World of Warcraft fans are currently upset over Torghast, one of the game’s endgame activities. Changes are immediately coming down the pipeline, and Blizzard is focused on ironing the painful grind out of Torghast’s current levels.
Torghast is the Tower of the Damned, the sanctuary of World of Warcraft: Shadowlands’ final boss. The Jailer resides here, and he stores all of his most valuable souls in Torghast so he can torture them and turn their souls into axes and armor. The problems with the area emerged after World of Warcraft’s weekly reset, which added new levels for players to tackle.
The community went from tentatively pleased with Torghast to absolutely livid. The enemies were health sponges, players were frustrated, and people beseeched the developers for a faster, more fun Torghast.
Since this is World of Warcraft, the heroes kick down the doors of Torghast every week to run through a Hades-style roguelike dungeon crawler, and walk away with quest progress or a heaping helping of Soul Ash to build their very own piece of legendary gear. Changes to Torghast, therefore, are important.
“This is a top priority for us right now, and we have a bunch of changes in the works, all of which are aimed at easing the experience of Torghast,” says Ion Hazzikostas, game director on World of Warcraft, in a call with Polygon. “Players will be seeing those changes in the next couple of days.”
A round of hotfixes has already gone out, but a larger patch is set to hit “before the weekend.”
Torghast received some changes on Dec. 15, with the weekly reset. The patch was meant to address some basic balance concerns. For instance, solo healers and tanks were dominant in the game mode, with classes like Paladin going Protection just so they could beef their way through Torghast. Blizzard also patched some of the powers that players could randomly acquire, and made earlier floors on each level harder.
“We were ramping up the difficulty a little bit over the course of the experience with the intent of avoiding the trap players could fall into, where they make their way to floor five or the floor six boss, before realizing they were in over their head and didn’t have the DPS or gear to take down the boss. Then they’d walk away thinking ‘well, I just wasted 45 minutes, that sucks.’”
These changes were meant to be little tweaks to an otherwise successful formula. The problem was that they dovetailed with the new levels. Players went from having just three layers to eight. Blizzard expected the playerbase to slowly work their way through this content, equipping gear from the Castle Nathria raid and Mythic dungeons.
Hazzikostas says that beta didn’t prepare them for player behavior on live servers, and players were jumping into the meat grinder regardless of the difficulty so they could earn enough sweet, sweet Soul Ash to level up their legendaries. Completing layer three should make level four a breeze, and then five would follow swiftly after, right?
“Actually, the tuning targets are a bit more aggressive than that,” says Hazzikostas. Whereas players are able to tell when a Mythic Raid is out of reach based off the gear that drops compared to their current set, Torghast didn’t have those indicators.
“If layer one was like a normal dungeon, and layer two was like a heroic dungeon, but the time you’re getting up to layer six, that’s like… a Mythic +7. And layer eight is more like a Mythic +13 or +14. And there are some players who are very, very skilled and getting gear from other sources who are doing Mythic +14 dungeons this week! But for some players, they’ll never get there, and for other players it’ll be something they do four months from now when they have tons of epic gear under their belts.”
Hazzikostas admits that was a communication issue, and now that the new layers of Torghast are out in the wild and proving to be such a frustrating experience, Blizzard will tone them down. “We can’t unring the bell that people are out there trying to do this.”
Blizzard has a few primary goals with Torghast at the moment. One: bring down the average length of a Torghast run so it’s not an hour-long grind. Two: increase the success rate for a handful of classes and specializations that are struggling. Three: Make sure that the powers players can pick up are fun and diverse things that could only work in Torghast, not just a stronger version of a player’s usual rotation. Four: make it clear just how hard each layer is supposed to be, and when a player should tackle it.
Changes meant to solve goal one and two will be here “in the coming days,” but supporting Torghast and solving goals three and four will be a long-term venture on Blizzard’s part. Torghast will be a feature that lasts throughout Shadowlands, and that means we’ll see new wings and wild, wacky powers that appeal to different players. When I ask Hazzikostas if Torghast will be a rapid fire, high skill race through challenging enemies or a patient, meticulous journey that players can complete through perseverance, he says the answer is “ideally, both.”
In the next few weeks, a new wing of Torghast will open: the Twisting Corridors, which has 18 floors and is a “one-time accomplishment for cosmetics.” That will be a journey for someone who is planning their every move and enjoying every step, and they won’t have to worry about returning every week while also hitting the Maw, and upgrading their soulbinds and conduits, and unlocking their Great Vault upgrades.
Future wings could be for the hardcore Torghast racers among us; although Hazzikostas says the team is wary about making sure any new additions to the tower don’t feel mandatory for a level 60 character to repeat every week. A timed mode or challenge modes could emerge in the future once the current kinks in Torghast are ironed out and the mode fundamentally works.
“Torghast shouldn’t be about chain polymorphing this one guard while you kill his buddy, because if you fight both of them at once you’d die in 10 seconds,” says Hazzikostas. “That doesn’t make you feel powerful and inspired, and that’s what we’re looking to move away from.”
More announcements are coming about Torghast, but Blizzard is monitoring community forums, and making sure the mode works on a fundamental level before sprucing it up too much. “We’re working actively to make things better,” Hazzikostas says. “And we’re not going to stop until people are having fun and it feels like, you know, a source of stories about how cool and overpowered you are.”