Berserk and the Band of the Hawk (PlayStation 4) Review

By Albert Lichi 02.03.2017

Review for Berserk and the Band of the Hawk on PlayStation 4

The Berserk manga is a long-running series penned by Kentaro Muira and has been running since the early 90s, but the West was first exposed to Guts' adventure in video game form with Sword of the Berserk: Guts' Rage on the Dreamcast. Guts' character and story just lend themselves so naturally to a video game to a point that other game developers have been inspired by it. From Dark Souls, Devil May Cry to Final Fantasy VII, Berserk has been a major influence of video games. After 17 years, the West finally gets a new game where fans can once again take up the Dragon Slayer with Berserk and the Band of the Hawk. Is the Musou formula the peanut butter to Berserk's chocolate and do they mix? The blood flows and an eclipse is nigh, as Cubed3 reviews Omega Force's slayer.

Berserk and the Band of the Hawk initially makes a strong first impression for those uninitiated with Berserk by letting things more or less play out like the original manga and anime. For any Musou fan, this game may come as a bit of a surprise considering how much story is packed into this. There is hours of anime cutscenes that were lifted from the three anime Berserk movies that cover the "Golden Age" story arc and while the quality of said animation ranges from okay to really bad, it does manage to do most of the story legwork so that Omega Force can focus on what they do best: hack and slash gameplay.

Screenshot for Berserk and the Band of the Hawk on PlayStation 4

Berserk and the Band of the Hawk certainly delivers the kind of cathartic mass slaughter the Musou is known for: massive fields teeming with enemies like an ocean of bodies. The simple act of swinging Guts' huge blade and feeling the crunch of like 30 or 40 men get swatted by the Dragon Slayer is really satisfying. Even non-Musou fans who hate the formula would likely get some amusement (if fleeting) from the utterly absurd visual.

As the story unfolds, the game gradually introduces new features to shake up the tedium of constantly cutting down entire armies. Sub weapons like the hand cannon are meagre additions that won't mix up the action in a big way, and horses are pretty much worthless in combat and are best used to just cover ground faster. More characters become available to play as in some missions, but honestly... why would anyone want to play as anyone else but Guts? It is admirable that Omega Force made the effort to try to make the game have more content and replayability, but the feeling of this being wasted can be shaken. Anybody who wants to play Berserk and the Band of the Hawk wants to play as Guts... Nobody cares about Rickert or Corkus. The only other character that people might be interested in playing as other than Guts is Zodd and that's because he can transform into a gigantic horned demon.

Screenshot for Berserk and the Band of the Hawk on PlayStation 4

Having some variety in the main missions is something every Musou game struggles with, and instead of wasting everyone's time with characters nobody cares about, Omega Force could have focused on creating more interesting missions. It becomes pretty egregious when seeing a long anime cutscene play out an extensive sequence of Guts on a secret assassination mission that could have easily been gameplay.

For the most part, the core game is what most people would expect from a Musou-Berserk fusion. There are lots of armies of generic knights and demons out there that are looking to get acquainted with the broadside of Guts' sword between several modes. Like other Musou games, there is the story and the free mode, but Berserk and the Band of the Hawk has a variation of a survival mode called "Endless Eclipse," which, of course, involves more hacking and slashing, but with the possibility of things getting spicy.

Screenshot for Berserk and the Band of the Hawk on PlayStation 4

Endless Eclipse mode does the survival modes a bit differently by having various optional objectives that tend to be pretty hard due to them involving high level enemies, but does have better rewards. This game can be a massive grind, and with the accessory crafting and various characters to level up, Band of the Hawk can feel like a catatonic experience that gets punctuated with hardcore violence and brutal rape. At times, the long anime cutscenes can feel like a godsend to give some respite from the repetitive action.

Berserk and the Band of the Hawk was a daring experiment on paper. Really, though, the only thing that proved to push the envelope was this game's propensity for gnarly violence, and beyond that it's a pretty standard example of the Musou, but with the distinction of being Berserk and having its story. The presentation is pretty cheap at times when not relying on the pre-existing anime footage by having static character portraits and text boxes. Oftentimes, the text and portraits will be displayed over a scene of character models standing around in an aimless manner or at a black screen. It is a shame that the in-game engine cutscenes are so cheap since the character models are actually quite strong and are very well realised 3D interpretations of these characters that have more appeal than the awkward CGI anime versions used in the footage.

Screenshot for Berserk and the Band of the Hawk on PlayStation 4

Cubed3 Rating

6/10
Rated 6 out of 10

Good

Berserk and the Band of the Hawk is a guilty pleasure that is best digested in small doses. It's really entertaining to savagely murder dozens of enemies with such a large weapon in a single swing, but with such simplistic combat and generally unaggressive enemy forces, the novelty wears thin after a while. On one hand, it can be a great entry point for those who have been curious about the original manga and anime, but at the same time, this is also a fairly dumbed down telling of these stories and characters. Long-time berserk fans will be excited to hear that the story does go further than the "Golden Age" arc (an overly represented arc) and actually has extensive story that goes into the "Falcon of the Millennium Empire" arcs. Any Musou fan already knows if they are interested in Berserk and the Band of the Hawk, but this is not the grand Berserk game Guts deserved.

Developer

Omega Force

Publisher

Koei Tecmo

Genre

Brawler

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  7/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

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