Any player of Star Wars: The Force Unleashed (or Force Unleashed II) will almost certainly have fallen in love with this fantastic character and his incredible story.
Although these games aren’t currently considered canon by Disney, they were so well-loved that I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s not long before they officially come back in. If Lucasfilm were to release a Disney+ series or film based on Vader’s secret apprentice, I’d be all for it.
I’m one of those people to have played through The Force Unleashed and The Force Unleashed II on Sith Lord level. It took a long time, but it was worth it.
Starkiller is the alias of Galen Marek, the secret apprentice of Darth Vader for several years as Vader appeared to plot to overthrow the Emperor.
In The Force Unleashed, players experience Galen’s tragic past, his dangerous missions hunting rogue Jedi, and his agonizing mental and spiritual decisions. Above all, we get a glance into his impressively powerful connection to the Force.
In this article, I’ll talk about both Starkiller and his clone (who are technically the same person, after all) and how to play as them.
Key Details Up Front
As the child of two Jedi knights (Kento and Mallie Marek), Galen is taken by Darth Vader after the Sith Lord kills his father. Sensing his strength with the Force from such a young age, the ex-Jedi teaches Marek to learn explosive power, particularly in using Push, Lightning, and the hard-to-master Repulse and Maelstrom.
Although he’s a skilled lightsaber user, Starkiller’s main strengths are his Force powers. This is particularly highlighted in the game – use the Force to its maximum effect, and you’ll complete it much quicker.
Kento and Mallie Marek married in secret during the Clone Wars. After Mallie became pregnant, the couple left the Jedi Order and hid in the Outer Rim. This, of course, meant they escaped Order 66.
Eventually settling on Kashyyyk, Mallie was killed fighting with the Wookiees against the Trandoshans. After learning of the Jedi fighting, Vader was dispatched to take care of Kento.
After defeating the Jedi, Vader sensed the presence of someone more powerful nearby. This turned out to be Kento’s son, Galen, a young boy who pulled Vader’s lightsaber from his hand.
The Death of Kento
Vader then killed Kento and a squad of stormtroopers who took aim at the young child before abducting him and teaching him the ways of the Dark Side. He kept his apprentice, whom he gave the codename Starkiller, a secret from other Imperials. Eventually, Galen Marek forgot his heritage and became Starkiller in full.
He would train with his droid, PROXY, learning how to duel and defeat different enemies before heading out to face them in the real world. Vader’s teachings were brutal, spartan, and merciless, yet Starkiller prevailed.
PROXY was even programmed to attack and attempt to kill him at random intervals, keeping him sharp and forcing him to rely on his rage.
Starkiller Growing Up
As Starkiller grew, he became Vader’s personal assassin. Around 3 BBY, Vader officially knighted him as his apprentice and sent him to kill surviving Jedi Master Rahm Kota on Nar Shaddaa. To hide his existence, he was told to kill everyone – Kota, Rebels, and Imperials alike. While he found this troubling, Marek obeyed his master.
Heading out on his mission, he met his new pilot for his ship, the Rogue Shadow. Captain Juno Eclipse was the first female pilot Galen had worked with, making their first encounter somewhat awkward.
Starkiller infiltrated the Imperial TIE facility on Nar Shaddaa. As instructed, he killed everyone he came across. When he finally faced Kota, he was surprised by the Jedi’s strength and warrior-like nature, expecting to meet a soft, privileged target.
Nevertheless, he prevailed over his older, slower foe. During a blade lock, Kota saw a vision of Starkiller’s future and was shocked to see himself in it. Vader’s apprentice then blinded the Jedi with his own blade.
Visions of Starkiller’s Father
Starkiller then experienced his own vision, with his father standing in Kota’s place, telling him to run. Believing it to be a mind trick from the Jedi, Marek raged.
Seizing his opportunity, the blinded Kota dropped his lightsaber and used the Force to blast through the windows, causing him to be sucked out into space. Satisfied that he wouldn’t be able to survive, Marek picked up the lightsaber and headed back to face Vader.
