Developer: Omega Force
Publisher: Koei Tecmo
Platform: PS4, PS3, PS Vita, PC
Tested on: PS4
Berserk and the Band of the Hawk – Review
Those who like their manga or anime rather bloody, will probably have heard of Berserk, which tells us the tale of Guts, the black swordsman. This series has been around since 1989 and is still going strong, albeit on an irregular release basis. While two anime series have already been released, and games on the SEGA Dreamcast and PlayStation 2, it was only a matter of time that Koei Tecmo would divert their gaze towards this diamond in the rough, after their interpretation of Attack on Titan. Well, here we are, presenting you with our opinion of the Dynasty Warriors treatment of Berserk and the Band of the Hawk.
Guts, a sword for hire, who handles a massive sword, doesn’t really care who hires him, as long as he is ‘free’ and is able to fill his belly with a decent meal. He was practically born with a sword in his hand, being forced to fight gruesome battles at an early age, and thus, he needs nobody except for himself. When he is noticed by Griffith, who leads the legendary Band of the Hawk, a troop of undefeated mercenaries, Guts’ life changes rather quickly, as he loses a battle against the valiant leader of the group. Guts made a promise that his life would belong to Griffith, if his grand sword would lose against the mercenary leader, and this resulted in Guts joining the Band of the Hawk.
Years pass, and the troop fairs well, but it’s clear that Guts, and his allies are only a part of Griffith’s dream to gain his own kingdom and Guts, who grew attached to his fellow warriors, grows weary and wants to become Griffith’s equal, which will become the tipping point for a life that seemed to be heading in the right direction. Initially humans were Guts’ only adversaries, but soon demons and fantasy-like creatures will enter his world of darkness.
The story progresses steadily, offering you quite some hours worth of content, and for the most part it’s presented in such a picturesque way, making it hard not getting dragged along for the bloody ride. That being said, the first half of the game has a lot of nice anime sequences embedded into it, while the second portion only has 3D rendered cutscenes, which aren’t always on par with their anime counterparts. It feels as if the developers revamped the original anime series, presenting you with an amazing looking 2D anime, and then, just like the second series, tried to keep this part of the game in a 3D style. While this works to a certain extent, we would have loved to see more anime sequences like the first part of the game.
One minor issue on the story front is the increasing amount of spelling mistakes as the game progresses. Only a small annoyance, but a fairly frequent one. Of course, this in no way hampers the actual story portion of the game, it just feels like, as with the cutscenes, they decided to stop giving a hundred percent when the first half of the game was finished.
This iteration of Berserk does all the previous work justice, be it the original manga, the old and newer anime series and the previous games on the SEGA Dreamcast and PlayStation 2. You’ll be treated to a rather typical Dynasty Warriors setting, albeit with a hefty amount of Berserk paint splattered all over it. The characters are a beautiful 3D interpretation of the source material, while the environments seemingly received the same textural work as Attack on Titan: Wings of Freedom. The latter is not an issue, but there was just a striking resemblance with the AoT game, which was of course created by the same publisher.
Overall everything looks spiffy, ranging from the buildings, the fluent combat moves and of course, the gallons of blood that are constantly being drained from the bodies of your victims, but some environments feel a tad void of clutter, and some are reused quite a lot. Nonetheless, this never really gets annoying, you’ll just notice it, deal with it, and continue leading the hordes of enemies to the slaughter.
While the game still has a fairly decent soundtrack, with adventurous battle music, it is overshadowed by the gruesome sounds that are created when you chop your enemies into small bloody bits. Nonetheless, this game thrives thanks to its sound effects, as the voice acting, the sounds of clashing weapons and you gutting your enemies is ever so satisfying. That being said, the menus have themes that loop quite rapidly, thus they may become rather annoying when you leave the game running during other activities in the same room.
Berserk and the Band of the Hawk is a hack and slash game, which follows the typical Dynasty Warriors format. This means that you’ll play in enclosed levels to complete a fixed amount of objectives, which often involve reaching a target location, killing a number of foes, and/or killing a boss at the end of said level. You’ll have the option to plow through the Story Mode, the Free Scenario mode and the grim Endless Eclipse Mode. To be honest, it’s best to complete the Story Mode first, as it will unlock extra content in the other modes, and it also proves to be the most interesting for those who love the Berserk lore. With this mode spanning 46 missions you’ll have a hefty amount of hours worth of content.
In the Story Mode, you’ll follow the events that are portrayed in the manga, or in both anime series, with some extra scenes in-between, thus you’ll be limited to playing with Guts for the biggest part of this mode, safe for a few missions where he doesn’t necessarily have a key role. That being said, you’ll gain more and more characters for your roster in the other two modes, the further you progress with the story. Again, this mode follows the typical Dynasty Warriors format of kill, reach and/or conquer.
For the most part, the other modes serve as an ideal format to level the characters you can’t pick freely in the story mode. You’ll be able to revisit story missions in the Free Scenario mode, which is nice if you like a certain mission and want to see how a certain character holds up in said scenario. The Endless Eclipse mode however, places you back in the underworld, fighting off a massive amount of foes, as you clear more and more floors, clearing missions. The latter is a great addition to the story mode, that adds another layer of challenge to this Dynasty Warriors clone, and will offer you a hefty amount of additional unlockable content if you decide to spend some time in this mode.
As far as clones go, this one might actually be more fluent in terms of gameplay compared to the original titles of the Dynasty Warriors franchise. Outside of the very fluent attack motions, you’ll notice that the bloodiness has been amped up a gear or two, which perfectly suits the game. Outside of your normal arsenal of combos with your main weapon(s) you’ll also have a few extra side-weapons you can use the higher your level gets. These extra armaments are fairly fun to use, but are not really vital in helping you get through a level. While all of the controls feel very pleasant to work with, some things become rather tedious, such as being trapped in a corner and only seeing the wall because of a poor camera angle, or monsters that keep knocking you back, while you can’t hit them due to shoddy hit detection, the latter being the case with a lot of bosses.
The game has a fairly basic crafting system where you can upgrade the effects of the accessories you can equip. You can either upgrade them directly with the usage of found materials, or you can opt to combine the items you find throughout your slaughter-sprees and thus combine the effects of certain items, forging them into one item. You’ll always have to choose which item will serve as the base, and those you wish to combine will simply add effects to the base item. Overall a very simple, but appreciated addition to the somewhat limited gear system.
Berserk and the Band of the Hawk does the source material justice and even brings this ‘ancient’ series to our modern era. Not only will the game guide you through the flawless story of the series, with ample details, beautiful anime scenes and enough background information for newcomers to fully immerse in the Berserk universe, safe for a few sequences closer to the ending of the Story Mode, but the smooth mechanics and interesting cast of characters will keep you occupied for many hours to come. While the gameplay may fall in the same repetitive category as pretty much all Dynasty Warriors games, the different modes and challenges will still motivate you to keep coming back for more. We loved this title with all our guts.