At BlizzCon 2017, Blizzard announced World of Warcraft’s seventh expansion, Battle for Azeroth. In a short demo for Battle for Azeroth, we were able to sit down and play through one of the new expansions dungeons: Freehold.
We were able to pull a together a random group of players in the press room at BlizzCon this year. This was after at least 20 minutes of /yelling Dungeon LFG at all the poor BlizzCon attendees spawning in new characters on the show floor. Once we had gathered everyone up, it was clear that our team was built for success: three Fire Mages and two Paladins.
The first thing that strikes me about Freehold is how difficult it was. Obviously there is no gearing process available in the demo or time to optimize our specs, but every single pack was its own unique struggle. While the mobs were difficult (probably because I got stuck healing, if I’m being honest), the bosses were all striking and memorable.
The dungeon itself is this dense little pirate village, and your party has to fight through all of the pirate factions. As you push your way through pirates loitering around stalls or drinking themselves into oblivion, you’ll clear a path to the pirate bosses that stand in your way of loot. Freehold has four bosses, each with their strategies and play styles.
The first boss was an Orc pirate flying around on a parrot that seems to ... defecate poison puddles all over the party. As you fight your way to boss number two, you run into a a very cute puppy excitedly wandering around an area. If you catch this dog and release its owner from a nearby cage, one of the bosses in the next fight will ally themselves with you.
The second boss is a council fight (three or more bosses at once), which would be difficult to overcome under ordinary circumstances. However, being able to catch this dog, ally ourselves with a faction and turn one of the bosses to our side was a huge advantage. Instead of five of us versus three bosses, we had six of us against only two. This is also something that you could presumably skip entirely, getting to the second boss faster, but making it much harder as a result.
The third fight is a weird gauntlet of tasks. First, we had to catch a speedy little pig running around in the mud. Then we had to fight a big turtle. Finally, a gigantic Ogre with two sharks strapped to his arms attacked us. Once we had defeated all of these tasks, it was time to hunt down the final boss.
The final boss was a very fancy looking pirate with a tiny mustache. He threw tornados at us, summoned grenadiers who would explode on top of our party members and fired artillery at randomly selected players. We were barely able to take him down, losing our tank a moment before the boss died (again, probably my fault).
At this point, World of Warcraft has so many dungeons scattered across six other expansion and the original “Vanilla” release. What is so initially striking about Freehold is how memorable the bosses are, even days after demoing it. Each of them felt unique and fun. None of the fights were particularly difficult to understand and each mechanic was intuitive.
Going through Freehold, it was impossible to not take a moment and think of Mythic plus, a very difficult and timed version of dungeons, and the strategies for them that are sure to form. When the expansion drops, we’ll play this dungeon dozens if not hundreds of times in the early months. It’s impossible to tell if this activity will be as fun each time we play, but it certainly leaves a nice first impression.