World of Warcraft: Shadowlands artwork for Ardenweald with logo

During the first part of my World of Warcraft: Shadowlands review I detailed my thoughts on the leveling process, the Covenants and their themed zones, the overall presentation, and just how it all blends together. This second review, however, is going to be all about the endgame and the sort of content you'll be spending the vast majority of your World of Warcraft time on over the coming months.

So if you're curious what in the world Torghast is even all about, as well as how the new dungeons and raid compare to their Battle for Azeroth predecessors, allow me to share my thoughts after spending about a month delving through literally everything Shadowlands has to offer.

Castle Nathria official concept artwork from Shadowlands

Out of all the new things added with Shadowlands, the roguelike Torghast, Tower of the Damned is by far the most interesting. It's essentially a completely randomized dungeon that offers you an assortment of wacky powers as you progress through it, eventually culminating with an absurdly overpowered boss that can only be taken down by making yourself even more obscenely overpowered. Needless to say, it's unbelievably fun!

Like any good roguelike, Torghast starts you off with a selection of basic powers that you can then further build upon. Depending on what sort of powers you get, as well as the type of enemies you face, your adventure throughout Torghast can be drastically different.

Just as a little example, in the past three runs with my Demon Hunter I had a dodge-focused build that managed to stack multiple buffs in order to achieve nearly 90% dodge at all times, a rat-eating build that was all about hunting down those delicious little Mawrats and consuming them by the hundreds for extra power, and most excitingly of all, a build where I permanently lit myself on fire!

World of Warcraft: Shadowlands screenshot of the mawrat eating ability

Just in case you thought I was joking - you can actually eat rats for a power-up!

That last one was particularly exhilarating because I went from being nearly dead on the second floor to essentially replacing Ragnaros as the god of fire! Not only had I managed to snag three power-ups that increased the damage of my Immolation Aura by 100% each, but also the super-rare one that makes any physical damage instantly refresh its duration. Combine this with my Covenant ability that makes Immolation Aura increase its damage by 13% every time it hits, and you get one of my favorite aspects of a roguelike - a character build that has managed to completely and utterly break the game!

And when I say break the game, I really do mean that because even at Torghast Level 8, which is the hardest it can possibly go right now, I've managed to get myself into a situation where I pretty much one-shot everyone just by standing near them. By the end of the run I wasn't worried about killing enemies as much as I was worried about landing at least one hit to refresh the Immolation Aura before continuing my mad dash towards the final boss with my godhood status still intact!

World of Warcraft: Shadowlands screenshot of the infinite immolation build

More fire? Well, don't mind if I do!

However, while my Torghast experience as a Demon Hunter was phenomenal thanks to an excellent selection of powers, not all classes and specializations are quite so lucky. After watching a friend struggle through Torghast as a Priest and mostly get powers that buff nearly irrelevant abilities, it became very obvious that Torghast needs a bit more polish in order to achieve its true potential.

Besides some of the balance issues, a big problem plaguing Torghast is also the sheer amount of time you need to sink into each run at the higher difficulty levels. Depending on your build a run through Torghast can take anywhere from 30 to 90 minutes, which paired with an irritating system that spawns assassins whenever you're out of combat, means that it can be quite a challenge to complete sometimes, and not in a good way. Doubly so if you find yourself in need of a toilet with two more floors left to go!

The good news is that Blizzard is already working on a major balance update for Torghast, an update that might even be going live as you're reading this, so as long as something doesn't go haywire Torghast should soon solidify itself as an excellent alternative to endgame content like raids or dungeons. Personally, I'd love to see it expanded even further with more randomization and even more powers, because if there's one thing The Binding of Isaac has thought me, it's that you can never go too wacky with a roguelike!

