Happy April Fools' Day! At the time of writing this, no April Fools' joke has been posted on the official website, but I know from past experience that Bioware can be very slow with getting these things out, so let's wait and see. In the meantime, let's talk about another flashpoint, one that has been with us since launch: Athiss.
Athiss was another one of the original six levelling flashpoints accessible to both factions. I've covered four of them before - who's kept track and knows which one is still missing after this? Athiss was originally designed for levels 19-25 and is now available in a tactical version for levels 15-65. A hardmode was added with Rise of the Hutt Cartel, which is now also available from 50-65.
Athiss is actually a quite beautiful planet that makes you traverse more than one type of environment and also faces you off against a wide variety of different opponents. You start off in some Sith underground ruins where you kill wild animals inhabiting them and come up against a bunch of explorers gone mad. In fact their leader, Professor Ley'arsha, is the first boss. She's a fairly straightforward fight with adds, though she also causes players to place bad stuff on the ground that's somewhat hard to see and causes a stacking debuff.
After exiting the first set of ruins, you traverse some open space inhabited by "tomb dwellers" and their pets, who give the impression of being savages of sorts, dressed in rags and attacking with axes (though they do have blasters too). Finally you get to the tomb of Vodal Kressh, which is guarded by a giant snarler that is also the second boss. This guy can actually be quite nasty to pugs who don't know what to do as he regularly summons a set of adds from the tomb and likes to stun everyone around him. If not properly controlled, this can for example end up with your healer getting mauled by adds while stunned until you wipe. At the same time it's actually pretty easy if you know how to handle the adds and always AoE them down the moment they spawn. I like this fight as it really rewards good gameplay.
Finally you enter the tomb of Vodal Kressh, where you find some more wild beasts as well as various rogue Sith. In an interesting change from the previous trash packs, all the Sith are powerful champions that can be single-pulled if you're careful, but there are knockbacks and patrols to watch out for, which once again actually requires some care. This part actually had the dubious honour of causing one of my very first dungeon groups in the game to fall apart, as the last two trash mobs were still linked back then (which was later amended), and without crowd control the two of them together were just too overwhelming for little old us.
Finally you're up against the Prophet of Vodal, a Sith who is mostly a tank and spank with a painful dot that gets placed on a random group member and should be cleansed if possible. His interesting gimmick is that he vanishes repeatedly and marks one group member who will then be chased by deadly balls of... fire? These cannot be attacked and need to be kited away from the group by the targeted person until their debuff expires. Contact is very painful!
In hardmode there is also a bonus beastie with a powerful knockback that does lots of AoE damage in one of the rooms before the boss .
Both Republic and Empire have intercepted a distress signal from a Republic survey team on the planet Athiss, most of whose members have gone mad. The Jedi Council wants you to look into rescuing them and fighting the ominous dark side presence on the planet that has caused their insanity. The Empire actually knows what it is: long ago, the planet used to be the base of a powerful Sith alchemist called Vodal Kressh. The Emperor didn't get along with him and wanted the place quarantined after his death. With the quarantine violated by the explorers anyway, you might as well go in and clean up the mess that the Emperor didn't want anyone to see.
You find the crazed explorers pretty quickly and can choose to activate a beacon to have them rescued... or leave it off to not draw even more people towards the planet's dark influence. Then it's just a matter of cleaning up said influence.
Based on the many Sith you find, it's eventually concluded that they must have been descendants of Vodal's followers and that he may have even continued to rule them as a Force ghost. Good thing that you brought an end to that... sort of. (To me it never felt like the Prophet of Vodal was the real guy in charge there.)
Like the other flashpoints of this particular "type", Athiss is a fun romp with interesting mechanics and it stands out for offering more varied environments and enemy types than most flashpoints. There are also little Easter eggs for all the gathering professions again: Slicers can repair a lift at the start to avoid fall damage, scavengers can repair a broken droid to make it fight for them, archaeologists can unlock two shortcuts and a small buff, and bioanalysts can summon little snarlers as temporary combat pets. While Athiss is not my absolute favourite of these story-light levelling flashpoints, it's definitely close!