Going Through Trials
In later missions, he was repeatedly sent to the Jedi Temple on Coruscant to face the trials of a Padawan. He would also go to Raxus Prime to fight the now-insane Jedi Kazdan Paratus before heading to Felucia for his first real test – defeating Shaak Ti, a trained and highly skilled Jedi Master who had sat on the Council.
In her dying moments, Ti desperately told Starkiller that he was simply Vader’s pawn before he killed her by throwing her into the maw of a Sarlacc.
Returning to Vader, the apprentice was followed. Vader was forced to betray Starkiller as Palpatine arrived and thrust him through with his lightsaber before throwing him out into space. While the Emperor was delighted, Vader’s droids would recover the unconscious assassin and rebuild his body.
With no choice other than to continue serving Vader, Starkiller was given a new lightsaber – Rahm Kota’s old one. The Sith told him to distract Sidious by raising an alliance of rebels, and so he and PROXY freed Juno from her cell and escaped.
Starkiller would collect a series of rebel politicians together, starting with Rahm Kota, who had survived being blinded and left in space. These included Bail and Leia Organa, Mon Mothma, and Garm Bel Iblis.
After finding Kota, Marek would head back to the Jedi Temple on Coruscant, where he began to question his connection to the Dark Side. He would also defeat but spare Maris Brood, Shaak Ti’s former apprentice who had fallen to the Dark Side on Felucia.
On Corellia, the Corellian Treaty was signed, officially beginning the Rebel Alliance. Almost immediately, the Imperials attacked. Vader stormed in with snowtroopers, capturing the Rebels and toying with Starkiller.
The Whole Purpose Behind the Plan
Here, Marek learned from Vader that he was never going to use him to help him overthrow the Emperor. Rather, this had been his purpose from the beginning: to round up the Empire’s most significant threats into one place so they could be executed.
The Sith Lord threw him to the edge of a cliff, but before finishing him off, he was attacked by PROXY in the form of Obi-Wan Kenobi. Vader defeated PROXY with relative ease, but Starkiller dropped to the snow far below during this fight.
He survived the fall but was severely injured, lying unconscious. Having escaped her captors, Juno rescued him and brought him to the Rogue Shadow, where he revealed his true name to her.
Now considering himself to be a Jedi through and through, Galen resolved to rescue the Rebel leaders from the Death Star. He received a kiss from Juno just before his mission, which he didn’t expect to survive, commenced.
Before long, he engaged Vader, who drove him back. Slowly, he wore the Sith Lord down, eventually hitting him with an energy field generator, disabling his life-giving suit.
As he approached him to finish him off, Marek was taken aback to see Vader’s face. He appeared to be an old, scarred man, pained and exhausted.
The Emperor encouraged him to kill Vader and become his new apprentice, but the Rebels shouted otherwise. Rahm Kota attacked the Emperor while his back was turned, drawing the full force of his Sith Lightning.
Galen would immediately come to his senses and stand between Palpatine and his friend, absorbing the energy. Unable to defeat the Sith Lord, he died sacrificing himself to allow the Rebel leaders and Kota to escape the Death Star. His last thought was of Juno, and he died whispering his birth name, becoming one with the Force.
Around six months after Galen Marek’s death, Vader brought his body to Kamino, where the cloners worked to build a new, better version of his secret apprentice. Unfortunately for the Sith Lord, most clones retained Starkiller’s memories, causing them to go insane.
In 1 BBY, Subject 1138 was the first stable clone created, although he too began to suffer from flashbacks. When Vader decided to execute him, he used the Force to break free and escape Kamino.
The clone refused to be called Galen Marek – he didn’t believe he should have that honor. Instead, he went by the codename Starkiller only.
He spent his days trying to find and rescue Juno Eclipse, held by Boba Fett as bait, for whom he retained the same feelings as the original man. Part of his journey took him to Dagobah, where he met Yoda and saw a vision of what he had “lost”.
On Kamino, Starkiller hunted down Vader and Fett, overpowering malfunctioning clones along the way. After believing that the Sith had killed Juno, the clone of Marek attacks him in rage, eventually defeating him. Kota arrived just in time to encourage Starkiller to spare Vader and not give in to the Dark Side.
Juno had, in fact, survived. She and Starkiller share a kiss while Vader is taken away to face trial under the “true Republic.”
