The Twisting Corridors and 9.1 – Or, What Purpose is There to Them At This Point?

Last night, I finished both layers 5 and 6 of the Twisting Corridors, getting my Spirestalker title, and it went pretty well. A few mistakes nearly jeopardized my layer 6 run, but otherwise, things went very well, the runs felt faster, and I got my title with only two layer completetions between me and the Corridor Creeper.

There’s just one problem – sort of. What point is there to finishing the Twisting Corridors now, with 9.1 announced for an unknown future date with Maw mounting, eliminating the imperative that led most people who did the Twisting Corridors to do them?

Well, I guess that’s what I’ll discuss here today, as someone trying this week to grind those last two layers out.

A Sense of Challenge

I like the overall direction of modern WoW towards solo content being overall friendlier, more common, and something you can more readily do regardless of gear level. I will not deny that this does make the game feel a bit too easy at times. I don’t buy-in to the idea of social friction being a thing I want or absolutely need in an MMO – in fact, social friction is quite literally a thing I dodge when I can capably do so. But the MMO design meaning of social friction – the idea that content will challenge you to lean on other players – is a sound one, and it is a part of the core gameplay loop of an MMO, or at least a competently-designed one. Where WoW’s modern design comes through for me is that it often frames a choice for a player like me – you can do this thing in a group, or you can do it solo and be more challenged at an individual level if that is what you want.

Sometimes, they don’t always stick the balancing correctly (both Torghast and Horrific Visions carry a weird scaling spot between solo and full party where the per-player difficulty feels a smidge off) but generally, I’ve found that in both HVs and Torghast that solo scaling and 5-player scaling is about right, or at least feels correctly tuned to be doable when properly skilled. (Torghast has some anima power gaps that can cause some frustration, but I’ve seen enough players discuss it enough ways to feel like the core issue is still down to player skill).

For me at this point in my life, I reserve specific, planned moments each week for group play, times where I’m willing to work with the social friction to accomplish something, and I might deviate with 1-3 extra bits of group play for alt raids or Mythic Plus. Outside of that, I do not like being chained to a group, and I enjoy the challenge of things like Torghast alone, where it is just me and my play against the game. It also helps that in both HVs and Torghast, I joined a group of friends/guildies once each, and was let down by various play issues, like a player overusing sanity orbs in HVs or a friend dying to repeat mechanics in Torghast, eating at the death counter. Torghast makes this more frustrating on the Twisting Corridors levels as players can spent 90+ minutes climbing only to suffer a series of setbacks at the last minute and lose that time, time which doesn’t even offer the same sense of reward as Soul Ash.

So for me, Torghast, like Horrific Visions beforehand, boils down to a personal challenge, which is something I find quite fun. Having 6 layers of TC beaten solo feels like an accomplishment in-game, and wearing the title is a sign of whatever player skill I can assign to it and the rarity of being willing to endure the in-between floors with literally no rewards but some gold and (hopefully) fun.

Maw Convenience Today

The 9.1 announcement does mean that the layer 8 Twisting Corridors achievement loses a lot of the practical luster it currently has, but it is key to remember that it retains value today. 9.1 is somewhere between 3-6 months away (I think around 4 personally) and as weekly and daily maintenance tasks (long dance around the word “chores” here!) begin to dwindle, I’ve found myself gravitating back towards the Maw for the sake of completion. I started the expansion with a raid-main Holy Paladin, and it has still only been around a month and change since I switched back to Havoc DH, during which time I’ve coasted on the Maw and Torghast upgrades earned on my paladin that unlocked account-wide. With less actual necessary activity in the game – my conduits are all 200+ item level, my covenant campaign is complete, my gear is around the point at which only high keystones or continued Heroic raiding will up it to any considerable degree, and I’m sort of past caring about professions for the time being – that leaves me with weekly raids, some time spent leveling an alt, or diving deeper into systems I haven’t played as much – like the Maw.

Granted, daily play in the Maw is still sort of annoying, but it is a far cry from the thing I totally hated in early beta. In some ways, the Maw is fun to me in a perverse sense because it is challenging world content, but it also still follows the rules of world content for the most part. My 209 item level is enough to see to it that enemies melt relatively quickly, I can pull larger packs and worry less about dying, but there is still a threat, and the challenges the Maw does have, like mob density and the regular patrol of scary elites help add to that challenge in a way that I enjoy. A lot of my early-expansion weariness of the Maw was down to also being a healer spec, where I could recover health decently if I was in over my head, but it was still a process of attrition where I would eventually fail. On a well-geared DPS, the margins for survival tilt more in my favor, and the speed of kills certainly helps that process.

So for me, trying to get that last bit of Ve’nari reputation to get all my Maw and Torghast upgrades in order, there is value to having the ability to mount in the Maw for now. It might be a crazy justification to some (doing an activity few enjoy in order to make an activity only slightly more people enjoy more convenient) but hey, that’s where I am with WoW at the moment!

The Mount Looks Cool

I’m glad for Maw mounting, but the Corridor Creeper and all the forms of the Mawhound mount, including the craftable one in 9.0.5, look cool as hell and I want at least one in my collection. Seems easier to get the skill-based one instead of spending time random-chance farming the Beastwarrens version, or waiting until 9.0.5 to do a convoluted set of puzzles for it. I think both of those are great, by the way – they just aren’t for me. I did try farming the Beastwarrens one for a bit, but it just didn’t work out and a random chance on a cycling event felt too punishing. At least when I get a new piece of gear or feel more confident in my rotation and gameplay, I can likely push harder on Twisting Corridors, and that is incentive enough for me.

