Berserk and the Band of the Hawk Review – All the Blood (PS4)
Ever since Omega Force and Koei Tecmo released Dynasty Warriors in 1997, the first in what eventually became popularly known as the “Musou” series of games, there have been more than 40 titles released under this sub genre. For the past few years though, the main Dynasty Warriors and Samurai Warriors “Musou” franchises have taken a back seat in the wake of spin-off entries into the series that feature other popular franchises such as Zelda, Mobile Suit Gundam, Fist of the North Star, One Piece, The Heroic Legend of Arslan, and, most recently, Berserk with Berserk and the Band of the Hawk.
The Black Swordsman
For the unfamiliar, Berserk is a popular manga series which began in the early ’90s and still runs to this day through the Young Animal magazine in Japan. The franchise also produced two anime TV series as well as a series of anime films. Berserk and the Band of the Hawk covers the start of the Golden Age arc through to the end of the Falcon of the Millennium Empire arc of the manga which follow the story of how Guts, the game’s and the franchise’s protagonist, came to join the Band of the Hawk and the many events that followed that not only changed his but also the world’s fate.
The story arcs the game goes through are three of the longest in the manga series making Berserk and the Band of the Hawk’s story mode one of the longest of the spin-off collaborative “Musou” titles. Fans of the manga will definitely appreciate how the game presents the events of the included arcs while those new to the franchise will find it easy to pick up and grasp the game’s story and characters. This is helped by the large number of cutscenes, some of which are from the anime film series, which not only help tell the game’s story but improve the game’s overall immersion and experience.
Given that the game was also developed for the PS3 and the PS Vita, the visuals of Berserk and the Band of the Hawk aren’t particularly impressive for a title released for the PS4 in 2017 and look understandably dated. Because of this, the PS4 was easily able to run the game without any hiccups with the game’s framerate rarely dropping all throughout even during some of the game’s larger battles. It must be noted though that Berserk and the Band of the Hawk is definitely the best looking “Musou” game released so far. It can also be considered as the bloodiest game in the series.
The Hundred Man Killer
The game’s story missions are mostly typical of many “Musou” titles, with each giving out a set of conditions for the victory or defeat of your army which may include ones such as defeating specific named enemies for the former or having one of your allies retreat for the latter. There are also missions without any other objectives other than to wipe out several waves of enemy forces, these mostly function as a way to easily progress the story as well as a way to gain experience, items, and gold without much effort.
Some of the missions may also have additional objectives that will reward Behelits that unlock portions of a portrait, which aren’t particularly necessary or affect the game’s story but add another element to the game for players to complete. Some of the missions also unlock some of the story’s characters (there are a total of eight playable characters), allowing you to use them in missions you’ve already completed, which also gives you the opportunity to complete the Behelit objectives you’ve previously missed, giving players a slight incentive to replay previous missions.
While most of Berserk and the Band of the Hawk’s story missions are large-scale battles against hundreds to thousands of enemies, it also features several one-on-one boss battles that pit you against some of the story’s main antagonists. Typical of many boss fights in these types of hack-and-slash or action games, the game’s bosses feature multiple health bars and depleting each one will either make them stronger or change the boss fight’s mechanics. While not particularly difficult, the boss fights are still a good chance of pace from the game’s usual encounters.
In both the regular story missions and boss fights, combat remains consistently enjoyable which is expected of a “Musou” game. While the game generally may begin to feel repetitive as you reach the latter part of the game, the combat’s flashy animations and effects (including the blood) never fail to feel satisfying especially when you unlock some of the characters’ Frenzy or Berserk modes and perform their special Deathblow attacks. Also, the number of combos and attacks you can perform as well as the weapons at your disposal are varied enough help make combat feel less repetitive.
As for character progression, Guts and the other playable characters gain levels from completing missions which increase their attributes automatically. Levels can sometimes also be purchased with gold if the level of one or some of your characters get left behind. You can also augment your character’s attributes and abilities through accessories that you can buy, upgrade, and combine. Players can also equip up to four consumable items during missions that may temporarily augment their character’s abilities or fill up their health, Frenzy, or Deathblow gauges.
Apart from the story mode, the game also features several other unlockable game modes including a Free Mode, which allows you to go through missions with the playable character of your choice, as well as an Eclipse mode which acts as the typical survival mode where you battle endless waves of enemies. Both modes add a layer of replayability to the game especially for those who either want to play as their favorite Berserk character or experience an almost endless amount of the game’s incredibly enjoyable combat.
Berserk and the Band of the Hawk is, as Musou games go, undeniably enjoyable and satisfying. The Berserk franchise fits the “Musou” style very well and the Berserk story gives a depth and a length that the genre generally lacks. Omega Force and Koei Tecmo’s decision to use established franchises for its recent Musou titles was a great move and Berserk was definitely a great choice for its latest collaboration. While the game isn’t breaking any new ground, fans of either the “Musou” series or the Berserk franchise will certainly enjoy Berserk and the Band of the Hawk.