I've always loved what Bioware does with operations. Their newest ones are solid additions to the lot, but I have to admit that for once my first impression was immediately marred by a couple of things that I found worth criticising.
We knew that 3.0 would add two new operations to the game. It kind of went without saying that at least one of them would feature Revan in some way, but if the other one didn't... what could it possibly be about to rival Revan in importance? Apparently the answer is: random pirates.
The intro mission and entrance to this operation are located in a corner of the slums under Rishi, hidden away so well that I completely missed them during my first tour of the planet.
The intro basically consists of a gruff pirate walking up to you to complain about how his second-in-command backstabbed him, and you offer to help him if he will do some work for the Republic in turn (or for the Empire I presume, depending on how you roll). This felt slightly weird to me. We've never had an operation before that wasn't about something at least moderately threatening to the galaxy as a whole, be it ancient Rakata force users, scheming Hutts or servants of the Dread Masters. I suppose I can't blame the devs for making us face a lesser threat for a change but... seriously, random pirates? That barely would have been enough to justify a flashpoint in the past!
In terms of gameplay, Ravagers is what I would call a cinematic operation in the style of Scum and Villainy, meaning that you get the feeling that you're not just moving between bosses but actually advancing the story along each step of the way. For example you end up hijacking the enemy captain's ship over the course of the operation. Mostly this is well done, except for the ending, where a sudden twist occurs that is only really conveyed via a brief voice-over in the middle of the last boss fight and which is easy to miss. This has the potential to cause a little confusion over what just happened.
Temple of Sacrifice
This is the "Revan operation" and has a more traditional "lair feel" to it, aka: "go in and kill various minions that stand in your way until you get to the big bad at the end". This isn't a bad thing and it's done well enough, even if I feel that the more cinematic style is better at playing towards Bioware's strengths.
The final encounter has a pretty epic feel to it without being overly difficult. Having to move in three dimensions reminded me of Soa (whom I personally loved), even if you're going up rather than down this time. (And beware the stair boss!)
Overall I liked both operations and they seemed solid in terms of story. Some bugs diminished the experience, but we didn't encounter anything game-breaking. The last bosses of both ops have been reported to sometimes drop no loot, which my guild experienced first-hand in Temple of Sacrifice. There were also little niggles that made the experience feel a little unpolished, such as being unable to bioanalyse the animal mobs in Ravagers, or Temple of Sacrifice dropping the same decoration item as Ravagers. (Revanites should not have their pockets full of Rishi dancer holograms. Just saying.)
My biggest gripe however is something completely different: the difficulty. Don't get me wrong, my guild managed to clear both ops in the first week, but there were a couple of bosses that gave us considerable difficulties. Sword Squad and the Underlurker in Temple of Sacrifice were probably the worst in terms of requiring both a high damage output as well as flawless coordination.
These are not bad things... for a hardmode. But for story mode, which is meant to be the easy way of seeing the content, easy enough that you can do it in a moderately competent pug, this is an absolute killer. Every pug has "that guy" who stands in red circles all the time... and usually it's okay because even if "that guy" dies, the rest of the group can complete the encounter with a couple of people down. Mechanics such as the Underlurker's "cross", where a single person standing in the wrong spot can pretty much wipe the group, are absolute anathema to pugs. Mark my words, Bioware will have to nerf some of these fights soon. I'm just surprised that this is something that didn't occur to them any earlier. It's pretty much Explosive Conflict all over again. I guess two years are enough time to actually forget about lessons that they should have learned before? Though at least this time around it's only a couple of bosses that are overtuned, not the whole operation.
On a more personal note, I have to admit that I'm also a little worried about the way Bioware seems to be interpreting "challenge" this expansion in general. They seem to have increased everyone's mobility purely so that we can spend more time running out of red circles. I don't mind running out of red circles... but I'm not a twitch gamer, and when an encounter requires me to dodge red circles, blue circles, orange circles and white circles all at the same time, I'm likely to feel stressed rather than challenged. (Hello there, Sword Squad. And again, this is story mode.) At least the hardcore progression guilds should have a good time I guess.