World of Warcraft: Shadowlands artwork for Torghast

No matter where you are, Torghast will always be there in the distance

Aside from a couple of cosmetic items you will be able to unlock, the main gameplay reason to delve into Torghast is Soul Ash - a highly useful new currency that can be used to create legendary items. If you've played at the start of the Legion expansion and are currently nervously twitching about the thought of rolling the dice over and over again in order to have a mere chance at the legendary you like, worry not as the ones in Shadowlands are surprisingly easy to acquire.

Soul Ash can be gained from Torghast in vast quantities, the base crafting components can be assembled through the use of professions or simply bought on the auction house, while the Memory that defines what type of legendary item it is can be actively farmed. Some Memories will require you to kill specific bosses in either Torghast or dungeons, others will task you with taking down a raid boss, and a couple are as simple as completing a single Mythic+ dungeon and opening the weekly bonus chest.

The end result is that legendaries are not only a fun addition that changes your playstyle in a small but meaningful way, but also easy enough to acquire that even the most casual of players will be able to get their hands on their favorite ones. Sure, some of the raid-based ones might take a couple of weeks, but that's nothing compared to the madness that was the completely random system in early Legion. So as long as the legendaries can be kept even remotely balanced, I think this will be a pretty good system to continue with in the future as well.

World of Warcraft: Shadowlands screenshot of the legendary crafting system

Crafting legendary items is about as simple and straightforward as it gets

What's not quite as pleasing is the new endgame-focused zone, The Maw. This is partly because The Maw is supposed to be an inescapable super-hell reserved only for the most wretched of souls, and partly because it's just not very fun to explore. The biggest reason for this is the rather bold decision to completely cut off mounts while in the zone, which while interesting on paper, quickly results in the tedious gameplay loop of you slowly trudging through an empty wasteland and mashing your mobility cooldown whenever it's ready. That is, unless you're a Druid or Worgen player, in which case you can zoom around at full speed, only really impeded by the angry glares of people you leave in the dust.

My second major annoyance with The Maw are the daily quests, or rather the lack thereof. Every single day a friendly NPC will have you venture to the far corners of The Maw in order to complete a couple of tasks, and while this is nothing new to World of Warcraft, The Maw makes the process especially tedious given the large distances you have to travel on foot and the incredibly limited selection of quests.

But not only is the number of different quests far too low for a zone of its size, the objectives themselves are incredibly basic as well. You're just collecting a few bits and pieces, killing a couple of easy enemies, or in the case of some of the weekly quests, killing a bunch of elites instead.

While doing all of this a couple of times is engaging, it becomes very monotonous very quickly, especially if you're trying to power-game it for the maximum amount of reputation per day. A shame since I was looking forward to having an actual endgame focused zone to sink my teeth into, but as it stands I really don't see myself returning to The Maw outside of the occasional story quest. It just feels too much like a chore for me.

World of Warcraft: Shadowlands screenshot of Ve'nari from The Maw

Not even the mysterious Ve'nari can save The Maw from becoming tiresome

Thankfully the same doesn't apply to the good ol' fashioned world quests. In fact, they are so remarkably convenient and player-friendly compared to their Battle for Azeroth or Legion incarnations that I'm genuinely impressed. There is no Azerite Power to farm, no endless resource to begrudgingly collect in order to keep up with the rest of the playerbase. The world quests are merely there for you to speed up the process of acquiring cosmetics, and that's it.

So if you're like me and you dread the thought of having a second job within a game, I'm happy to say that you can completely skip the Shadowlands' world quests without suffering any consequences. Even if that's the case, you still might find yourself completing the occasional 'Calling' daily quest that because they have been designed in such a way to reward you for simply engaging with most of the endgame content. As such, you can complete many of these Callings by doing a single and particularly tough world quest, beating a bunch of easier quests and killing rares, or even by doing one of the dungeons found in that zone!

While these are not the biggest changes in the world, they really do go a long way towards making World of Warcraft a more fun place to be in. I can only hope this will be the path Blizzard continues on in the future as completely optional and cosmetics-focused content is far more interesting to me than being stuck on an endless treadmill where progress only happens at 0.25% increments.

