Around 2 AM local time, I did it. The boss on floor 18 of Layer 8 felled, the achievement pop-up shown, the mount added to my collection.
It was done.
One of my longer-term goals for the launch of Shadowlands was to finish the Twisting Corridors, completely solo, and to receive the Corridor Creeper mount (which is one of only 3 mounts that can be used in the Maw today) before 9.1 launches and invalidates that achievement by allowing all players to mount in the Maw. It was an interesting journey, which I can divide into 3 parts, and I want to tell the story of each, along with my recommendations should you decide to take this challenge on.
It was difficult, but perhaps not quite as difficult as I thought, and while I did fully solo it, there are some points to be aware of if you are planning the same.
Part 1: When I Was Raiding as a Holy Paladin, Layers 1-3
This was the most simple and uneventful part of the whole thing. Healer specs have the most lax scaling inside of Blizzard’s adjustable difficulty, 1-5 player instanced dungeons, so playing Holy meant mobs that might as well have offered me hugs instead of actually trying to kill me. I completed each of the first 3 layers without much incident and was off to the races. A raid team split and a main change later, and I was beset slightly, however…
Part 2: Early Demon Hunter Days and the Cilice of Denathrius Run, Layers 4-6
When I resumed making attempts at the Twisting Corridors, it was on my Havoc DH, freshly changed to raid main, after a few weeks of Heroic raiding. Layer 4 was one of the most fun experiences I ever have had in WoW, due to the first-floor acquisition of the anima power the Cilice of Denathrius, a story which I documented in its own post. Layer 4 fell, as did 5 and 6 in short order, and it felt like I was where I needed to be. I was having fun, and while the DPS scaling is the most strict in these types of scenarios, it was fun to use the toolkit of Havoc to really grind mobs into dust. I felt confident I would get the challenge down, until…
Part 3a: The Horrors of Layer 7
Layer 7 defines a part of the Twisting Corridors experience that I think is the worst – there’s no reward, another more difficult layer on the horizon, and so failure seems inevitable as you attempt to push through and often lack the motivation to get it done. For me, layer 7 was the hardest part. The trick with Twisting Corridors is that the early floors aren’t ever the issue, even at the highest layer counts. The challenge instead comes in much later, so the layer 7 runs were crushing because the first 12 floors would fall in short order, with the back 6 ramping in difficulty almost exponentially, and the time investment for nothing and with no end-layer reward makes it feel extra super shitty.
Layer 7 is actually the one that took me the most tries (although that is partially for a cheesy reason which I’ll discuss later), with 5 attempts in the books. Finally, this last Sunday, I overcame layer 7, and mentally prepared myself for the final destination of the journey through the Twisting Corridors…
Part 3b: The Surprising Ease of Layer 8, And One Easy Trick Blizzard Doesn’t Want You To Know!
On that same Sunday as the one where I beat Layer 7, I braced myself and jumped right in to layer 8. It went like a lot of my early layer 7 runs – fine up until the later parts, when the scaling became a burden too big to break, and I suffered all of my deaths on floor 14 and ran away for 24 hours.
I came back on Monday night, pre-reset, determined to do it then and there. I gave in to a thought that I had early in the process on my DH, and switched specs from Havoc to Vengeance, and…got it. Done. Easy.
My only deaths running layer 8 as a tank were to traps, one because I was able to jump over the Soulforges fire, but not the Fracture Chamber fire traps. The other was a dumb mistake with a shooty trap, as I let it pew pew me to death. Whoops!
In short, the lesson I’ve learned from Horrific Visions in Battle for Azeroth and Torghast in Shadowlands is that Blizzard’s scaling design tends to make healers have the most kind scaling, followed by tanks, with DPS getting the sharpest jumps in difficulty. Both healers and tanks get Torghast runs with high HP mobs and linguine arms that can barely hit you (okay, by floor 18 there was some damage intake) while DPS get modest health scaling but have a ton of outright one-shots they have to watch for once the floor count rolls into double-digits. If you have a spec available that you can play to around 65% competency as a tank or healer, you will nearly always go farther than running a DPS spec that you play at 80+% skill. Anima Powers can sometimes make up a gap there, but it is a generalization that I feel confident in with 4 level 60s that have run loose in Torghast.
