I had reasonable expectations going in to the Berserk and the Band of the Hawk Review. I love Musou (Warriors) games and enjoy anime. It’s not Omega Force’s first foray in to licensed franchises by any means, but it might be the first time they’ve leaned in to mature themes so heavily.
Berserk is unashamedly bloody, grim and heavy on the action. That’s its identity. Omega Force have done a great job representing Berserk as it should be seen, even if there are corners cut here and there.
Make no mistake, however; this is a traditional-as-hell Warriors game. If you haven’t enjoyed the previous entries (such as Dynasty Warriors 8, Samurai Warriors 4 or Arslan) then it’s likely you won’t find much to love here unless you’re a huge Berserk fan.
Look and Feel
Berserk BotH (as it will henceforth be abbreviated as) nails its intended aesthetic pretty well. The character models are well done, especially Guts, but the game isn’t without its issues. Issues that come often to Warriors games. Facial animations in the in-game cut-scenes for instance are often comical. I assume unintentionally so.
There’s honestly not much to remark upon. The game is an adaptation of the manga and, as such, features many of the series’ landmark locations and characters. I’m not familiar enough with Berserk to state whether or not they’re missing anything, but it felt fairly fleshed out. Backdrops are as they always are: backdrops. Just settings for the hack and slash action to take place.
For the sake of context, note that BotH borrows cut-scenes from the remade Berserk movie trilogy. Their use is appreciated, but it comes with some caveats. As the game covers more of the story than what the movies had, the missing animation cut-scenes you’ve come to expect suddenly stop coming, replaced with the less-impressive in-game cut-scenes. They do the job well enough, but those movie scenes are something else entirely and it’s jarring to move to an inferior replacement by comparison halfway through the game’s story.
BotH covers a great deal of Berserk’s manga material. There’s a hard cut off point that doesn’t round off well, but that’s no fault of the game. I suppose it lends itself well to a sequel in a few years.
For those unfamiliar with Berserk, as I was, here’s a brief run-down:
Mercenary swordsman Guts roams a war-torn land in search of any paying job. Despite the many successes to his name, he cares only for the next pay day and desires no prestige or acknowledgement. After happening upon a famous group, Guts is defeated in combat by their leader, Griffith, and recruited to be a member of the Band of the Hawk. Thus begins the journey of Guts and the friendship, love and despair that is to come.
What I appreciate most about the story being told in BotH is that it doesn’t shy away from what Berserk is. At least for the most part. There are moments they don’t go the whole way with, but most of it is brutality at the expected level. The Warriors games are becoming the medium for franchises suited to any age group being delivered in an easy-to-digest gaming experience. I can definitely appreciate that.
Nevertheless, I do wish I’d consumed the available content in its intended form before playing BotH. It skips over a lot of the details, as these games always do, to get you in to the actions as soon as possible. It’s not an ideal replacement to the Berserk story as much as it is a compliment to it.
As with all Musou games, the gameplay of Berserk is simple. Take to the field with a chosen, unlocked character and hit foes with light, heavy and special attacks. Fill up your Frenzy meter to go “Berserk” and increase the damage output. Build the “Deathblow” meter whilst in Frenzy mode to transform (if possible) or unleash a devastating attack.
Enemies are made up mostly of fodder with the occasional named opponent that takes more of a beating. There are huge boss enemies that pack a serious punch and those fights are the highlight of the experience in my opinion. That said, I still love mindless mowing through enemies with Guts’ massive sword and watching their bodies literally fly off from the screen in pieces.
The use of sub-weapons and items add a slight amount of depth to the gameplay. Being able to blast a hand-cannon mid-combo to wipe out a group of enemies creates an interesting opportunity to interrupt your own attacks for greater pay-off. Changing between them can be a little cumbersome sometimes, but it’s a welcome addition.
Three modes make up the Berserk BotH experience: Story, Free and Endless Eclipse.
Story mode has you play through the Berserk content as intended. Primarily as Guts (but other characters can be used at times), you’ll unlock new characters, level up and earn new equipment to equip and/or upgrade. The story is lengthy so, in this mode alone, I’d say you get what you pay for. Not to mention the Behelits to collect from completing certain sub-missions within each stage. By collecting these, you’ll unlock portraits from the Berserk series to see in the Gallery.
Using any character you’ve acquired in the Story Mode, take part in battles you’ve already unlocked/completed. Earn equipment, levels and currency to upgrade everything at your leisure. The most basic of modes with the least amount of restriction. Honestly not what I come to these games for, but I appreciate the option. It’s made somewhat redundant by the existence of Endless Eclipse however.
Choose a character and dive in to an endless amount of battle stages (*as you progress through the story). By completing certain milestones with characters you’ll get access to alternate costumes and exclusive mounts. There are missions that determine a level limit before completion or there’s an infinite mode, unlocked by completing the story, where you can endlessly hack away through various stages for gold, experience and personal enjoyment.
This mode is my preferred form of freedom. There are rules but they’re not strict and it allows you to test how powerful you are, as enemies get a lot stronger the deeper you go. It was in this mode that I realised how awesome Zodd is (check out our Let’s Play above!) but also how tedious these games can be. I can’t imagine reaching the bottom of a reward tree with any character unless I literally had nothing else worth doing. Again, I appreciate the option to do so, but it can become tiresome. A great inclusion nonetheless.
With yet another Musou game notched on my bed post, character diversity has become even more important to me. For as much as I enjoy Berserk, the roster is small and the character choices obvious. Zodd, Guts and Griffith vastly out-perform the other characters by a large amount. Their attack coverage and abilities exceed that of anybody else you could choose. Some people might enjoy challenging themselves with weaker characters, but I tried them all and found their usage frustrating when coming off of the better inclusions. I’m all for a large roster of characters, but I’d prefer a quality roster. This game has neither, with only three of its playable characters truly viable in my eyes. Luckily, Guts is one of them, so it didn’t impact the majority of the experience.
Berserk and the Band of the Hawk does a great job of delivering the source material in a Musou game. The combat is fun, the story engaging and it ranks highly on my personal list of Warriors games. Berserk is well suited to the Warriors gameplay style and there’s plenty of content, albeit largely the same, to keep you busy if you’re a fan of either franchise.
About This Berserk and the Band of the Hawk Review
Game Name: Berserk and the Band of the Hawk – Digital Edition Provided by Publisher
Review Format: PS4