Raid Design Redux: Bastion of Twilight & Throne of the Four Winds

This article is part of a series giving my review of the raids in Cataclysm and how their design and execution failed or succeeded. These are just my opinions and you’re more than welcome to agree or disagree.

Bastion of Twilight

Bastion of Twilight is the only raid instance in Tier 11 where there is some build-up to the confrontation with the last boss. Cho’gal had a presence during the Cataclysm launch event and players who quested through the entirety of Twilight Highlands also caught a few glimpses of the Twilight Hammer’s leader.

So props to creative for weaving this boss into the story better than they did with the other “big bads.” However, I feel that Cho’gal was used too soon. This was the big bad of the cult that worshipped Deathwing. It’s the kind of figure that would have made a great kill in the last or next to last raiding tier. As a result of his early demise, we end up eventually having to defeat the traitorous Archbishop Benedictus in what seemed an empty encounter in the Hour of Twilight 5-man. Benedictus would have made a better end boss in this entry tier. The placement and use of Sinestra felt alright, though I’m left wondering what happened between her cameo in Burning Crusade and her Cataclysm encounter.

The colors and theme of the Twilight’s Hammer is prevalent throughout the entire raid, and you get the feeling you are in an enemy stronghold, rather than just a crazy black dragon’s sideshow of experiments. Blizzard had plenty of art assets from questing that they were able to reuse here with decent success.

What was uninspiring was the general layout. The Bastion of Twilight raid is what I’d call a tunnel instance. Tunnel instances are raids or dungeons where there is only one linear path from start to end with boss encounters placed along the way. To be fair, most instances these days are tunnel instances, and Blizzard has mentioned before that the change in raid design philosophy was made to make traversing the instance a faster, simpler affair.

I personally hate tunnel instances. They limit what can be done to present a sense of depth and scale with interior raids. Outdoor raids can workaround the problem with plenty of eye candy placed in the background (take the exterior of Wyrmrest Temple at the start of Dragon Soul for instance.)

When it comes to the difficulty of the encounters, I have only one small thing to nitpick. Mr. Halfus Wyrmbreaker, I choose you. Having a boss with mechanics that change on a weekly basis is interesting and innovative. Having that boss be your entry boss for an instance is frustrating. Every week in order to get further into the Cho’gal’s lair you would have to relearn the Halfus fight and make adjustments based on which dragons were active. This sounds like a fine gateway encounter to place before the final boss. When placed at the start, the encounter lends itself to drastically slowing progression on anything after it.

Now, it’s very possible this was intentional and not seen as much of an issue since players who had trouble with Halfus could always work on the other raids. From what I’ve read we’re going to see another raid boss in Mists of Pandaria entry raiding with random elements. I hope it’s placed a little further back than Halfus was.

Throne of the Four Winds

Alright, Al’akir the Elemental Lord of Wind. Boy, I was waiting to down this guy since… since… um… since his name was mentioned two or three times in Uldum! Yeah!  Not every final boss needs a ton of build-up, but Al’akir should have had some more treatment in my opinion.

Visually this short raid is also one of the most impressive ones to look at. I really wish Blizzard had done more with the Skywall. It’s a sharp contrast from the dark corridors of the other instances, which is nothing but a good thing. The elemental plane of air deserved more screen time than it received, but that’s crying over spilt milk.

Layout wise there’s not much that can be said when you’re dealing with such a limited number of encounters. Having to leap across clouds to get from one platform to another in the council fight was a nice touch. Blizzard also delivered by incorporating a three-dimensional element in a raid encounter that really demanded it. Flight in a raid encounter is something I think should be used sparingly, but it works well here in the battle against the Windlord.

Difficulty wise, the instance felt just about right. Council was clearable early on, and Al’akir had the challenge level one would expect from a final boss with multiple phases. Oddly enough, I would say I enjoyed Throne of the Four Winds more than the other two instances, which is probably why in comparison I have less to rant about it.

Tier 11 provided variety and options throughout the three raids. Had there not been three raids, I would have easily been more frustrated with the placement of some of the earlier encounters in each. As a hardcasual raider, I would say the tier was a decent challenge. The lore-nerd in me regrets the lack of ties to the Cataclysm storyline when it comes to Blackwing Descent and Throne of the Four Winds.

Blizzard would solve that one particular problem and do it right in tier 12. Next week I’ll look back at the Firelands, and the weeks and weeks and weeks of Dragonwrath grinding it entailed.

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