Although both of the new Operations have been out for over two months now, I myself have seen very little of them. Indeed, I only saw Ravagers before the turn of the year - completing it on the same day - and didn't enter Temple until halfway through January of this year, fully completing it first only just two weeks ago.
How do these Operations hold up compared to the various alternative raids which the game has presented to us over the last three years?
First off, I must state that I absolutely love the fact that Story Mode is a challenge in both of these. Previous raids, notably Terror From Beyond and Dread Fortress, have been very simple in Story Mode before becoming vastly more hectic and challenging in Hard Mode. It is refreshing, therefore, to be presented with a good slew of bosses which require good - if not excellent - coordination to defeat on the first encounter. Granted, this challenge all but disappears once Underlurker is killed in Temple.
Ravagers is, quite simply, my newest favourite Operation. The bosses here feel quite refreshing as very few elements seem to be "reused" - outside of circles and other floor markings to move out of, but then these will always exist in some form or another. Indeed, the most "staple" bosses are Sparky and Blaster; a giant creature and a giant droid, respectively. Comparatively, Bulo is the first male body-type-1 Operations Boss and also the very first Duros Flashpoint/Operation Boss anywhere in the entire game, Torque is the first Operations Wookiee Boss, and Pearl from the Coratanni fight is the first ever Flutterplume boss.
In terms of mechanics, Sparky is the most simple and, much like her "giant creature-ness", the most staple: Boss knocks tank around, has adds which increase in number each time, and has a tantrum when enough damage is done - although unlike the Terror From Beyond, this tantrum is sporadic throughout the entire fight instead of at the final burn phase.
All of the other bosses have mechanics unique to them; Bulo's drunken pirates, Torque's destruction of machinery (which eventually leads to death if not prevented), BO-55's Carpet Bombing, and Coratanni's seeming defeat leading to an entirely separate fight are all just samples of what these fights bring which is new. Even the succeeding fight, with Ruugar, has unique aspects; he occasionally kidnaps a member of your team and any damage done to him is transferred to the hapless player. A more perverse and less containable version of Force Leech, if you will.
In terms of challenge, Sparky is a cakewalk, unless one or more of your tanks accidentally slips up somewhere and dies or the DPS ignore a certain number of adds. Bulo is a mobility-cum-healing check, and not a fight friendly to lag of any manner due to the myriad of painful floor markings. Torque is simple, although like Bulo his floor markings - notably a Fire Probe and the aptly-named "SHOOTS LASERS" - will prove painful if not watched out for and duly removed, which is a combination of pure DPS and simply moving away from them. Master and Blaster requires your group to be aware of where everyone else is, as chances are everyone will have to move from his gigantic orange markers dictating bombardment at some point, as well as watching out for circles on other players which must never touch one another or serious damage will be dealt. Coratanni is a combination of healing, DPS, and watching-floor-markers checks, and is easily the most hectic fight of the lot, not helped by Pearl's constantly running rampant. Ruugar is a much more concentrated version of Coratanni, although it is nowhere near as hectic as a result.
All in all, Ravagers is fantastic fun. I haven't yet seen Hard Mode beyond Sparky - who is widely regarded as still being the simplest boss out of both Operations even in that difficulty - but I have a feeling that it would be rather chaotic.
Temple of Sacrifice was promised by BioWare to be the most challenging Operation that they had produced. This statement holds mostly true for Story Mode, although for certain bosses this claim is disputable without seeing Hard Mode.
Unlike Ravagers, the majority of the bosses are fairly staple. You get two separate fights with gigantic creatures (LotR, EV, KP, TFB, S&V, DF, Ravagers), one fight with not one but two giant walkers (BoR, EC), and a tussle with a group of three commanders (D7, TFB). Indeed, it seems that Revan is the only unique Operations boss in here, but even then players should be no stranger to having fought him, as Imperial Players took him on in the Foundry and both factions have a weekly chance to take him on solo in The Enemy Within.
Appearances are not everything, of course - although they do make for a visually interesting encounter. The mechanics are what most people are interested in, and Temple has quite a few of these to watch out for. Again, though, a good number of these have been seen before across Flashpoints and Operations. In terms of unique mechanics, Malaphar has a circle around him which increases damage taken for all those within it (stepping outside reduces damage/healing dealt), and his adds can be stunned and damaged by a red circle and spear he throws down. Underlurker, meanwhile, has his infamous cross which many reported to have been broken, dealing too much damage even when completed correctly. Revan's fight ends with the burning of the machine which he would use to complete the sacrifice whilst he himself escapes and berates the team for their foolishness.
As for stuff which has been seen before: you get to grapple up to a walker whilst holding a bomb (EC, Warstalker Walker), there is a shield on one of the Commanders that absorbs and reflects all damage firing in at it from outside (DP, Dread Council, Calphayus, and EC, Warstalker Warrior in the Kephess fight respectively) and Revan has several machine Cores which must be downed in order for the fight to progress (TFB, Operator IX), whilst the machine itself gradually saps the life force of your team away before it is finally destroyed and the fight ends (DP, Dread Council, burn phase).
