For many World of Warcraft fans, the upcoming expansion Shadowlands is a last-chance saloon for the franchise.
Undoubtedly, many have said the same about previous expansions and still found themselves returning, but something feels different this time. Even the youngest players who jumped into Azeroth in its early years are now pushing 30-years-old. They have jobs, families, responsibilities.
And Battle for Azeroth was really bad. Seriously, it was REALLY bad.
Practically none of the many systems that BFA implemented struck a chord with the playerbase. The raids were frankly nothing special, and the convoluted plot-lines kept very few players engaged with the lore of the expansion. It was arguably the franchise’s worst outing since the globally despised Warlords of Draenor.
And that’s why it does feel like the last chance for Blizzard to show long-time supporters that retail World of Warcraft can still be a good game. When the alpha for Shadowlands dropped in early April, fans across the world crossed their fingers and hoped for the best.
As you’d expect, there are positives and negatives thus far, with most observers finding reason to be positive on the whole.
But there is one feature that has caught the eye, and received unanimous praise across the board - Torghast, Tower of the Damned.
Torgast Tower could be the best new feature in WoW in years (Picture: Blizzard)
Torghast is a brand new addition in World of Warcraft: Shadowlands, and seems to be the “Island Expeditions” of the expansion. Something that has to be done every single week if you want your character to stay ahead of the curve. Unlike island expeditions though, Torghast actually looks kind of fun.
Players - either solo or with up to four friends - enter an instanced zone and embark on their journey up the tower. An assortment of enemies stands between them and the doorway onto the next level, with boss encounters thrown in on occasion.
Throughout the level, Anima Orbs are uncovered, which allows players to improve their current abilities, gain new ones, or give them a simple stat boost. But of course, with each level, the enemies become tougher too.
Torghast gives players the opportunity to play their character in a way that hasn’t been possible before. Combining different Anima Powers can change a classes playstyle entirely.
Content creators in the alpha have already experimented with some wacky builds - like Demon Hunters with 100% uptime on Fel Rush, or a Mage build that can spawn dozens of Mirror Images at a time. This could very well be the key to keeping Torghast interesting in the long haul. This is essential, because it’s likely something that players will need to do throughout the entire expansion.
If that sounds familiar, that’s because it’s basically just a Rogue-Like. Blizzard didn’t reinvent the wheel here, but it is undoubtedly an ambitious crossover for a title that has famously received criticism for not bringing back features from years past, and has found its most recent success from re-releasing the original iteration of the game, from 2004.
Torghast - along with many other elements of Shadowlands - indicate what could be the start of a renaissance for World of Warcraft. A new direction for the game in which Blizzard actually listens to the playerbase, rather than determining what the game needs themselves.
The famous phrase from J. Allen Brack, President of Blizzard Entertainment, “You think you do, but you don’t,” was disproved with the release of World of Warcraft: Classic, and it seems like the company really did take on board the lesson from that. The players do actually know, for the most part, what is good for the game that they have spent years of their life playing.
We’re rapidly approaching a situation where two completely different iterations of the game can exist. World of Warcraft: Classic is there for the old-guard, the nostalgic, and the hardcore. Whether they follow the original roadmap with Burning Crusade and Wrath of the Lich King, or add new content into Classic, it doesn’t really matter. It’s the feel of the game that makes it what it is.
Retail, on the other hand, is now free to explore new levels of creativity, and player-dev cooperation. Players want to feel like gods? Here’s Torghast. The players feel like classes are too similar? We’re bringing back a load of old abilities. Players think the levelling journey is too confusing? We’ve revamped the whole thing... again.
Retail WoW can carve out it’s own unique identity, one that might be able to keep up with the evolving landscape of PC gaming. More action-packed excitement, less time-gated grind-fests.
The alpha test for Shadowlands has only just begun, and as the weeks roll by we expect to see more features added, as well as updates to Torghast and other systems currently up for testing. It remains to be seen whether the new expansion will be the saviour for this now ancient title in the gaming world, but things certainly look good so far.
World of Warcraft: Shadowlands is set to be released later in 2020.