- Galen is found by Vader on Kashyyyk after the Sith Lord kills his father, Kento.
- He’s sent to kill three Jedi (Rahm Kota, Kazdan Paratus, and Shaak Ti), seemingly succeeding every time.
- These trips are interspersed with visits to the Coruscant Jedi Temple and visions of his father, all of which gently and slowly guide him to the Light.
- He gathers a series of rebels together on Vader’s behalf to form the Corellian Alliance. He believes they will be used to distract the Emperor so he and his master can strike him down.
- Vader betrays him and takes the Rebels to be executed on the Death Star.
- Galen infiltrates the superweapon with Juno Eclipse’s help, from whom he shares a kiss after the two develop feelings for each other.
- He saves the Rebels but sacrifices himself in the process to allow them to escape.
Force Unleashed II
- Galen Marek’s body is brought to Kamino.
- Subject 1138 trains on Kamino but experiences visions of his past and his feelings for Juno. He flees the planet before he can be killed.
- Going by “Starkiller”, the clone meets up with Rahm Kota and searches for Juno.
- Eclipse is held by Boba Fett as bait, who goads him into an encounter with Vader.
- Believing Juno to be dead, Starkiller defeats Vader, but Kota arrives before he can execute him. Calming himself, Starkiller reaffirms his connection to the Light Side.
- Juno survives, and the two share a kiss before heading back to the Rogue Shadow.
Perks and Special Abilities
Starkiller’s lightsaber form wasn’t traditional. As Rahm Kota would say,
… can’t identify the style, and it would help me understand you if you’d tell me who your original teacher was.
Starkiller was largely self-taught, learning to switch his style to combat whatever enemy he was facing. However, his main techniques were based on Juyo, Shien, and Soresu (copied from the training module of Obi-Wan Kenobi).
He would lace Force attacks between his sometimes-random lightsaber thrusts and parries to overwhelm his enemies.
He had a robust connection to the Force. It came naturally to him, as shown by his ability to take Vader’s lightsaber from his hand as a child.
He wasn’t as powerful as the strongest Force users of the time, such as the Emperor and Vader, but was strong enough to hold them off for a time. Starkiller’s defeat of Vader came about primarily because of his use of electrical energy to overwhelm the Dark Lord.
As he slowly turned to the Light Side, Starkiller learned to use less combative Force powers, such as Insight (visions of the future) from Kota.
Here’s a complete list of Starkiller’s powers in The Force Unleashed.
- Lightsaber throw – Starkiller can throw his lightsaber and then pull it back to his hand.
- Force Impale – while holding an enemy with Force Grip, the lightsaber is thrown at them, impaling them midair.
- Force Grip – grab an object and move/throw it.
- Force Throw – after Gripping an opponent, Starkiller can throw them – with devastating strength.
- Force Push – push something back with a tremendous amount of force.
- Force Repulse – sends a shockwave out from the Force user in a 360-degree radius.
- Force Maelstrom – a little like Repulse, Maelstrom allows Starkiller to pick up nearby objects and enemies, blasting them out, killing weaker nearby targets.
- Force Choke – squeeze the windpipe of an enemy while using Force Grip.
- Force Lightning – the Force power Galen is most well-known for; his Lightning could almost match that of Emperor Sidious.
- Chain Lightning – a version of Force Lightning whereby the Lightning would jump from opponent to opponent.
- Lightning Burst – Force Lightning arcs away from his body to hit enemies adjacent to him.
- Sith Barrage – this form of Force Lightning comes up from the ground.
- Force Storm – by turning his palm upwards, Marek could summon Force Lightning energy to strike all opponents in his vicinity.
- Force Lightning Shield – a version of Force Lightning that surrounds Starkiller, protecting him from enemy attacks, enhancing his strikes, and even shocking enemies some distance away.
- Lightning Grenade – while using Force Grip, electrocute the enemy and throw them into an object, causing them to explode.
- Lightning Bomb – after blasting an enemy using Force Lightning, use the Force to overload the electrical power, causing them to explode.
- Sith Seeker – after Starkiller pushes an enemy, he sends an uncontrollably large ball of Lightning after them, exploding on impact.
