When Oricon was first released, I made a post about my first impressions of Dread Fortress, and a few days later I summed up my initial experience of Dread Palace in a short YouTube video. I did want to spend a little more time talking about both operations though, seeing how they wrap up a story arc that has been running through the game for more than one and a half years now.
I don't actually have that much to add to my Dread Fortress post, because it still sums up my thoughts about the story mode operation pretty well. The only thing I forgot to mention was the hilarious exploding droid trash leading from the second boss to the fourth, which seems to regularly leave up to half of our raid dead on the floor. It initially gave me flashbacks to the first hallway of trash mobs in WoW's Tempest Keep back in Burning Crusade, and how the melee regularly cried that they might as well just stand back and do nothing for all the good they did. Of course the difference is that the exploding droids can be rendered completely harmless by a bit of coordination of stuns; it's just that most of the time people don't seem to want to put that much effort into handling trash.
On hardmode we're up to Corruptor Zero at the moment, whom we haven't downed yet, which hasn't been helped by some hiccups with our roster as well as the fight seemingly changing with every patch - and it's not always clear whether the changes are intentional or bugs.
As for Dread Palace, when we entered it for the first time, someone commented that it seemed a bit lacklustre and tacked-on, what with the way it was designed as a straight hallway with five tunnels leading off to one boss encounter each. Oh, how wrong that turned out to be.
I have to admit that I ended up being really impressed by that instance. Bestia isn't the most imaginative of fights (tank swap, adds and red circles, yawn), but on pretty much all the other encounters the developers have clearly gone out of their way to come up with something new and interesting.
Dread Master Tyrans was a real hoot the first time we faced him and realised that the floor soon started disappearing under our feet. Of course I seem to have a bit of a thing for falling floors, based on my love for Soa, but still... I wasn't the only one who was cackling maniacally when we found ourselves isolated on one last floor tile during our first attempt and managed to down the boss with only three people left standing.
Calphayus was sadly bugged the first couple of times we downed him, meaning that he didn't actually execute any of his special moves, and I've only got to see the fight in full twice since then. However, what I have seen of it definitely looks very unique and interesting. I'm still not entirely sure about everything that's going on with those crystals and that seed, and why they are so crucial to defeating the boss, but it's certainly an exercise in coordination (and an opportunity to recite endless Back to the Future quotes).
The Raptus fight mixes things up yet again with its individual challenges for each role, and it's pretty funny to see messages about your healer's incompetence pop up as raid warnings in the middle of your screen - and I say that as a healer myself! (As an aside, the forums seem to agree that the healer challenge is/was overtuned compared to the others.) As an added bonus, there's a (very easy) "bridge boss" as well - I believe initially we even had someone claim that the gap was too small to fall through, but then we had someone else promptly prove otherwise when we exited the area after the fight.
And then we have the final council fight, which I dare say manages to do the Dread Masters justice, which was not an easy feat considering how much build-up they've had as villains. If you watched the little video I linked above, you can hear the whole group howl with laughter and excitement when Styrak and Brontes make a reappearance, and the encounter as a whole is just absolutely manic. It's been a month and I'm still not entirely sure about everything that's going on during that fight each time.
In summary, I think that Bioware has done another excellent job with these two operations. There is less of a story-telling angle than in previous raids (with Scum and Villainy being the prime example of how that is done in my opinion), but they have clearly been learning from previous experience and are rebalancing things all the time. I found it quite noteable for example that there are no overly long stretches of trash in either instance this time, and from what I've seen after a month, none of the boss fights suffer from prolonged periods of repetition or tedium either. I'm looking forward to whatever the devs will come up with next, now that the Dread Masters have been dealt with.