The challenge here belongs really only to two fights in Story Mode, which are the Sword Squadron Walkers and - of course - Underlurker. Even then, the challenge mostly pertains to coordination more than anything, although survivability and healing are both incredibly important besides pure DPS. Killing Unit 2 before Unit 1 during the Sword Squadron fight will result in an almost instantaneous and unpreventable wipe, whereas killing Unit 1 too soon before Unit 2 results in a slow and painful death which is preventable if its own health is not too high. I remember reading back when these first came out that Sword Squadron was referred to as the "PuG Killer", although this notion was quickly abandoned once these groups saw what the very next fight had to offer. Whilst the fight is much easier now than people were claiming it to be in the past, it is still a very annoying and painful fight.
Sadly, beyond Underlurker, the challenge becomes non-existent in Story Mode. The Revanite Commanders are incredibly simple, aided by the fact that they come down individually and present themselves as painted targets. By the time they're all down as one, the fight is such that you can lose two DPS and the fight will still be completed. I've seen three different outcomes to the fight's conclusion since first completion, where each time a wholly different boss died first each time, and it literally made no difference. There is no "so-and-so must die first or else you-know-who gets a buff that makes him invincible" mechanic; it's just simply a plain kill-them-all fight. I guess after Underlurker they wanted us to have a grace period before one of the most challenging fights ever?
As far as Story Mode is concerned, Revan is not this.
Yes, his mechanics are a pain, but you would need to have a great lack of group coordination to suffer greatly at his hands; I've heard of more group members dying to the stairs leading up to the second platform than anywhere else in this fight in Story Mode. The blades of Alek and Revan are, in my opinion, the most annoying aspects of the fight, and even then they can just simply be knocked off the edge. Everything else is just simply "move to avoid", or "DPS this down". It was fantastic to see HK-47 return for an incredibly brief period - although I do now want to know how Revan retrieved him from the destroyed Emperor's Space Station - although again he doesn't provide much by way of a challenge. He's a combination of Malaphar and Lieutenant Krupp/Major Benes from Kuat Drive Yards, although much easier to heal through due to the more confined space everyone has to operate in. The one aspect of the fight which I would have any major concerns about - save for the stair boss - is the destruction of the machine core, although this pertains more to Hard Mode than to Story Mode; in Story Mode you can lose one, maybe two, DPS and still destroy it. It's a survivability check, although with the recent AoE heal additions - especially when coupled with the Ballistic Shield - this could be so much worse.
This having been said, I can easily see his Hard Mode form being a much more significant worry.
All negatives aside, Temple of Sacrifice additionally presents a good number of KotOR references. I've already mentioned HK-47's appearance during the Revan fight, but the Revanite Commanders also provide their own. Sano Thrica, for example, is a light-blue-skinned Twi'lek gunslinger wearing Mission Vao's outfit. Even without the outfit, the notion of a blue Twi'lek toting guns should immediately get veterans of KotOR thinking of Mission. Then we get Deron Cadoruso. Not only are he and his minions wearing a red/green version of Mandalore the Preserver's armour, but his name is also an anagram of Canderous Ordo, the Mandalorian soldier who joins Revan and eventually becomes Mandalore the Preserver himself before reappearing in KotOR II. Lord Kurse is the only one to not present any form of visual throwback to BioWare's previous Star Wars games, although chances are he's meant to be a reference to Lord Scourge, who was responsible for Revan's imprisonment as depicted in Revan. It's a shame that none of the other encounters in Temple provide such references; it would have been awesome if the Underluker was some creature encountered in KotOR, such as a Rancor, a Krayt Dragon, or a Terentatek. It is made clear that Revan had fought such beasts as the Underlurker before, although we have had no visual evidence of this. As he describes it as being "strong in the Dark Side", a Terentatek - creatures with a natural affinity for the Dark Side which lurked on Korriban - would have been another very nice visual callback.
Temple of Sacrifice may not have had the best of starts, and its conclusion may be too weak for most people's liking, but it is definitely one of the better Operations BioWare have released. It is fun, although wildly frustrating during one particular fight, and complements Ravagers nicely as the alternative raid. As with Ravagers, I have only seen the first boss in Hard Mode, and it definitely begins to demonstrate the challenge which BioWare have been promising. It's just a slight disappointment that - after the precedent which was set by the Ravagers compared to all other Story Mode operations - Temple's Story Mode reverts to the more overly simple format by the end instead of remaining a consistent challenge throughout.
Both of these Operations do show that BioWare's combat team are still strong at their art, and, whilst neither is perfect, hopefully these will open the way to more and more varied Operations. Ravagers was a breeze with how unique it was, and even Temple - for all its faults - provides interesting mechanics which I hope are developed into and refined further for future fights.