Valheim’s Giant Bird Is Terrifying

Valheim is all the rage right now, helped out by a blank release slate, some viral news stories, and the fact that it’s just bloody good fun. Despite the game launching in early access back at the start of February though, I only got around to playing it last weekend. I punched some trees, chased some deer, died while swimming because I didn’t realise how stamina worked… you know, the usual. But nobody told me that the game begins with a giant bird carrying you through a storm while gripping your arms in its razor sharp talons, and for that, I hate you all.

I had heard about a bird in Valheim, but as a small, slightly irritating companion. I met this bird too, and yes, he’s exactly as irritating as advertised. You can’t go more than four footsteps without this raven version of Clippy popping up to give you advice on how to survive in the world of Valheim. Now, our group accidentally leveled our own house when we tried to flatten the ground underneath it, so we could probably use the advice, but that still doesn’t mean this little bird isn’t an annoyingly intrusive presence in the game. Having been thoroughly irritated by the small, allegedly helpful raven, I completely understand why any talk around ‘the bird in Valheim’ fixated on it, but it feels like the elephant – or giant fucking bird – in the room is being missed.

I hate birds. Absolutely loathe them. The main reason I can never get on board with Garrus from Mass Effect being attractive is because he has a weird bird face with creepy mandibles. Ew. I don’t have any deep-seated childhood trauma connected to birds – unless it’s so deep-seated I can’t even remember it – but for as long as I can remember, I have had a fear of birds. I’m not frightened every time I see a pigeon, but I’d probably cross the road if there was a gang of four of them all huddled together like ne’er-do-wells. I went to a zoo once, and there was a mandatory open aviary that you had to walk through, where the exotic birds all sat on ropes above you. I had such an intense sweat rushing through there, fearful that the macaw would sense weakness and swoop down to peck my brain out of my skull. Did you know birds are considered the closest living relatives to dinosaurs, AKA the most brutal and terrifying creatures our environment has ever concocted? Trust me, birds are evil.

So it’s fair to say I’m not the biggest fan of Valheim’s giant bird. However, I’m aware that it’s just a game, and I’ve played plenty of games with demons and murders and all sorts of beasties, and I don’t have nightmares over them. Let’s be real here, too – Valheim’s graphics are hardly photorealistic, and despite my obvious reading of the scene that way, the giant bird dropping you off was never supposed to be infused with any horror. It’s just an interesting way of plopping you down on the map instead of you just loading there as if by magic. But now that it’s there, I’d love to see the game do something more with it.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not pro ‘huge terrifying birds in video games’. But I am pro ‘killing any huge terrifying birds in video games that happen to be there’. I’ve only gone so far as the first boss at the moment, so perhaps this bird does play a bigger role in the game, or maybe it will once the game is out of early access. Ravens are a crucial part of Norse mythology, most notably through Huginn and Muninn – Odin’s two ravens that act both as spies and as metaphysical constructs for Odin to project his thoughts into the minds of shamans. They aren’t huge in these stories, but I can see a version of Valheim where the big bird represents both Huginn and Muninn in one, justifying its extraordinary size.

We know birds are a menace in Valheim. Seagulls have been stealing players’ ships, and they’re just regular sized birds. Imagine the havoc this massive one could cause. I think the giant bird is actually quite malicious. It’s positioned as a helpful force in the game, carrying us to relative safety, but in reality it drops us off on a weird island full of monsters with nothing more than a few scraps of rags to our name. It’s down to our own ingenuity that we’re able to punch trees hard enough to construct a homestead, but we owe nothing to this ginormous bird that left us in a haunted forest to die. I could do without it being there all, but now that it is, I want to fight it.

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Stacey Henley is an editor for TheGamer, and can often be found journeying to the edge of the Earth, but only in video games. Find her on Twitter @FiveTacey

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