Now, The Real Interesting Discussion
The actual nuts and bolts of my journey aside, I think there are more interesting things to discuss about the Twisting Corridors, both from a design perspective and from a personal motivation perspective. The challenge of a mode like Twisting Corridors on the player side is about skill checks, getting people together who want to run it (if playing in a group), and if the rewards on offer are actually motivating enough for you to spring into action. On the game design side, designing a challenge that is, well, challenging when it can be taken on by 12 classes, 36 total specs, and in groups of variable size and composition from 1-5 players is a difficult task – one I would argue Blizzard hasn’t necessarily nailed. On top of that, you have to design anima powers that make runs of all sizes meaningful and interesting, and keep things fair enough that a bad run of powers or a spec that is a standout in its class isn’t hampered by the design.
To start with, let’s talk about the things in the design of this mode I found interesting.
Scaling Is Meh
Blizzard and scaling have a sort of iffy relationship, one with a mix of solid execution and awful implementations alike. Horrific Visions in BfA kept some element of challenge alive in a group setting, by making things like the sanity orbs fixed usage for the full group and having fewer powers overall, all managed from a skill tree instead of a run-to-run mix. Soloing an HV was thusly not necessarily harder than a group run, although it came with a few challenges – no revives for death or sanity drain, challenges with interrupts and other forms of CC, and the rough edges of class and spec balance which could sometimes wear on a run.
Torghast learned the wrong lessons in some ways from this, in my opinion. Group runs are significantly easier in Torghast, because everyone manages their own anima powers and Phantasma spend while working within the group, and scaling of health and incoming damage feels gentler overall than it did in HVs. There are fewer opportunities for a single player to make a mistake that cascades to the whole group, which is good in some ways (less outright trolling) and bad in others (fewer chances to overcome obstacles through skillful play). Running Torghast with a group feels like a short ride on a basic rollercoaster – it has no real obstacles to overcome, and while Twisting Corridors still feels harder than a normal run, it is markedly easier with a group just as a normal run is.
The biggest gap in my estimation, though, is role-based scaling for solo players. DPS get low-health bosses that can one shot them, where healers and tanks get higher-health bosses who just don’t hit that hard, and that doesn’t make any sense. The strengths of a healer or tank are that they can survive more incoming damage, so making them take less damage feels sort of counterintuitive. Likewise, normally tanks and healers cannot out-DPS an actual damage dealer, so it makes no sense to me that DPS get shorter health bars on their targets while tanks and healers can spend ages in combat with a boss at higher floor/layer combos. The difference in health was pretty huge, too – on layer 8 in Havoc, my floor 12 boss had 2.4 million HP, where the same floor on Vengeance had 4.4 million! Maybe this is a bug, but it just seems like the opposite of what you’d expect. Perhaps that makes for a greater challenge in some ways – ensuring higher DPS output on tanks and healers while forcing DPS players to use more survival abilities and be smart about what abilities they interrupt and manage through – but overall, it feels misguided and weird.
Because of this, my Holy Paladin (and my priest on both Disc and Holy) can steamroll their runs pretty easily, and the first 3 TC layers I did when I was maining a Holy Paladin were exceptionally easy, while the Havoc DH runs had some twists and turns. Switching to tank for layer 8 TC was an easy call, and it worked exactly as I expected – avoiding nearly all frustration and breezing through on the second try to victory.
If Torghast is going to remain a focal point of the expansion that evolves through patches, the scaling absolutely needs work. It “works” right now but it doesn’t feel great, and while my advice would be “just run a healing or tank spec if you want to clear solo” that sucks for mages, rogues, hunters, warlocks…you get the idea.
The Sense of Reward is Absolutely Fucked
There’s no nice way to put this – while I sort of get that the idea of Twisting Corridors is to have a skill challenge with minimal cosmetic rewards, the fact that half the layers give nothing (short of the gold earned on the run) is just dumb, frankly. The end reward is worth it (for now…) to some, but it makes the layers with no prizes seem really punishing. At least the first few no-reward layers are easy enough to just be obstacles, but it creates a big problem around 7, when you pour attempts in with no reward and there is still a harder layer behind that!
