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WoWJun 21, 2021 4:00 pm CT

Blizzard is trying to make Torghast more fun — but will they really fix the Tower of the Damned in patch 9.1?

We know that Torghast will be changed in patch 9.1 to feel less horrible if you spend two hours in there and can’t kill the boss with no way to complete your Soul Ash farming other than starting over. The Tarragrue is also moving out: it’s going to be a raid boss in the Sanctum of Domination, meaning that the death counter that limits your failure in the Tower of the Damned will be gone, as the Tarragrue will be too busy killing raid groups to hunt down players who’ve died in Torghast. We also know Torghast will be getting a new wing and new layers, so you can push your progress further.

That’s all well and good, but we need to actually take a look at how Blizzard is planning to make this all work..

I personally like the Tarragrue in theory, but in practice it’s turned Torghast into a grueling slog where making a single mistake can put you behind the 8-ball for the rest of your run. And when you’re in a group it can cause some hard feelings when one player ends up dying a few times and dragging the Tarragrue down onto everybody, often for reasons less about them and more about conditions that aren’t favorable to their class/spec. I’ve been the idiot dying over and over again because I keep trying to play the game instead of hiding and hoping the ranged kill it — and that’s not fun.

Blizzard wants to fix Torghast in patch 9.1 so it feels fun and rewarding. But can they actually pull it off?

Patch 9.1 includes some good Torghast changes

Taking the death penalty out of Torghast will help a great deal. It’s a good decision, one I support. In addition to the removal of the death counter, adding more layers and a new wing are good ideas. I enjoy the Twisting Corridors for their somewhat endless nature and I approve of making Torghast scale with the expansion, letting players in better gear push it further. And while I don’t like all of the weird Torghast events, the Beasts of Prodigium is a sincerely excellent proof of concept for the idea. Blizzard should definitely do more of those.

Patch 9.1 also brings a new scoring and reward system to Torghast, which will completely change the way runs work. The scoring system goes a good distance towards making Torghast something that rewards engaged gameplay — with points for completion, speed, and streaks (via the Empowered mechanic), the entire experience will be more like a Greater Rift in Diablo 3. In order to get the 160 points you need for a perfect run, you’ll want to come in under the timer while killing as many mobs as possible and hope for some lucky Empowered streaks — it’s doable, but it will require skill and good timing to get that score, allowing for players who really understand the format to do exceptionally well without making a run completely unrewarding for players still learning the ropes.

And the Box of Many Things, which allows players to gain permanent power ups? That’s an excellent idea and a good import from the Horrific Visions at the end of Battle for Azeroth. Allowing players to gain power ups for their Torghast runs by running Torghast and the concept of “Tower Knowledge” as a sort of currency works well with Torghast itself — you’re learning about the Tower of the Damned by running it. The upcoming Torments system (similar to affixes in Mythic dungeons) will be affected by the perks available via the Box of Many Things, meaning that you can gain in power inside Torghast without actually getting any rewards that affect your power outside of it.

Also, with more layers — 12 in total — and 5 floors per layer instead of 6, the overall feel of each layer will be more concentrated, with 3 floors full of trash and rares to kill, 1 floor with the vendor, and then a boss floor at the end. This feels like a really good change to me, as it always got to feeling like a slog by floor five.

Soul Ash hasn’t been enough to make Torghast feel rewarding

Soner or later we’re going to have to talk about the elephant in the room, and that’s simply that players don’t feel like the effort of running Torghast for a couple of hours is worth the reward of Soul Ash, which is only used to craft and upgrade Legendaries. Some players get their Legendaries (or don’t get their Legendaries) and stop because it just isn’t fun. Even if you didn’t end up dead and get absolutely nothing, you’re spending a ton of effort for a single crafting component.

Our brains are wired by World of Warcraft and other games (looking at you here, Diablo) to expect — nay, crave — a reward when we kill things. The constant murder explosion of Torghast, gaining increasingly ridiculous Anima Powers as you ascend — that feels awesome. But a lot of that awesome is stripped away when you get to the end and your reward is a handful of dust.

Okay, ash. But still.

I am somewhat more positive about the Soul Cinders, but in the end it’s still just better Legendaries.

Torghast has always been a Greater Rift without the loot

Torghast is very much a riff on roguelike games like Hades, but it’s also modeled after Diablo 3‘s Rifts, especially Greater Rifts — and it really needs to borrow that particular inspiration’s approach to rewarding the player. One way to do it would be to tie concrete rewards to the level of the Torghast run — imagine if every level of the Twisting Corridors you ran (as just one example) increased the level of reward. It doesn’t have to be gear — indeed, a case can be made that the Box of Many Things is exactly this kind of reward. it’s a means to gain in power inside Torghast, one that doesn’t have any affect on the rest of the game, a closed reward system. But I feel like that is unnecessarily limiting — why can’t Torghast reward us outside of the Tower of the Damned?  It could be Valor Points to upgrade the gear you have, to borrow one idea Blizzard is already using to make Mythic+ feel more rewarding. Blizzard could even let Torghast runs count towards the Great Vault.

The paucity of gear rewards in Shadowlands has only exacerbated the way Torghast feels like a long slog up a steep hill for nothing at the end. Even if Blizzard doesn’t want Torghast to reward gear, there are other reward systems.

And these reward systems don’t have to be complicated. Blizzard could make it so completing one Wing on a certain layer — we’ll say Layer 6 for the first milestone — gives you a gear option in the Great Vault. Then doing layer 12 could give you two options, and doing both wings at Layer 12 could give you three. However it’s adjusted, the point is that it would be a way to give players another reason to do Torghast without making it a loot pinata or adding complicated new systems.

Ultimately, while I like what I’m seeing for Torghast in 9.1, I don’t know if it’ll be enough to really stem the tide of players feeling like it’s an unrewarding experience unless it actually gets some more concrete rewards.

Cosmetic items — and we will be getting some cosmetic shoulders from Torghast — and mounts, those are good ways to reward players without gear inflation, but at the end of the day, gear is what people want. Finding a way for that to be part of Torghast will make it a more satisfying experience. But I suspect we won’t see that for a while, if ever. For now, a few cosmetic items and the perk system brought in by the Box of Many Things definitely are the only kind of non-Soul Ash/Soul Cinder reward you’ll be getting in Torghast in patch 9.1, for better or worse.

Originally published 4/8/2021, updated 6/20/2021

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