How to Play as Starkiller
The clear advantage to playing as Starkiller is his mastery of Force powers – it is The Force Unleashed, after all. The most crucial tip for going through the game is, I’d say, getting familiar with how to use the different powers. If you can do this, you’ll be ready for anything that comes your way.
Every enemy is different, with particular strengths and weaknesses. For each, especially stronger ones, take the time at the start of the fight to gauge what works and what doesn’t. Then, try to force your opponent into a compromised position.
In general, Force attacks will be devastating against multiple weaker enemies, but you might need to use the lightsaber and Force Grip-type powers more when fighting “boss” enemies.
Particularly if you’re playing on the most challenging difficulty levels, you need to take care of – or avoid entirely – the weaker infantry troops (like stormtroopers). Just one blaster hit from them can make you stumble, allowing for one or two more to finish you off.
Most gamers recommend a speed run, but I prefer to take it slow, building up points to further enhance the Force powers. The stronger you can get them, the easier the game will become. Use Force Lightning, Repulse, Maelstrom, Grenade, Bomb – anything explosive in that way – to destroy big groups of weak opponents.
Use cover as often as possible to avoid blaster fire on the more significant difficulties. If you’re out in the open, you won’t get enough time to release the lightsaber block and attack an enemy before being shot.
Also, use Dash once or twice to quickly dodge enemy fire, combining it with a quick Force or lightsaber strike. If necessary, take them out one by one.
As a final tip, sometimes powerful individual enemies can be dealt with very efficiently. For example, you may be able to pick certain heavy troops up and simply drop them off the side of a building or ledge.
Starkiller Key Relationships and Quotes
Starkiller’s life has three critical relationships: those with Juno Eclipse, Darth Vader, and Rahm Kota.
Juno Eclipse and Starkiller
Juno was the first female Imperial pilot to fly Starkiller around on his missions. He was initially unsure how to interact with her (perhaps a nod to the fact that he was only 17 in the first game).
Eventually, though, he began to warm up to the charm and evident skill of a person who became his friend, something he was initially cross with himself for doing.
After Vader stabbed him (for the first time) and he was rebuilt, he was told to sever all connections to his past. However, Starkiller disobeyed this order, specifically freeing Juno – although he was unsure why he was motivated to do so.
She was angry when she learned that he was still serving Vader, and he found that he genuinely desired her approval. Eclipse was a leading factor in his developing decision to lead the Rebel Alliance, rather than simply use them as a distraction against Palpatine.
After Vader betrayed him yet again, Juno rescued him. They declared their love for each other before Starkiller snuck into the Death Star to free the Rebel leaders, sacrificing himself for them.
Juno to Starkiller:
Am I going to see you again?
If I can free the Rebels, they are going to need extraction. Probably not. No.
Then I’ll never need to live this down. [kiss]
Subject 1138, a clone of Starkiller, retained his feelings for Juno and searched for her across the galaxy in his bid to free her. After saving her life and defeating Vader, she and the clone headed back out into hyperspace together.
Juno was his prime motivation for breaking free from the Dark Side’s influence. As Kota would say to Juno after Starkiller’s death,
When he came to me in the bar, among all his dark thoughts, I glimpsed one bright spot. One beautiful thing he held onto, even at the end.
On Kashyyyk, Vader killed Kento, Galen’s father. He then slaughtered a squad of stormtroopers to protect the child and abducted him, teaching him the ways of the Force. Given the codename Starkiller, Galen believed he was being trained to help Vader, who he saw as his father figure, overthrow the Emperor. However, he was deceived.
After being betrayed for the second time, Starkiller learned that Vader simply used him to gather all the Empire’s enemies together in one place. He might train someone to help him overthrow Palpatine – but it wouldn’t be him. In essence, Palpatine had been his master all along, ordering the death of his father.
Starkiller would come to see that the Emperor had created Vader similarly to him: through intense deception. Marek would come to pity him in his final duel with Vader, seeing his former master as what he could have become.
There’s a nod back to the last words of Shaak Ti to Starkiller here:
Poor boy. The Sith always betray one another. But I’m sure you’ll learn that soon enough.
