Blizzard has had bad luck with "great new systems" meant to stretch across an entire add-on and serve as a replacement or complement to standard PvE content.
Garrisons quickly became isolated gold factories, expeditions and war fronts, instead of providing randomly generated scenarios or "first-person RTS", provided us with mindless hammering of always the same targets for a bit of Azerite or a free epic. Only with Mythic+ have we been able to succeed: create a fairly vibrant scene of players and survive to the (soon to be) third iteration of this system.
No wonder, then, that when at last year's BlizzCon, as one of the main elements of Shadowlands, Thorgast was announced - an infinite, randomly generated tower, where with each floor we'll fight increasingly powerful enemies, while becoming more powerful ourselves thanks to a random system of upgrades - fans in addition to excitement felt uncertain. Do not we get the final product of beautiful gameplay promises?
Because Blizzard is currently listening to the players and rather does not want to repeat the mistakes of the current add-on, the most important novelty was made available to us for testing almost immediately. Admittedly, only for 4 classes (Demon Hunters, Mages, Priests, Warlocks) and in a very raw state, but already now we can look at what the Tower of the Damned looks like.
Thorgast - what does it look like
Our goal is to reach as high as possible, collecting currency and upgrades falling out of enemies along the way. It's Blizzard's attempt to put a rouge-like system in WoW - anyone who's ever played The Binding of Isaac or Dead Cells should be able to find their way here without a problem.
We start at the foot. Currently, the game allows us to choose one of three "difficulty levels", corresponding to the range of floors on which we will play - easy (1-12), normal (13-24) or heroic (25-72). In the final version, however, there will be no limit of floors and - probably - the choice of starting point.
Our limitation this time is not time, but the number of deaths - from 3 solo to 11 in a group of 5 (single players count, so a full wipe will deprive us of almost half the lives). If we reach death limit on particular floor, Tarragrue - giant serving Jailor - will chase us. Being caught by him (and dead at the same time) ends our adventure in the Tower. Our deaths are reset when we enter a higher level.
Each floor is randomly generated from predefined blocks. It works quite well. The game encourages us to explore - traversing the branches we can find treasure chests, rare opponents, or NPCs who give us simple quests based on bringing them to a certain place.
Opening boxes and killing enemies we can find balls of pure Anima. Picking them up we get a choice of one to three powers, which will stay with us until we leave the tower.
Improvements are various, grouped like equipment by degrees of rarity:
In addition to damage enhancers, we get a number of movement modifiers. Demon Hunter's jumps are ~3 times longer (which works perfectly with fury regeneration - we become de facto ranged class). We can't jump, but we get +30% to all stats. The mage, on the other hand, may lose the ability to walk, but Blink no longer has cooldown.
It is worth mentioning that if we choose a power for the second time, their effects will accumulate making us even more powerful.
The upgrade system in Thorgast is one of the coolest things to happen to WoW in a long time. Searching for new powers to see how incredibly powerful our character can become is a lot of fun. The choice of perks alone allows us to construct builds with a rotation, or even a role, completely different from what our class does every day.
In addition to the anime we collect Phantasma that falls from the opponents. For this currency we can buy more power or utility items from the shopkeepers appearing every 3 floors and "freed souls", about which little is known at the moment (except that some perks modify the abilities based on the number of freed souls in our backpack).
Every 6 floors we have to fight a boss, from which we get equipment. On the other hand, from the minibosses of each floor materials for creating legendary items will fly (the system of their production has not yet been implemented)
In a word of summary
That's it as far as what and how we can currently do in the Tower of the Damned. The whole thing seems pretty easy to grasp, at the same time the random nature and absurd powers provide a lot of fun. Let's hope that Blizzard doesn't decide to limit them - it's a closed sandbox, so there's no need to care about any greater balance here.
There are still three unknowns: how many times a week we'll be able to drop into a tower, what the rewards for exploring it will be, and what the final balance of enemies will look like.
From the example of Vision of N'zoth, Blizzard knows that people don't like limiting access to cool content. In my opinion, the best solution would be to use the same rules as in LFR - you can enter as many times as you want, you only get rewards for the first time you pass a particular floor.
In terms of enemy balance - currently, the strength of enemies scales disproportionately to our powers flowing from the anime - the beginning (especially on heroic "level", where we start on floor 25 without any upgrades) can be overly difficult, but sooner or later we reach a state where we can kill everything with a few spells... even Tarragrue, which Blizzard claims is invulnerable (yes, it's a bug).
The developers' idea that sooner or later we reach a point of impassability is temporarily standing on its head, yet this is only the beginning of the alpha.