Why World of WarCraft's Roguelike Torghast Dungeon is Just What the Venerable MMO Needs

Why World of WarCraft's Roguelike Torghast Dungeon is Just What the Venerable MMO Needs

Blizzard looks to Final Fantasy 14 for some inspiration.

"Good artists copy. Great artists steal," goes the apocryphal quote. Final Fantasy 14's A Realm Reborn iteration once looked to Blizzard's World of Warcraft for inspiration, setting it on the path toward the success it sees today. Now it seems the teacher has become the student.

World of Warcraft's next expansion, Shadowlands, is currently in alpha. (Not to be confused with Final Fantasy 14's Shadowbringers expansion from 2019.) Outside of the new leveling experience and one of the early expansion zones, Blizzard is testing what looks to be a key feature of Shadowlands: Torghast, Tower of the Damned. At the center of the Maw, a void that consumes souls that no one escapes from, lies Torghast, the ultimate jail. And in Shadowlands, it's time for a jailbreak.

Torghast is intended to be endgame content, with players tackling the tower at level 60. For the purposes of the alpha, players are automatically boosted to max level if they're one of four classes Blizzard wants to test: Mage, Priest, Warlock, and Demon Hunter. Given that none of those classes match my main characters, I rolled a new Demon Hunter, deciding to dive into Torghast and learn the class at the same time.

One selection of Anima Powers. | Mike Williams/USG, Blizzard

The hardest part of a Torghast run is the beginning, when you're just the standard level 60 version of your character. As you dive into the tower's ascending floors, you'll kill demonic enemies and dodge traps, occasionally coming into contact with unique anima powers. Every time you come in contact with an anima orb, you'll get a choice between 1-3 random anima powers. You'll also passively gain Phantasma, a Torghast-only currency that allows you to buy anima powers at the Shackled Broker, who appears every three floors.

Some of the powers are straightforward, boosting a single stat or attack: one made my Demon Hunter move 100% faster after casting Infernal Strike, while another increased my maximum health by 20%. Others are a bit weirder, like Bloating Fodder, which causes the weak and ubiquitous Mawrat enemies to explode upon death. Then there are the kiss-curse abilities, which give you a boon, like causing your abilities to cool down 25% faster but reducing healing done to you by 75%.

Assuming you choose well, you'll continue to stack anima powers, eventually creating an absolute monster of a character with vastly boosted health, damage, and unique abilities. In one run, I had twice my base health, double damage, and an anima power that made me invincible while casting Fel Devastation, an ability on a pretty short cooldown. Assuming you survive each floor, eventually you start to feel like an absolute badass. But survival depends on what you run up against.

Every run is different because Torghast is an ever-shifting tower. Every time you enter it, you get a new combination of rooms, traps, and enemies on each floor. One time, I entered Torghast on Normal difficulty and ran smack dab into a starting room full of enemies with no anima powers. Other times, I've been able to ramp up and relax a bit. (Normal starts you on Floor 13, Easy begins on Floor 1 and Heroic on Floor 25, with a current maximum of Floor 72.)

The changing floorplan encourages exploration, as there are urns with more Phantasma, chests with more anima powers, and even bonus objectives, like NPCs that need to be freed. World of Warcraft once had an entire Indiana Jones-inspired zone, but nothing has captured the famous film archeologist like running into a room with spike traps, pendulum scythe, and arrow-dispensing walls. Dodging through all that feels really cool in Torghast, and it only adds to the challenge when you also have to contend with enemies while doing so. Torghast also encourages taking your time on enemies, making sure you don't aggro too many enemies, using crowd control, and marking patrols. It's a slow, more methodical experience compared to a normal WoW dungeon run.

The persistent reward for tackling Torghast is a unique, currently-unnamed material that can be used to forge Legendary gear. Blizzard promises that the gear you forge is up to you, so you'll never feel like you're wasting your time on a run.

There's no time limit, either. Instead, dying captures the attention of the Tarragrue. (Get it? "You were eaten by a grue"?) You have a certain amount of allowable deaths before the Tarragrue is spawned—three deaths in solo, five deaths in a duo, etc. Once you've reached the max, you have 30 seconds before the Tarragrue spawns on the beginning of the floor and starts hunting for you. If it catches you, it'll melee you for your max health and your run is over. If you can get to the door to the next floor in time though, you're in the clear until you die again.

Dodging traps captures that Indiana Jones feeling. | Mike Williams/USG, Blizzard

Together, the changing floors, the anima powers, and the Tarragrue makes it really feel like you're diving into an ancient dungeon in search of gold and glory. Indeed, adding a roguelike dungeon to World of Warcraft might turn out to be the best idea that Blizzard has had in years. And theoretically, the team can add more rooms, more enemies, and hopefully more themes to Torghast as the expansion moves forward. It's such a great idea that it's made me wonder why Blizzard hasn't done a "roguelike dungeon" before.

Of course, all of this will seem very familiar to Final Fantasy 14 players. Back in 2016, Square Enix added the Palace of the Dead to Final Fantasy 14, its first deep dungeon. Final Fantasy 14 in its current incarnation has two now: the Palace of the Dead, which tops out at 200 floors, and Heaven-on-High, which has 100 floors. Deep Dungeons are dungeons that have ever-shifting floors that are always a new combination of rooms, traps, and enemies. They also have Pomanders, consumable items that only exist within the deep dungeon and offer unique bonuses, like buffs to healing and damage, or clearing all the traps on a floor. Completing deep dungeon runs allows you to make cool, class-specific glowing weapons.

The systems aren't entirely similar, of course. WoW's Torghast is endgame only, while you can level using Palace of the Dead. Final Fantasy 14's deep dungeons also have their own level system, starting you at the bottom, and increasing through successive runs. And Torghast can be tackled alone if you want, while the deep dungeons force you into a full team. But they're close enough that I have to wonder if Blizzard looked at Final Fantasy 14 and said, "Hey, that's a great idea." Because it is a great idea, and Torghast is shaping up to be something special.

Traps, an Anima Orb, and mawrats, all in one place. | Mike Williams/USG, Blizzard

I say "shaping" because it's still in alpha and player feedback has been positive, but still with requests. Blizzard has said that Torghast will have some sort of lockout mechanic preventing players from running it over-and-over, something the alpha community is not a fan of. (Palace of the Dead can be run as many times as you want.) Players have asked for the ability to level in Torghast, exactly like FF14's deep dungeons. There's also some acknowledgement that anima powers might be dropping a bit too fast, making players super-powerful far earlier than they probably should be.

Still, if great artists steal, then Blizzard chose the right ideas to take from Final Fantasy 14. And hopefully, that competition will see Final Fantasy 14 continuing to improve as a well, making both games better in the long run.

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Mike Williams

Reviews Editor

M.H. Williams is new to the journalism game, but he's been a gamer since the NES first graced American shores. Third-person action-adventure games are his personal poison: Uncharted, Infamous, and Assassin's Creed just to name a few. If you see him around a convention, he's not hard to spot: Black guy, glasses, and a tie.

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