With 12-times XP currently in-progress, I have decided to dedicate the second part of the second phase of "SWTOR Analysis" to the 5 best planet quest-chains, seeing which are "must-dos" alongside the story, where possible, or just which are the definitive "best".
For this, I am only counting supplementary planet quest-chains, and not planets like Makeb, Oricon, Rishi, Yavin, or Ziost where the planet quest-chain is the only such chain on the planet with no class-specific chain beside it.
Honourable Mention: The Last Stand of the Republic
- Planet: Taris
- Faction: Empire
- Levels: 32-36
This quest-chain was only just edged out of the top 5, but it is definitely one of the stronger contenders. You are tasked by Darth Gravus with finally eradicating what remains of the Republic's rebuilding attempt on Taris and uphold Darth Malak's legacy. You have to deal with Cathar settlers and their rallying leader, Bashun, cut through swathes of Republic soldiers, investigate the nightmarish Nekghouls, and eventually defeat a troublesome Jedi who is seemingly leading the rebuilding in Governor Saresh's absence.
Along the way, you have to contend with Darth Gravus's rebellious young apprentice Thana Vesh. Thana is another of those NPCs who just helps define the quests they're involved in, and many cite her as the main reason to do this chain. She isn't even that likeable, but her attitude of always wanting to be the best and never accepting the possibility that you are a worthy candidate for competition just makes her so fun to rail against at every opportunity, something which is encouraged by many other Imperial NPCs, including Darth Gravus!
This is a great quest-chain for feeling "Mighty"; you completely quash the Republic's efforts to rebuild the planet and secure the planet for the Empire, and you constantly come to blows with a very hot-headed and arrogant Sith and constantly better her at every turn.
#5: The Barrager
- Planet: Balmorra
- Faction: Republic
- Levels: 32-36
The Barrager questline sees you doing a myriad of things across Balmorra. It first starts with you rescuing a Twi'lek technician, and eventually segues into recovering or destroying a Republic Super-weapon by the name of the Barrager. This weapon would consume an enormous amount of the planet's power reserves in order to destroy an orbiting fleet, thus preventing orbital bombardment and another case like Taris and, more directly, the Jedi Temple on Coruscant.
This quest chain is excellent for understanding the mindset of the Republic military following the sacking of Coruscant and its more-evolved attitude towards super-weapons, something which the Jedi Knights can also see with Doctor Godera and General Var Suthra in their class quests. The chain involves a particularly fun mission in Sobrik and its conclusion is one that makes you think about what the "right thing to do" is; protect the Republic or protect its values.
#4: Dethroning a King
- Planet: Alderaan
- Faction: Both
- Levels: 28-32
This particular chain starts with you getting involved in the politics of both faction-affiliated political houses on Alderaan - Thul and Organa - and concludes with perhaps the most important political machination of them all. Imperial players help House Thul deal with a traitorous ally, a captured General's daughter, and finally intercepting stolen data from houses Rist and Ulgo; Republic players deal first with a powerful Thul Baron, then Ulgo's "Pain Factory" for the Killiks, and finally saving an Organa officer's daughter with radical ideas from imprisonment by the Ulgos. Both factions then get the opportunity to topple Bouris Ulgo, who has assumed the position of King of Alderaan in the turmoil, from the throne.
Considering how important politics on Alderaan are, this quest-chain is obviously rather politics-heavy. If you don't fancy going through all of these political-centric missions leading up to the final quest, you can simply pick up a two-link-long chain at the outpost next-but-one to Castle Panteer which ends exactly the same. You would then have the opportunity to do the earlier missions at a later time if you so choose.
This mission is one of the most notable for using heavy ordnance, which is required for destroying four shield generators around the Throne Room, so if you want to see your character wield not one but four individual missile launchers, you might want to check this quest out. I would also recommend picking up this mission if you are playing a Knight, Consular, Warrior, or Inquisitor, as there is a Willpower Datacron in Castle Panteer and you may as well give yourself something to do along the way.
#3: The Thing Czerka Found
- Planet: Tatooine
- Faction: Both
- Levels: 24-28
This quest-chain sees you helping either a group of Imperial archaeologists or an SIS team uncover the mysteries beneath the Dune Sea. Republic players are tasked with stopping a Czerka team, headed by a rather eager youth named Gayem Leksende, from uncovering a weapon seemingly of great potential, while Imperial players simply start out helping a team of archaeologists before things escalate rapidly out of control once an Alien Artefact is recovered from Jawas. Both see you coming face-to-holographic-face with an alien creature, The Imprisoned One, who is seeking escape from his prison.
Although the Republic players get a better understanding of Czerka's involvement in all of this, as Imperials only start seeing their involvement towards the very end, the Imperials get a better impression of the creature's powers, as his artefact effortlessly transforms archaeologists and neighbouring tribesmen alike into machines dominated by his will; Republic players only see this when they investigate the Czerka dig site where this transformation has already occurred.
