boss) and your death counts as two against the cap. Not that I would know anything about that.
Fighting procedurally generated mobs is a lot of fun, but the most interesting part of Torghast is the numerous Anima Powers you can collect along the way. Anima Power is essentially borrowed power that you can only use within Torghast.
Every time you complete a floor, you will be given the opportunity to power up an ability or learn a special new skill that will make your character more powerful. For example, when I played as a Mage, I could pick up an ability that would increase the strength of my shield or bubble or increase the cast speed of various spells. There are also some quite flavorful buffs, such as one that allows Time Warp to last 200 percent longer but kills everyone in the group when it expires.
Other abilities let you transform into a mount or use some of the Tower’s enemies against it. For example, the Tower has tiny little creatures called Mawrats that are sometimes a part of the various mob groups. I picked up an ability that caused any Mawrat I blinked through as a Mage to immediately explode and deal damage to any other enemies around it.
The best part of Anima Powers is that they stack. So that exploding Mawrat might only do a small amount of damage at first, but find and stack enough of that specific Anima Power and you can decimate entire groups of mobs just by blinking through the rats.
Collect enough Anima and your character will become extremely overpowered, but keep in mind that the Tower will continue to grow in difficulty as you progress through its floors. Basically, get ready to see some very big numbers.
There’s A Lot We Don’t Know
Blizzard developers have said in multiple interviews that they normally wouldn’t release content like Torghast onto an Alpha in its current state. That is to say, a state that’s not even close to finished. For example, when I killed a boss, it technically dropped loot but the loot simply said “PH” meaning Placeholder. We also know players will be able to farm crafting components to make legendary items in Torghast, but those items were placeholders as well.
Across my multiple runs, I found multiple treasure chests and vase-like things to break. Sometimes this gave me additional Anima Powers but we’ve also heard that it might be possible to get cosmetics in Torghast. Again, it’s not ironed out yet.
This is to be expected in an Alpha, and overall it’s good that Blizzard is investing in a more in-depth testing period than with past expansions. Blizzard just can’t afford to repeat the mistakes it made with Battle for Azeroth. Given that Torghast is such a big part of what makes Shadowlands feel new and exciting, here’s hoping Blizzard gets the dungeon’s gear and itemization right at launch.
Torghast Could Last Forever
Torghast is this year’s big new World of Warcraft feature, But one recurring problem with this game is that Blizzard tends to simply move on to The Next Big Thing once an expansion is out, leaving old features behind. Features like the Garrison in Warlords of Draenor or Artifact Weapons in Legion have either been forgotten or nerfed into the ground in order to push players towards the next expansion’s content.
For the last two years in Battle for Azeroth, players have been collecting Azerite Gear and leveling up their Heart of Azeroth while running Islands and Warfronts. All of this content will likely also be nerfed, removed, or forgotten as soon as the Shadowlands pre-patch goes live.
As Torghast is located within The Maw, one of Shadowlands‘ outdoor zones, it’s likely that this too will be abandoned down the line. But unlike Islands or Warfronts, Torghast has real potential when it comes to longevity.
Torghast can best be compared to the Challenge Mode dungeons in Mists of Pandaria. That was the first time since the 45-minute Baron run in vanilla that Blizzard asked players to try and complete a five-man dungeon run on a timer, and players could earn special rewards if they succeeded. Today, Challenge Mode dungeons aren’t a thing, but Mythic Plus absolutely is. Mythic Plus dungeons are an evolved version of what Blizzard learned from Challenge Modes, and it’d be hard to imagine the game today without them.
Those original Challenge Modes in Pandaria can be credited for paving the way for a permanent new feature to World of Warcraft‘s endgame content. It’s still early days, but the core concept and replayable nature of Torghast is once again making instanced dungeon content feel new and exciting, just like Challenge Modes or Mythic Plus did in their day. Torghast will only shine if Blizzard nails things like itemization, including the gear and legendary crafting drops. If Torghast succeeds, it’s quite possible that this new MMO-meets-roguelike approach could become a permanent fixture in World of Warcraft long after Shadowlands is over.
World of Warcraft: Shadowlands is out later this year on PC.