There is another challenge though as well, or at least a point of contention with the design. Torghast, as most modes of content in WoW are, is made to be repeated. The normal version is intended to be rerun weekly, a fact that has been hammered home with the hotfix removing the Soul Ash cap. Raids are meant to be cleared weekly, and dungeons are made to be run over and over, with Mythic Plus completely selling that to the playerbase. The Mage Tower, the early challenge template for soloable challenges in WoW, was a one-shot per spec, but you could then repeat it on off-specs and alts. Horrific Visions had currency for rewards that encouraged constant replays, on top of the normal weekly reward that even non-challenge players could chase after.
The Twisting Corridors are a one and done. Finish layer 8 and get your Corridor Creeper, and that is it. No need to ever enter on alts, no further rewards, just done. This is fine to me as a player, but it does feel at-odds with the design paradigm of modern WoW. There’s no reason or incentive for me to ever go back, or to do it on an alt. If my guild decides to get groups together for it (and they won’t, but we’ll go there later in this post) then there isn’t an incentive for me as a player who has done it to go back and help, outside of the social rewards. Those can be good…but the rewards to everyone else have to be worth it, and many players have (correctly) determined that with 9.1 offering mounting in the Maw to all, there just isn’t a purpose to grinding it up now.
The Gameplay Design Depends on How Much You Like Torghast
The core of the Twisting Corridors is Torghast 3x, easy enough. If you like Torghast, you’ll probably like the TC. If you don’t, you won’t, and if you only like certain wings of normal Torghast, TC’s randomness may very well be offputting.
I’m past the point of arguing that there’s something great in Torghast for all – at this point, if you’ve gone back and tried it out again post 9.0.5 minor tweaks and still don’t like it, I’m not gonna sell you the TCs. Torghast at its best can be a lot of fun, I think, and the Twisting Corridors has moments where that is amplified – my post about doing TC Layer 4 with the Cilice of Denathrius is my shining example of this. Likewise, a bad streak of anima powers can sink you much worse in the TCs – while you get more and that likewise offsets the probability of a bad run of powers, it still can happen.
At the end of the day, Torghast is still an iffy roguelike, and Twisting Corridors amplifies all of it – good and bad.
The Personal Connection
At the end of it all though, what I am really here for is to share my personal reasons for doing this. I set out on Twisting Corridors with a simple set of rules – all solo play, full layer 8 clear, get the mount, and do it before 9.1. Let me break each of these down.
No Groups, But Why?
In the past, I’ve shared that I find Torghast with a group a sort of bad experience that tramples on what I find fun about it while reducing the total fun available in the run even if I am otherwise having a good time. Why is that? Well, groups behave in unpredictable and weird ways, and the sort of casual nature of Torghast compared to other content means being a leader is less approachable and especially so since most players I’ve played with do not want to explore the depths of each floor for every drop of Phantasma and every Anima Power. I’ve done more normal runs with groups since and I generally find those okay, even if they aren’t exactly what I want from it.
For Twisting Corridors, the time investment is just too great, and I did not want to be beholden to another person’s schedule on them. Hell, I play at weird hours sometimes anyways, as my Tuesday 2 AM PDT clear of Layer 8 demonstrates!
The other aspect of solo play in TCs I found appealing was the challenge. I’ve been very vocal in the past about finding a lot of value and fun in being able to meet a challenge in WoW solo. The Mage Tower was an addiction for me, and Horrific Visions held me until I got my title, feat of strength, and mount. I saw Twisting Corridors as the next step in this mode of play, and so it was inevitable that I would be drawn to it like a moth to flame. Just like with Horrific Visions, I could do it with friends or even with randoms, but I knew that I was absolutely going to challenge it solo, and this was helped by the fact that a lot of my guild has no interest in pushing the TCs at all. We have 3 other players that I know of who’ve done them completely, and I think maybe all of them were solo, but I wasn’t really discussing it with them to know for sure (one is someone I definitely limit conversation with, so yeah) but no one else has really expressed much interest in doing them, and that is fine. For my purposes, it helped that unlike with HVs, I wasn’t doing a selfish-adjacent thing by refusing to join in with guildies. Instead, I was the weirdo pushing the punishing, annoying TCs alone.
