Along with a new story chapter, last Tuesday's patch introduced the Eternal Championship, a feature that had been hyped up for months, just to be postponed over and over again due to issues with bugs.
Now it's finally here and... I'm not sure what to think of it.
On the plus side, apparently they were able to iron out most of the bugs after all. I had to relog once during the story quest because Bowdaar didn't appear where he was supposed to be, but other than that that was it. The only other issue I had was not a bug per se, but simply bad design: there are several quests for the Eternal Championship that come from a terminal, but for some reason they were designed in such a manner that you have to pick them up in the opposite order in which they are listed... or you will end up with all your weeklies saying "pick up the main quest" (which you already have) and not actually progressing when you kill bosses. (This happened to me, prompting me to re-run the whole thing soon afterwards just to get the quest done. I suppose it's at least partially my fault for not paying closer attention to the mission instructions - but it's still unintuitive and daft to have it work that way.)
Since the sales pitch was that the Eternal Championship (which, somewhat annoyingly, can be shortened to EC, causing confusion with Explosive Conflict) was going to be content that would give solo players a chance to challenge themselves, similar to WoW's Proving Grounds or Brawler's Guild, I guessed (correctly) that it would be tuned for people playing dps characters... but I still decided to go in as a healer anyway, because that's just how I am.
I found the whole thing surprisingly challenging and died several times, despite of being in full 224 gear. Lack of dps was simply a problem. Even with my most faithful companion I only have an influence rank in the twenties, and even more importantly, some fights require an annoying amount of companion micro-management (if that's where your dps is coming from), with bosses temporarily becoming immune to damage, numerous add spawns, and all kinds of crap that you're supposed to move out of. As far as the latter goes, you can compensate somewhat as a healer, but making sure that your companion stands in the right place and attacks the right thing can be quite a nuisance. During my first run I used M1-4X (my highest influence companion), who is ranged... and he repeatedly nuked himself to death on bosses that had mechanics that meant that they could only be damaged in melee and would reflect everything outside of a small circle around them. On the brawler with two adds, I constantly had to change him from active to passive and back again to make him run into melee range of the constantly moving combatants. During my second run I used Choza Raabat, a melee companion, instead - this went a bit better in terms of control, but with an influence rank of only ten things felt very slow and he didn't always do enough damage to out-aggro my healing, forcing me to tank as well.
The weird thing is, I couldn't even tell you if I find the whole thing fun or not. Sometimes I got pretty frustrated by dying. "This is bull, how are you supposed to survive him hitting that hard when I can't even keep up with the damage as a healer in full 224? It's impossible to deal with all those adds at the same time!" And so on. But then I'd realise that there was some sort of trick that I'd been missing and then I felt kind of clever for sussing it out. For example on the last boss, when he summons the drones that shoot lasers, if you stand in exactly the right spot, they will all take each other out and you won't even have to lift a finger to get rid of them. It's just not that easy to get it exactly right.
I think I could see myself going back there on alts, especially of the dps variety, to see if I can do better, maybe get to understand the mechanics a bit more and learn from that. But not too often, to avoid frustration when I mess up. It also finally provides me with an incentive to raise my companion influence - on regular, run of the mill content I just didn't see it making that much of a difference. The fifteen minute run achievement however is certainly far out of my reach at the moment, and not just because simply loading in and out of the instance already takes a minute or so on my ageing PC.