World of Warcraft: Shadowlands screenshot of the mission table

The mission table has been improved as well, though it's still a bit lacking

The good news doesn't end there, however, as the new dungeons are also excellent. Even after spending dozens of hours roaming through their hallways (or plague puddles) and completing them across a variety of difficulty settings, I'm still not bored of them. This is partly because the random enemies between bosses have been made a bit more interesting compared to Battle for Azeroth, and partly because some of the new boss designs and themes are simply fun to mess around with.

I have to give a special shoutout to De Other Side dungeon in this regard, because not only is Bwonsamdi just the best character in World of Warcraft, but the voice acting throughout the entire dungeon is downright phenomenal. It also helps that De Other Side is all over the place in terms of themes, with bosses including fan-favorites like Hakkar the Soulflayer and Millhouse & Millificent Manastorm.

Add the constant quips from Bwonsamdi into the mix, and it should come as no shock to hear that De Other Side is by far my favorite dungeon in all of Shadowlands... even if Hakkar is being a bit rude by refusing to give me a new weapon! Then again, I have been killing him for the better part of a decade at this point, so I can't imagine he's pleased to see me either!

If there is one major negative to highlight about the whole dungeon system in Shadowlands, it would be the simple fact that it feels incredibly bad to do multiple high-level Mythic+ dungeons and only receive an insultingly small 35 Anima at the very end. While I understand Blizzard not wanting players to gear up too quickly, there should at least be some sort of minor reward after successfully completing a 40-minute marathon where even a single mistake flattens you. Just literally anything other than a measly 35 Anima since I can get far more than that by hosting a vampire tea party!

World of Warcraft: Shadowlands screenshot of De Other Side loading screen

Unsurprisingly, the Troll dungeon also has an awesome loading screen!

The final thing worth mentioning is the one and only raid - Castle Nathria. It consists of ten bosses in total and culminates in a massive battle against the most self-aware and over-the-top Shadowlands baddie - Sire Denathrius, the original creator of Revendreth and the Venthyr. More importantly, it's a meticulously designed raid with bosses that are remarkably tricky at first glance, yet still easy enough to contend with once you get into the groove.

That last part is particularly important, and one of the reasons you might want to head into Castle Nathria alongside your guild rather than with a random pick-up group. Some of the bosses require a lot of coordination from two to three randomly selected players, with the price of failure usually being death, so trying to do some of them with a group full of complete strangers can be quite frustrating. It certainly was for me as by the time we'd finally master a boss and get a handle on its mechanics, a few people would leave and the whole process would start again.

Still, the struggle is well worth it as Castle Nathria doesn't just reward random pieces of gear. Much like some of the dungeons, pretty much all of the classes and specializations are be able to acquire a couple of new Memories (which are used to craft legendary items) by defeating specific bosses.

Best of all, these drops are 100% guaranteed, so even if you don't end up winning any actual loot, you'll still be leaving the raid with some nifty goodies. I cannot overstate how good a system like this feels, especially for occasional raiders like me, so once again I really do hope this is something we'll be seeing a lot more in the future - ideally with cosmetic rewards thrown in as well!

World of Warcraft: Shadowlands artwork for Sire Denathrius from the cinematic

Closing Thoughts

This should come as little surprise, but I'm pretty much going to echo what I've said in my first review. World of Warcraft: Shadowlands has been a genuinely enjoyable experience for me over the past month, with the roguelike dungeon Torghast being the standout new feature that managed to hold my attention for a surprisingly large amount of hours. As such, I am more than willing to recommend Shadowlands to anyone that's looking to scratch that World of Warcraft itch, if only for a month or two.

How exactly Shadowlands will fare in the long-term, however, that will depend entirely on how fast Blizzard can expand upon things like Torghast and how well they can balance the various classes. The good news is that the foundation is extremely solid, so unless we end up with something as silly as Corruptions 2.0, I'd say that Shadowlands has a very bright future ahead of it. And personally, I'm looking forward to seeing it!