This is the player's first interaction in SWTOR with the alien species known as Rakata which were first introduced in KOTOR, as well as the only known opportunity to get their Codex entry. Indeed, this particular Rakata was the same one which Revan was forced into a duel-of-riddles with in that game before being delivered to Motta the Hutt in Anchorhead. Alas, we hear nothing of Revan or Motta in either faction's quest-chain.
This is a long quest-chain with no option to pick it up later, but it is still very much worth seeing.
#2: Freeing the Dread Masters
- Planet: Belsavis
- Faction: Empire
- Levels: 41 - 44
The Republic quest-chain on Belsavis is tedious and widely-regarded as one of the worst out there. The Imperial equivalent sees the exact reverse reaction. You are told right from the off what the Empire is trying to do on Belsavis, which is to free six powerful Dark Side users known as the Dread Masters, and that the Emperor himself has foreseen that you will be of great service. Your task is to discover what became of five specific Operations teams, although only the Hunter will meet with the remnants of Operations Group One, and complete their specific duties. Such duties range from assigning "leadership" duties to thawed-out prisoners to stopping the Esh-Kha from interfering with Imperial forces. Eventually, you discover the Dread Masters, defeat their Esh-Kha captors, and unleash them upon the wider galaxy.
Much like Alderaan, you can simply pick up the last chain of this quest at the last obligatory outpost, although this will inadvertently lock the majority of the first area's missions and two Codex Entries as you need to complete some of the first link of this chain in order to unlock them, as you can't go back and pick up the first chain like you could Alderaan. This is, however, negligible during 12-times XP. The quest-chain in-full enables you to understand why the Empire is on Belsavis besides just seemingly being there, and even sees you bashing heads with (Assistant) Warden Graal, who helps out Republic players in their Belsavis quest-chain. Amusingly, choosing to pick up the mission at that one outpost yields the chance to see Graal mystically transform mid-cutscene into a standard Republic soldier.
The Dread Masters themselves are worth completing this mission for alone; they command an air of respect, and you can - if you so wish - refuse them this, but you will be punished for your insolence. If you let them execute the Republic soldiers, they demonstrate their mastery over terror and execute the hapless leader - be it Graal or Republic Lackey #372 - in quite a ferocious manner.
I would easily recommend this mission for completion because the Dread Masters, alongside being incredibly fun NPCs in their own right, become major players in what is now middle SWTOR endgame, having no fewer than five raids involving them and their schemes in some manner, whilst the daily areas of Section X and Oricon see you fight their minions the Dread Host and the Dread Guard.
#1: The Revanites
- Planet: Dromund Kaas
- Faction: Empire
- Levels: 12-14
Whilst I did criticise this for being only on an Imperial world, a relatively young cult, and not on a planet visited by Revan himself in the original KOTOR, I cannot deny that the Revanites quest-chain is easily the best chain in SWTOR. You are approached by an apprentice to Darth Charnus - whom you later meet during the Imperial Corellia quest-chain - who informs you of a cult which endangers the values of the Sith. These cultists are learning and following the ways of Darth Revan, and are actually more receptive to the Light path than most Sith traditionally are. You infiltrate their ranks and earn their trust by completing certain rituals.
This is a very interesting quest-chain for numerous reasons; it is for several players the very first mention of Darth Revan that they'd ever hear, and it does a very good job of educating those new to the character about his life; that he was once a Jedi before falling to the Dark Side before once more becoming a Jedi again, and that his values are still something appreciated by those within the Imperial culture is something which is definitely worth thinking about and understandably something that the Dark Council are worried about. Your final task is to talk to three specific individuals - a Sith, a Mandalorian, and a common soldier - and discuss what Revan "means" to all three, even being put to the test with matching your interpretation with their own, which is very nicely done.
One of your tasks is to retrieve the actual Mask of Revan from Lord Grathan's compound. We have no idea how the Mask ended up in his grasp - you'd think that a more prominent Sith would own it - but it is an awesome feeling for both KOTOR veterans and SWTOR novices to be able to come so close to such an artefact armed with the knowledge of what place in history it holds.
I again iterate that it is a shame that this is only on an Imperial world, as I'm sure many on the Republic faction would like to see a similar quest to this available to them, and I myself am among those people. It makes a good attempt at upholding the legacy of Revan for those who played KOTOR and it serves as an excellent introduction to the character for those whose experience in the world of the Old Republic is limited to SWTOR, whilst at the same time introducing to both groups the Revanite cult. Especially bearing in mind the later Jedi Prisoner and Forged Alliances Flashpoint Arc, not to mention Shadow of Revan, this mission is one not to be missed by anyone.
Obviously, there are still many quests beyond these six available to us, but these are the ones which I would happily recommend playing through to anyone during this time of 12-times XP, when the vast majority of the remaining missions can just be avoided if you so choose.