Why Did I Save Birgir In God Of War If He Didn’t Come To Ragnarok?
God of War Ragnarok’s final act comes to a close with a series of bombastic, if a tad rushed, set pieces where Kratos, Atreus, and the allies they made while journeying through the Nine Realms take on the might of Asgard. Dozens of hours are spent setting the stage, but the final assault comes together rather suddenly. Everything moved so quickly that someone’s invitation to Ragnarok must have gotten lost in the mail or left in Kratos’ drafts accidentally – Birgir’s.
We first meet this Traveller in Freyr’s camp, one of the rag-tag team of outcasts trying to free Vanaheim from Aesir occupation. He forsook the Path that all Travellers walk when he discovered it was nothing more than a way for Odin to trick people into finding Jötunheim so that he could finally kill off all the Giants hiding there. In a world of strong racial allegiances and fated destinies, he chose his own path.
Warning, spoilers for Ragnarok’s end and post-game.
During Freyr’s rescue, Birgir proves himself invaluable, brutally crushing all the Aesir in Kratos’ way as he rushes Freyr to the safety of the nearby river. When the group’s magical flying boat is attacked by Wyverns, Birgir makes the ultimate sacrifice and throws himself overboard, taking the Wyverns out with him. He impales one with his huge sword and crashes it into another, sending them all tumbling below the clouds, presumably to their deaths. It’s a heroic end that ensures the survivors can fulfil the Giant’s prophecy and take on the might of Asgard.
Only, Birgir isn’t dead, obviously. The camp’s pup, Helka, is distressed, and following it leads you to a massive sandbox that’s completely missable. It’s a fantastic area of the game, and in the centre awaits a fight to the death with a dragon keeping Birgir prisoner. He hilariously tells you he survived by “rolling”, which gave me big “aim for the bushes” vibes from The Other Guys.
You’d think after saving his life from the clutches of a vicious dragon he’d pledge to fight by your side until the day he dies – for real this time – but no, he goes back to camp and just sits there. If you return to The Crater you can happen upon three more Travellers, all assassins sent to kill Birgir for betraying their order. That’s another favour we’ve done for Birgir if, like me, you’re keeping score. He says he wants to retire, and I get that, I really do. I’m only 27 and I’d rather be sitting in a forest, whittling away at a wood carving and fishing in a lake, but we don’t all get what we want Birgir, there are eight Realms to save.
Ragnarok is the biggest and most important event in all the Realms, but it’s by no means exclusive. Everyone is there to help overthrow the cruel Aesir gods. From elves, to humans, to ancient mythical beings like Sutr. Everyone except Birgir. Wanting to retire and have a rest is a thin personal reason to miss out on what is quite literally the fight of everyone’s lives. Retirement would be short-lived and pretty terrible if the Aesir simply retook Vanaheim because Odin won Ragnarok.
What pisses me off most about Birgir’s absence is that it removes one of the only instances of true player agency in the game. Everyone else’s fate is written and sealed, with their arcs destined to be carried out exactly as Sony Santa Monica’s writers planned. But Birgir is the one character you can go out of your way to save. Only, it doesn’t make any real difference. There’s no extra scene at the end where he jumps in to help Kratos or Atreus or Freya, not even a gruff, knowing head nod. It’s a wasted opportunity in a game about challenging fate, and exposes us as mere puppets on its path.
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