Garl in Sea of Stars

Garl Is the True Protagonist in Sea of Stars

I wasn’t sold on Garl during the first few hours of Sea of Stars. He seemed unremarkable when compared to his Solstice Warrior pals, Valere and Zale – he didn’t even have a cool hair color. Sure, when Garl bringing cookies to the vivid duo as they trained for years in Zenith Academy made for a heartfelt moment, but his lack of special powers, role as straightforward healer, and overly positive attitude had me sideline him the moment the fourth companion joined my team. I wasn’t phased when the Dweller of Woe took control of his body. Instead, I was happy to have a cool ninja companion instead.

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By the time I rolled credits on Sea of Stars’ true ending, though, my thoughts on the Warrior Cook had completely flipped: Not only did Garl become the most endearing character in the game, he also proved himself as the true protagonist in the fight against the Fleshmancer.

Related: Sea of Stars – Zero Punctuation

Yes, spoilers follow.

The first sign that Valere and Zale weren’t really the stars (sorry) of Sea of Stars came when I realized they were only a step up from silent protagonists, two interchangeable Cronos from Chrono Trigger with a few extra lines for the barest hint of personalities, meant to stand-in for me, the player. This actually became my foremost criticism of the game: I thought Valere and Zale, despite their fun designs and significance to the plot, needed to either have more layers of characterization or to have it stripped entirely.

The second sign was how Garl takes the reins during story moments, big and small, more than once. He arm wrestles Valtraid. In the fight against the Dweller of Woe, the Solstice Warriors succeed only because he smashes a hole in the roof to allow the eclipse to reach them. He names the town of Mirth and spearheads its construction. Garl often speaks for the party. And most importantly, Garl convinces both the Elder Mist and Headmaster Moraine to let him help – the first time a non-Solstice warrior has done so – which leads to him awakening the Sleeper and forging a path ahead for his friends to travel across the titular sea of stars.

Much like when Crono dies protecting his friends against Lavos, Garl does the same by stepping in front of the Flashmancer’s powerful magic. To my surprise, I spent an inordinate amount of time trying to prevent his death – impossible at that point in the story – going so far as reloading an old save for a character I previously didn’t care for. Without Garl, I feared Sea of Stars would lose momentum, yet luckily avenging him and seeing the quest though was enough. Still, I couldn’t help but wonder what Garl would’ve thought of Resh’an or the many dystopian wonders of Serai’s homeworld.

Related: Sea of Stars Has One of the Best Video Game Moments of 2023

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Without his sacrifice, Valere and Zale wouldn’t have even had the chance to challenge the Fleshmancer’s lieutenant, who serves as the “final” boss. They wouldn’t have even gotten past the first major boss battle without him. Post-credits, as I’m sure you’re aware, it’s revealed that you can indeed revive Garl. To do so, you must defeat a handful of end-game bosses and collect all 60 Rainbow Conches. A lonely task without him, but well worth it: with Garl’s resurrection, Sea of Stars gives you a way to challenge the Fleshmancer himself, but not before experiencing the most heart-warming scene in the entire game at the Golden Pelican.

Yes, the only way to challenge and defeat the actual Big Bad is to bring Garl along with you to the final fight. Garl throws an apple – yes, an apple – at an alchemist responsible for ending worlds across multiple planes of existence, which is enough to trigger him into fighting Solstice Warriors rather than summoning his lieutenant to do his bidding.

Not Valere and not Zale. Not Serai, B’st, or even the Fleshmancer’s old friend Resh’an, but rather Garl, in the most Garl way possible, brings about the true ending. If you told me such within the first five hours of play, I couldn’t have imagined how Sabotage Studios could pull off such a narrative flip, but by hour 30, I wouldn’t have had it any other way. Garl is the best, a true Samwise Gamgee to a couple of placid Frodos that makes almost every single major moment in one of the best Japanese-style RPGs in recent memory all the better, even in his absence.


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Image of Lowell Bell
Lowell Bell
Lowell is a freelance contributor with The Escapist that began his career reporting on live events such as the Penny Arcade Expo and E3 back in 2012. Over the last couple of years, he carved a niche for himself covering competitive Pokémon as he transitioned into game criticism full time. About a decade ago, Lowell moved to Japan for a year or two but is still there, raising a Shiba Inu named Zelda with his wife while missing access to good burritos. He also has a love/hate relationship with Japanese role-playing games.