So with the narrower discussion of the Twisting Corridors mount in particular dealt with, I guess that opens a larger question – what use does the Twisting Corridors hold in the future?

The Future of the Twisting Corridors, In My Estimation

Right now, the pet, toy, title, and mount remain the de facto reasons to run them at all, and those will continue to hold some value for collectors. Further, those should become easier to get as the middle-distribution gear level for players continues to rise past the point at which the first 8 layers are tuned for. Alongside new layers in the base-mode Torghast, I expect we’ll see more layers of Twisting Corridors added, although perhaps not right away.

I have some speculative hunches, though, about what the actual future for the mode is.

While I am a fan of Torghast (as I was for Horrific Visions and fully expected this outcome), it cannot be denied that Twisting Corridors feels a bit too unrewarding. A single, one-time prize every other layer is not a formula for success, and participation rates for the Twisting Corridors, I am fairly certain, would reveal this. A look at Wowhead’s data, based on character profiles on the site, shows that only 15% of profiles have the Layer 4 achievement. While this is not inherently a representative sample of all players, it is likely over-representative of the player type that would seek out this achievement. As we’ve discussed before, a vast minority of players, those overly tuned-in to the game, are on Wowhead profiling their characters and providing that data, and if only 15% of that decidedly-hardcore audience has the halfway-point achievement? That tells me people aren’t really that jazzed about Twisting Corridors, which matches with anecdotal evidence from my guildies, friends, and people I follow and read.

So what’s the issue, really?

Well, the reward point is well-worth looking at deeper. Torghast’s whole point from a gameplay perspective is for Soul Ash and legendaries, but the Twisting Corridors cuts this out altogether. The lessons of the Horrific Visions is that you can have a reward offered that extends to the challenge modes, and in fact, more rewards are appropriate. If a player could choose to run their two normal wings or do a single Twisting Corridor run for Soul Ash, that might help. You’d have to institute a global weekly Soul Ash cap instead of a per-instance one, but that would be serviceable. On the other hand, offering Soul Ash for Twisting Corridors in the same sort of pattern as the base instance, but as an addition to the normal Soul Ash you can earn, would be a good way to allow players to catchup on Soul Ash, by making running more Torghast able to give you more stuff. I loathe the sheer number of added currencies we have in Shadowlands, but you could also add a Torghast coin of some sort that could be used for cosmetic rewards and tie that up with Twisting Corridors, such that you’d run regular wings for your legendaries and TC wings for the ability to buy fun stuff. Imagine if you could get toy traps that you could place in a raid or in Oribos? That would be pretty fun! You could even put small amounts of player power on it – like having a successful run reward one of the gear socket items you can buy from Ve’nari, or a gear chest with a piece of gear in it and a cap on weekly acquisition of these, tied to layers.

I guess my biggest challenge with rewards (and this was the case with HVs too) is that there is a point where on a single character, you’ll get all the account-wide stuff you’d want and it makes wanting to run more Torghast feel kind of meh. I haven’t even run the base wings on my DH this week as of yet, and I’m not really planning to – I have my maxed out Rank 4 BiS legendary, I don’t need an off-spec one or an alt-build legendary, and so the core runs just don’t offer me much. TC still allows me to pickup new Adventure minions and have a chance at pet drops from bosses, so all is well there, but if I meet my goal of finishing Layer 8 TC and get my Corridor Creeper, I probably am just done with Torghast at that point, because for the fun I do have, ultimately, I want the rewards, and when the time commitment on-offer is worth less actual reward, it does start to feel less like a thing I must do or want to do, even if I do enjoy it.

In the future? I have a longshot prediction I’ll make that a lot of people will hate but that I am going to propose anyways.

Let’s say we get 4 new layers across the board in 9.1. Whatever reward structure the future of Torghast holds, let’s assume the current model remains in place for Twisting Corridors. If you finish a TC layer 12, what if the big prize is…a mount that can fly in the Maw. Now that is an incentive that is intriguing, and perhaps even more so than just regular mounting. I suspect that Blizzard will never make flying in the Maw a normal, fully accessible thing. But, if you tie it to a layer 12, with more layers to come in 9.2 and 9.3 (hypothetically, at least) then players can eventually overgear a 12 and run it with relative ease, unless the difficulty of Torghast is tuned around the seasonal difficulty floor for each new content season, at which point it may very well scale up as well and retain some aspect of challenge. However, given that they are adding new layers in 9.1, my suspicion is that the base scaling will remain as-is and so if that trajectory continues, a lot more people could unlock flying in the Maw under my speculative future-state.

Of course, that also brings questions of whether or not flying in the Maw is going to retain value past 9.1, since it seems to me like we’ll be moving on from the Maw overall past 9.1, based on where the story seems to be going and the fact that we’re already going to have a Maw raid in 9.1.

Then again, they could just unlock flying in the Maw for everyone in 9.2 and make the whole thought exercise pointless, but no sense in getting too far ahead of myself!

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