The challenge bore a second purpose now for me though, in that I do often feel like players from the guild we merged with don’t find me a particularly skilled player. In raids, I don’t chase a parse and often do fine, but not amazing. My skills at a fixed DPS rotation are sometimes iffy, a thing I have been working on improving throughout the expansion. However, a challenge like the Twisting Corridors is the kind of thing where I can show adaptability and the skill to use my full toolkit to overcome the challenge on offer. That, coupled with raid leading Sire on Heroic to success and some strong M+ DPS play have allowed me to overcome some of that perception and feel like I’ve made my point about my own player skill in a way that sticks.
Why Get The Mount?
I’m breaking this into two pieces, because the first is easy. Why even bother with the mount? Because – it looks cool, it has a fun metal sound effect when it runs, and it is unique and a guaranteed way to get the mount without the time investment and puzzles of the craftable Maw hound or the random chance of the Shadehound hunt. Now I have the model, and I can ride it to show off that did something that very few players have – only 13% of Wowhead profiles have the achievement!
No, Really – With 9.1 Having Maw Mounting, Why Bother?
This one is sort of trickier, because it is more personal and sort of odd. I outlined above why I wanted the solo challenge and the value that held to me, but at the same time, the reward on offer, while neat, is also one that is going to be devalued a LOT in patch 9.1, when everyone who does the story quests can ride around the Maw on any mount of their choosing.
For me, the challenge was one element. The next is easy enough to explain – it was a goal to work towards on my time that offered personal satisfaction and showed direct player growth. In the past, I’ve talked at length about how having goals to set personally and work towards, with accomplishment points that mark an end, is something I find personally very satisfying in games and something I think that WoW, at its best, does well. At its worst, WoW offers very little of this kind of content or has systems that are actively sabotaging of the feeling of being able to set meaningful goals to work towards. In the recent past, Titanforging has made gear rewards feel unobtainable as there is never a true best in slot to reach. With Shadowlands, they’ve gotten closer – raid loot needs more work, but you can reach a stopping point through gear, even in Mythic Plus and PvP, which is fantastic. On the gameplay side, finishing the raid on your chosen difficulty feels final and satisfying, and I know that is how my raid feels after reaching Sire Denathrius on Heroic and repeating the kill. On Mythic Plus, you can gear up to item level 226 (from the Great Vault) and reach the Seasonal Keystone Master achievement, which offers a pair of endpoints that you can obtain.
So I wanted the challenge, and I wanted a goal to chase in my personal time in-game that would offer a reward and a tangible plateau where I would be done with it. Mounting in the Maw right now does make that gameplay more rewarding, and has allowed me to focus on new goals. One of my goals right now is reaching Cordial reputation with Ve’nari and getting gem sockets for my gear. Another has been to buy the Conduit upgrades from Ve’nari until my full conduit loadout is item level 226. All of these then tie into working towards the Season 1 Keystone Master achievement with guildies, because those power boosts directly allow for better performance as I continue to sharpen my skills with Havoc DH.
Sure, I could wait for 9.1, but several of these goals are only valuable for now, since the patch will push the value of them down and make several of these goals much easier, especially once season 2 of Shadowlands likely brings higher item level conduits and the sockets from Ve’nari are replaced with sockets from some new source, likely in Korthia. The mount in the Maw also helps today with alts. I’ve been working on really playing my hunter, as I’ve been learning Marksmanship to see why one of our hunters in raid is absolutely godawful at DPS and it has been genuinely fun at the same time.
So in the end, all of these goals intersected with Twisting Corridors, specifically with the mount. Getting the mount means Maw gameplay is easier and simpler, and now I can run loose in the Maw and do what I need to reach my other main goals on my Demon Hunter while having an easy time on my alts.
Will I ever go back to the Twisting Corridors? Oh lord no. It was enjoyable enough, but like with Horrific Visions, I’ve gotten what I wanted and there just isn’t the gameplay fun factor enough to want to do it again. Now, if they expand it in 9.1 (which seems somewhat likely) then I am ready for that.
But for now, I will enjoy having this goal crossed off my list, and with the 9.1 PTR launching soon, I can spend what is likely at least 10 weeks enjoying the benefit of my new toy.