I sadly don't have as much time to dedicate to the third phase as I would have liked, as I'm going to be on a "hiatus" of sorts until the 28th of July, but today I'm finishing this phase by looking over the absolute best of the Operations. This list will not include "single-boss" instances, but is instead looking at complete Operations.
Because I've already of course looked at the most fun and tedious individual encounters, I'm going to look at these Operations with all fights factored in, so there may be one or two Operations featuring whose bosses were not a part of either list. The listed fights will be presented in an extremely summarised form; having to go into full detail on twenty-six fights is going to result in a very long and boring post, although that is of course my speciality.
Indeed, "fun" and "tedious" won't factor in to any of these decisions; the ones here are the ones which, all things considered, still hold up to this day as being the cream of the crop, especially seeing as it has only just been announced that every single Operation will be Level 65 in Knights of the Fallen Empire.
I may do a roundup of my opinions on that post tomorrow if I have time, for now, though...
#5: Explosive Conflict
Choosing the fifth of these "best" Operations has actually been fairly difficult. I've been cycling between numerous ones and eventually I realised that, in spite of the reaction to it when it first came out, this has to be my pick for the fifth best Operation.
When this first came out, this proved to be one of the most difficult things to successfully complete in a "PuG run", due to one thing. This was the first Operation to introduce the need for proper "strategies" to correctly kill the boss. The others had things to "be aware of", but you could still complete the vast majority of the fights whilst not being "as careful" as you should have been.
Explosive Conflict changed that. The first pair of bosses have to be managed separately, with ranged DPS on Zorn being careful not to stand too close to him. The second pair of bosses need to have someone running around and "kiting" the electric fields from Stormcaller and for the DPS on the hull of SC to be aware of Double Destruction. Vorgath himself actually requires the least amount of strategy, but that minefield is one of the best puzzles in the game. Kephess requires you be be aware of so much. The Warriors with their shields reflecting all damage dealt to the other Trandoshans, the managing of the bombs, the Breath of the Masters, and not having two people die against him in Nightmare Mode once he reaches 60% are all part of what you have to be aware of.
It may have been a change "too far" compared to its "then-fellows", perhaps similar to the final fight of Temple of Sacrifice nowadays, but this Operation is responsible for the introduction and growth of awareness towards "correct strategies", something which a lot of people are thankful for.
#4: Terror from Beyond
Aside from having perhaps the best Operation trailer ever - loving the choice of "Fatal Fury" for the soundtrack - Terror from Beyond was really the first new addition which made a well-earned mark on the Operations community. This followed on from Explosive Conflict, which as I've already stated was the most unforgiving new addition at this point, and definitely provided a very solid set of fights.
Pretty much every single one of these fights requires a good amount of group awareness, particularly in later difficulties on Operator IX. The Writhing Horror has her adds and the flower-gunk-circle. The Dread Guard Commanders have Surging Chain, the Green Circles, and Marked for Death. Operator IX requires you to know which core is available to kill, what colour you are, where to stand, and the "order of shielding" in Hard difficulty onwards. Kephess requires you to move and position as a group successfully, when possible, in order to get a DPS increase when the pillars collapse on him. The Terror requires you to know where the Tank is standing so as to not risk getting spat on or damaged by the Terror during the second phase.
It's a fun Operation when everything "works" in order, but it definitely requires a group to be aware of itself in order to function correctly, even at level 60.
#3: The Dread Palace
I may be biased in choosing this Operation as one of my top five. Possibly.
The Dread Palace is of course the final nail in the coffin for the Dread Masters, who had been known to be terrorising the Galaxy since Karagga's Palace was finally released in-full, at least for Republic players; Imperial players had to wait for Explosive Conflict to know that the Dread Masters were at large.
It's fascinating to see the Dread Masters in their "environments" within the Palace; Bestia is surrounded by Dread Seeds, Tyrans has his "chessboard", Calphayus for some reason has a section of Makeb where his prophecies of the past and future are made use of in a very interesting manner, and Raptus has... okay, Raptus's Challenge Arena actually doesn't make much sense when you think about it. His shtick is all about "fear" in people's minds, but he doesn't properly make "use" of this in the way Styrak does in Scum and Villainy. The challenges are still a nice aspect of the fight, though.
The final fight where you encounter all six Dread Masters is one of those "Iconic" fights, and I personally believe it does really great justice to the Dread Masters by giving them a very decent send-off. Again, I may be biased in saying that.
#2: Scum and Villainy
What a surprise, another Dread Master!
The longest-yet Operation released, Scum and Villainy has a very good amount of "solid" boss fights, although none of them are contenders for "the most fun" of the lot. Indeed, there is only one boss in this entire Operation I would label as being sub-par, that being the first boss Dash'roode. Beyond him, however, the remaining bosses are all very decent.
TITAN 6 is perhaps the "best" mix of floor-circles and other such nonsense ever done. Thrasher makes decent use of the "three-dimensional aspect" of her arena. Having to wend your way stealthily to the Operations Chief is a very clever idea, as is having to purchase Droids to make the Olok "pre-fight-fight" easier. Much like the Dread Guard Commanders, the Cartel Warlords are decent with their unique traits, although far less restrained by number of Warlords left standing. Styrak is one of the best "final bosses" ever done; his Nightmares and mastery of Sith Sorcery make for some very interesting mechanics indeed, such as his Chained Manifestations.
Until you know of Dread Master Styrak's involvement in this - which you will the moment you look at lockouts and achievements if you don't see that cutscene first - Scum and Villainy would perhaps seem to be like Eternity Vault in that it is "independent" from any other story, but perhaps with Terror From Beyond and Explosive Conflict before it also featuring the Dread Masters, this was perhaps going to be obvious anyway. Ah, well.
#1: Eternity Vault
Eternity Vault was of course the very first Operation, and it still holds up really well to this day.
The first two bosses, the XRR-3 Annihilation Droid and Gharj, are perhaps the most "regular" bosses in this encounter, but only because the others which follow it are so different from anything else in the game. The Ancient Pylons is still the only "boss encounter" to not actually feature a boss, and the Infernal Council is still the only encounter to have all group members have to kill their own thing; woe betide any Scoundrel or Operative Healers during the "Level 50" Era. Soa, whilst now perhaps sharing its scale with Revan of Temple of Sacrifice, is still among the most Iconic boss fights ever done, if not actually the most.
This is also the only Operation to not have a tie-in to another, larger, story. Every Operation which succeeded it either ties in to the main story of an expansion, a side-story of a bunch of villains, or the story of a new planet like Oricon or Rishi. I do wish they'd make more Operations which don't have this story-connection, as this would allow for them to feel "fresher" rather than simply being "a compulsory part" of the story.
So, there we have it, my picks for the five best Operations they've ever released. I hope that you guys enjoyed this particular phase of "SWtOR Analysis", and I'll see what I can drum up for the next for September.