What I did see however really impressed me. The environment is not quite as stunning as Asation's alien and Tron-like interiors, but it did evoke very strong desert paradise feelings for me, and it didn't take more than a little looking around to spot some very beautiful vistas.
More importantly though, I feel that Bioware is really pushing the envelope in terms of how to turn raids, too, into a story-focused experience that comes down to more than just spanking a bunch of big monsters in a cave. I'm not talking about cut scenes that show you that stuff is happening with NPCs, but about encounters that actually make you play through a variety of interesting events.
It starts with the very first fight, which has you landing on the edge of the desert. As you approach the main complex that you want to attack, your operations group gets caught in a sand storm and has to weather the elements first. While there is still a boss mob to fight, it almost feels tangential to the whole experience. The interesting part is making your way across the dunes while protecting your raid members from the scouring sand, even as some of them get lost and attacked by womp rats. It's very atmospheric and really makes you feel that struggle with the desert.
The next two bosses are more traditional fights (though still fun), but then it gets really interesting. The next "boss mob" doesn't even have a proper name; he's just called the Operations Chief - the real challenge consists of infiltrating the city he is guarding without being detected. As you approach, you intercept some communications from his four patrol teams, each consisting of two people. If your whole group tries to attack any of them at once, they'll immediately sound the alarm - I mean, whoa, a whole ops group attacking - and get you killed. So you have to be stealthy, sneaking in as a group while dodging patrolling droids, and then breaking into your own teams of two to take on each patrol without alarming them too early. I thought it really did feel like a secret operation when we all charged in and the calls started going out along the lines of "Ard, Ry, split off to get Red Team; Mort, Nev, go and get Green Team" and so on and so forth.
Like many a foolish defender in Alderaan Civil War, the patrols don't call out as long as they only get attacked by an even number of opponents... and by the time they've been beaten it's obviously too late. When you then engage the Operations Chief, he tries to call them back in for backup but obviously gets no response... again reminiscent of many a warzone ops leader going: "FFS, where is everyone!?" Too funny.
The next encounter is Scum and Villainy's obligatory "puzzle boss" and offers yet another interesting new twist. You're basically intercepting some shady characters that are trying to buy battle droids and then steal their credits to take the droids for yourselves instead. You have to choose your purchases wisely though, as the arms dealer eventually catches on and turns whatever is left on the "showroom floor" against your group instead.
Window shopping for droids - not your usual boss fight
Unfortunately beating that encounter was as far as we got that night, so I'll have to wait until my return to see the final two bosses - because yes, Scum and Villainy actually has a whopping seven of them! It's funny how I've been kind of wishing for Bioware to make an operation with more than just four or five bosses for a change - but when they finally do, this of course means that an inexperienced group might struggle to clear the whole thing in one night. How annoying! There's just no pleasing some people...