It’s not just Vader’s betrayal of his apprentice, but – in an even greater sense – Palpatine’s betrayal of Vader by encouraging Starkiller to strike him down.
Kota was a true father figure to Starkiller – despite his drunken state later on. Calling him “Boy!” repeatedly in their meetings after the assassin was sent to kill him, Kota – an old man – soon tired from Starkiller’s onslaught and strong defensive parries. During a saber lock, he saw a vision of the future:
Vader thinks he’s turned you, but I can sense your future. And Vader won’t always be your master. I sense only… me?
Vader’s apprentice would then force his saber blade back into his eyes, blinding him. Kota escaped into space, only to be found by Starkiller again sometime later as he assembled a Rebel Alliance. Although he defeated the old Jedi, Galen developed a respect for him – he had put up much more of a fight than he’d originally anticipated.
Ultimately, the two saved each other. Marek brought Kota out of a steep depression while Rahm taught Galen the ways of the Light Side of the Force. They developed a relationship akin to that of a Jedi Master and Padawan, although it was never formally designated as such.
In the end, Galen would die as a Jedi, becoming a martyr for the Rebellion. Kota would honor his unlikely friend’s sacrifice by leading the Alliance in his name.
Kota when Starkiller broke into the Death Star:
There may be a rebellion yet.
After Subject 1138 found Kota, he had difficulty believing that a Force-sensitive individual could be cloned. However, the self-designated Starkiller convinced him that this was the case. Kota helped him find Juno and encouraged him to spare Vader after defeating him in combat.
And so, in a way, Rahm helped Starkiller back to the Light Side twice over.
Frequently Asked Questions
Question: Is Starkiller a Jedi or a Sith?
Answer: Born as Galen Marek, Starkiller was born to Kento and Mallie Marek, Jedi knights. His training was never formally started under his parents, who were constantly on the run and both killed. After Vader killed Kento, he abducted Galen to become his secret apprentice with the codename Starkiller.
Starkiller then grew in his command of the Dark Side. He could never be considered a true Sith since the Rule of Two only permitted two Sith Lords at any one time. However, he always looked forward to when he and Vader would strike down the Emperor and rule together.
After Vader betrayed him for the second time, Starkiller fully embraced the Light Side of the Force. His love for Juno tore him away from the evil that had been trained into him; his true good nature shone through. In effect, he was trained in this by Rahm Kota and so became a Jedi.
Galen’s final act was to sacrifice himself to allow his friends to escape – the ultimate act of a Jedi.
In summary, Starkiller was born a Jedi, trained as a Sith, broke free, and died as a Jedi.
Question: How Old is Starkiller?
Answer: In The Force Unleashed, Galen is 17. Since it’s set in the year 3 BBY, we assume he was born in 20 BBY, during the height of the Clone Wars and not long before Order 66 was issued.
Starkiller in The Force Unleashed II is a direct clone of Galen Marek at his death. It’s set in 1 BBY, two years after the first game. Therefore, confusingly, the clone is technically only a few months old, developed two years after the death of Galen, and appears to be a 17-year-old.
Question: Who is More Powerful, Luke Skywalker or Starkiller?
Answer: The original concept of Starkiller was what Luke would have been if he’d joined Vader at the end of Empire Strikes Back. As such, the two can perhaps be considered equals at that particular age.
Of course, the events of The Force Unleashed are set three years before Luke Skywalker even leaves Tatooine, so the two would never meet.
As contemporaries, then, Starkiller is undoubtedly more powerful. However, Luke’s mastery of the Force in his later life would probably overcome even Galen.
Starkiller is one of the most interesting characters in Star Wars – even though his story isn’t currently canon. He’s interesting not just because of his Force powers but because of his story. The moral character arcs he goes through are believable and genuinely haunting.
In the end, his story is one of ultimate good. Even though he was brought up under Vader and traumatized so intensely that he forgot his name and heritage, the Light in him won through in the end. His redemptive journey takes a long time – he doesn’t just wake up as a good person one day.
The trials in his path slowly wear down the protective Dark Side mask he wears, which eventually leads to his self-sacrificial actions saving his friends.
If you’re interested in reading more about Old Republic Star Wars lore, check out the following articles: