I've been putting this off long enough; it's time for me to tackle this.
Changes to the game are coming in a big way. Those keeping a close eye on the data-mining scene are more than aware of just how deep the changes are going. Whilst I am aware of these myself, I will not comment on them for the time being. All I will say is that there are a lot of things changing very quickly. Instead, there is one change which BioWare themselves have detailed which I have yet to openly display my opinions on and will do so today.
Over a month ago, BioWare announced changes which were coming to both Flashpoints and Operations. The Operations changes in particular were met with some controversy whilst the Flashpoint changes were met with more or less open arms.
As someone who has a vested interest in both Flashpoints and Operations in this game, I have my own thoughts which I am at long last sharing.
I really do like what they're doing with these.
The "crucial" Story Flashpoints - the Level 10 pair, the Jedi Prisoner saga, and the Ilum saga - gaining a Solo Mode is really nice, as it means people can experience the stories within at their own leisure and not need to worry about using Group Finder or asking a friend in their sweetest tone if they could do them a quick favour. I do find it interesting that the Ilum saga is considered "Story-Essential", but maybe that's because HK-47 - himself an incredibly minor bit-player in Shadow of Revan which the other Solo Flashpoints will add context to - appears in The False Emperor.
The remaining Flashpoints being made Tactical also sounds promising, especially given that they can be done from Level 10 onwards. The biggest problem with Tactical Flashpoints whilst levelling - in themselves a nice concept - is that there's only one of them before Level 55, Kuat Drive Yards. and it's mind-numbingly boring. Having a Reputation grind associated with it made it all the more excruciating, but that's besides the point. It will be good for levelling characters to be able to be more flexible with what they can do outside of questing and the occasional PvP match.
Group-found Flashpoints dropping a piece of loot for each character - presumably locked behind the same barriers which Reputation Trophies and Currencies are locked behind in certain Endgame fights - is an excellent change; this gear is going to be tied to the character's level and on the assumption it will be a modifiable piece will nearly always be "viable" gear. We know they're streamlining content - data-miners have uncovered other ways of showing this - and this will certainly make gearing using Flashpoints a much easier venture.
Red Reaper is finally getting a Hard Mode, and among the vast majority of its now-fellow Hard Modes - Directive 7, for example, is absent but Kuat Drive Yards is curiously and hopefully erroneously listed! - will be Level 65. It's nice that they're ramping back up the older Flashpoints to being valid once more; it allows for much more flexibility than simply queuing for the Forged Alliances and Rishi Flashpoints as the most current tier.
I'm slightly disappointed that Knights of the Fallen Empire won't be seeing any new Flashpoints - at least, not that we know of - but at the same time I'd far rather see them implement and establish these changes first before then working on something new. Maybe when Knights reaches its near-climax next year we'll receive one or two.
As expressed above, the changes have attracted their own fair share of criticism. It hasn't helped matters that BioWare have been cited as "betraying" the player-base; they'd promised more content faster and then left those expecting with the same Operations for an entire year after a previous case of two Operations being "current content" for fourteen months. That's not the point of this, though, so let's move on.
One of the biggest points of controversy surrounds the fact that every single Operation is being boosted to 65 - although Story Modes can be completed from Level 50 onwards - and much like Flashpoints we are receiving no new Operations. No "new" content hasn't been received well, particularly by guilds and groups who have yet to even clear this tier of current content. Revan will likely continue to be a barrier for many groups, I'm afraid to say.
I can see where this argument is coming from. Whilst I absolutely love the flexibility that these changes will be bringing in - we don't have to concern ourselves with "what must be done" for a whole year and can just do what we feel like for all the same gear - the prospect of having to kill certain bosses all over again just to get back to the point we are all currently at doesn't fill me with enthusiasm. I can already hear the laughing from Nightmare Dread Palace.
Speaking of Nightmare, it still exists in Knights, but only for those which have already received it. Word on the grapevine from one of the Q&A sessions from the last couple of weeks is that Nightmare is now gone for all future Operations, replaced by Story and what many have termed "Hardmare". Whether or not this is true remains to be seen, but it certainly remains the case for the Ravagers and Temple of Sacrifice.
Because Nightmare Mode exists for seven Operations, they still drop better gear than the Hard Modes; to account for this, each week a different Hard Mode Operation will be "highlighted" to give Nightmare-equivalent gear. For certain Operations this will make a world of difference at once-more "Current" level, but it does mean that it will now be fully-possible to outgear the "current" Hard Mode content should the rating of gear now no longer increase with each new Operation whereas now you can only do so with your Mainhand Weapon.
I'm apprehensive of the last change in particular, as it will drastically reduce the incentive to complete the newer Operations in a harder difficulty if you can simply pop into Hard Mode Eternity Vault or Dread Palace on certain weeks and instantly gear your Raid Team efficiently and then be over-geared. Streamlining really is the goal of Knights!
New vanity items are being added to each Operation. Presumably the majority of these - particularly any creatures or vehicles - will become Nightmare Mode drops; it is unknown what specifically will happen to the original Nightmare Mode drops if this is the case. I can already see the oft-requested Kell Dragon mount being added to the Styrak fight of Scum and Villainy and a kneeling Rakata statue Decoration for Eternity Vault. As someone who likes things like this, I'm curious to see exactly what they decide to add.
I acknowledge that I did say at a previous point in time that I did not want "old" content to become the substitute for "new" content. This still holds true since incentives to complete Operations now contrast against already-made progress needing to be completely redone. It remains to be seen how groups and guilds are going to stick together outside of simply wishing to run stuff together, which a more flexible - albeit "outdated" - Operations content table is going to allow for with more content than just "what must be done". For "Casual" raiding guilds this change will be more than ideal, but for "proper Progression" guilds it is obviously going to be more divisive.
Much like the Flashpoints, I think the changes to Operations needed to be made prior to bringing anything else in, which also depends much more on where the story takes us. That said, with no need to tie gear tiers to new Operations from now on, we could feasibly be seeing one new Operation at a time rather than a pair and thus they can be tied in earlier to the story much like Ravagers was in Shadow. Indeed, this increased opportunity for new Operations to be introduced does throw into sharp relief the fact that we aren't going to be seeing any new Operations in the first release of Knights.
I do find it curious that Toborro's Courtyard of all Operations is being boosted to 65, but I supposed unlike the Colossal Monolith on Ziost you don't need to have completed the story of Makeb - which by all reports will be locked away for all characters who start the Knights story - to access the Operation. It is a shame that it will be the only year-round Epic Enemy, but I guess this means that the Colossal Monolith won't be able to grant any high-tier Mainhands anymore so there's a benefit here somewhere, I guess.
I'm cautiously optimistic about how Operations will "work" from now on. I believe it will work in the long-term but it is getting over the bumpy short-term issues at launch which is going to be the troublesome part.
So, with Operations and Flashpoints being for the most part boosted to 65, what is there to do at the present point in time?
Pretty much whatever you can in the next couple of months. At Level 60 the Hard Mode Level 50 Flashpoints are already a stomping-fest, and the Level 55 Nightmare Operations, whilst still mechanically painful, are undoubtedly easier to complete. Nightmare Dread Palace won't be so approachable for all too long, and neither will the Dreadful nor Hateful Entities in Hard Mode Terror from Beyond and Nightmare Scum and Villainy, respectively.
There is a lot to be aware of in the world of Flashpoints and Operations which will suddenly become much more troublesome in the future, and following this the eagerness to attempt such things will see a marked decrease, so if you can, I would certainly advise trying to complete your ultimate desires prior to the launch of Knights because you're going to have a much harder time doing so then.
I await with interest to see exactly what will become of these changes. I will not assume whether they will be successful or otherwise at this point in time but will instead persevere to observe and make a judgement later.