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

By Drew Hurley 23.04.2017

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

Kentaro Miura's seminal dark fantasy magnum opus has been going strong for over 26 years now. The Black Swordsman's quest for revenge has received two game adaptations already, although not in some time, not since way back on the Dreamcast and PS2. Like many long-running series, Berserk has all the elements needed to lend itself very well to the Omega Force Musou-style, with a huge cast of characters, varied locales, and a hero slaughtering countless faceless foes. This dark gothic story seems like a perfect fit, but is it? After a first look at the game on PS4 and PC, Cubed3 gives a second opinion…

The life of a Berserk fan is a hard one. There must be something about dark fantasy, something that means you have to suffer from countless delays and hiatuses - as fans of George R. R. Martin's magnum opus will agree. Like George with his NFL and his other series Wild Cards, Miura has his demons that conspire to stop his fans from receiving the next instalment of this phenomenal story. The main one being a huge obsession with the IdolMaster games… While fans wait for him to return to creating instead of raising and dating virtual idols, gamers can enjoy this adaptation of the story so far.

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

The story starts similarly to the source material, showing a Guts missing an arm and an eye, a streak of white in his hair, and a certain brand on his neck. The tutorial stage plants Guts in the realm of the God Hand as he tears through demonic creatures in this strange world surrounded by lakes of blood and Behelits covering the walls. As Femto appears and players are transported back to "The Golden Age," and here the true story mode begins. The story mode is superb for fans of the series; it spends the majority of its time during The Golden Age and uses a huge amount of content from the anime movies as cut-scenes during and between the stages. Honestly, they look even better here than in the anime itself! The presentation itself delivers a much better overall experience than the recent horrendous anime series and the terrible CG movies; in both the original FMVs and the stages themselves, with some great models and smooth animations.

With so many anime adaptations, the most iconic part of the series is often the focus of every game, so much so it gets to negatively impact the game. "Oh look, we're fighting Frieza… again." "Oh, another Chuunin Exam…" Thankfully, Berserk has received so few adaptations that Berserk and the Band of the Hawk was something that needs to be worried about. Most fans would be happy with just The Golden Age, but there's plenty more here! After the eclipse ends, The Black Swordsman Arc begins, seeing Guts begin to understand the new reality he has been dragged into. Dark creatures, spirits, and demons all come for him, and worse, there are Apostles hidden through the land. These were once human until, like Griffith, they too sacrificed something to the God Hand to grant their deepest desires, and in turn became huge inhuman demons that commit atrocities while hidden amongst humanity. Guts travels the land hunting these Apostles down, not as some honourable avenger, but in the hope of finding a way to Griffith. This dark tapestry of revenge story continues all the way through the proceeding arcs, all the way up to the war against the Kushan.

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

The stages themselves are the usual Musou fare, with most just requiring the mass slaughter of countless faceless soldiers and the occasional capture of key locations, or a quick boss battle. There is an extra little element to add some depth - optional objectives linked to Behelits. These objectives are usually simple enough - usually killing set enemies or protecting others within a set time limit, or capturing specific locations, again within a time limit. The gameplay is as shallow as the blood pooling around Guts' feet; there are only two attack buttons - square for light attacks, triangle for heavy - and while there are new combos to unlock, they really don't add much to the combat. There are a bunch of items to use, too, like crossbows and throwing knives, but most aren't worth the effort. Every extra aspect of the gameplay like this feels unnecessary and tacked on, in fact. There are consumable items that give small buffs and equipment to unlock, equip and craft, but none of it ever feels needed.

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

There's a little more here than just playing through the story. While only the Story Mode of the game is initially available, after playing through the opening levels, two extra modes are unlocked: "Free Mode" and "Endless Eclipse Mode." There are also eight characters to unlock, fan favourites from the old age, and the new, including Casca, Zodd, and Schierke, along with some strange choices, like Wyald and Judeau. Each plays very differently and has its own unique attacks, along with some special moves. It's well worth taking all of these characters through Endless Eclipse Mode. This consists of 100 maps to play through (although only if you have progressed far enough in the main story), each with some hidden bosses and big challenges along the way, and is definitely worth completing. It delivers some of the best rewards in-game, including some special transformations, ranging from Guts' Berserker armour and Griffith's Femto form to huge monstrous transformations for the Apostles.

All in all, there is a considerable amount of content here - the story mode has 46 chapters to play through, which easily racks up about 10-15 hours play time, and that can then be doubled for Endless Eclipse, gathering up all the Behelits and hunting down all the trophies.

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

Cubed3 Rating

7/10
Rated 7 out of 10

Very Good - Bronze Award

Rated 7 out of 10

Fans of the source material will adore this adaptation, Berserk and the Band of the Hawk. The Golden Age arc is done fantastically, seamlessly interweaving the anime scenes, which results in the best adaptation of this story to date, and everything after that is a bonus. The prospect of finally being able to see some of the later stories animated is something many fans had completely given up on. Outside of the fandom, though, there are plenty of better Musou out there, and this will end up feeling quite shallow in comparison.

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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