Berserk and the Band of the Hawk Review
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Kentaro Miura's Berserk manga series is the latest licensed series to serve as the subject matter for the next Warriors style gameplay that Omega Force is well known for. Berserk and the Band of the Hawk is a Musou (Warriors) game that plays almost exactly like the Dynasty Warriors series. If you have watched the anime for Berserk and/or read the manga, I'm sure you can imagine that this style of game would fit Berserk perfectly and it basically does. While it's not my top pic for Musou games, Berserk and the Band of the Hawk is easily the best Berserk game that I have played.
The setting for Berserk is medieval Europe and the main character is Guts, a lone mercenary that drifts from battle to battle until he meets the Band of the Hawk lead by Griffith. Griffith challenges Guts and Guts loses and Griffith claims Guts as his own to fight with his group. And so begins one of the greatest stories ever told in manga form and one that I highly recommend reading if you have the time. Berserk explores themes such as love, camaraderie, isolation and many other human subject matters in its extremely violent story. If you like your story dark then Berserk really delivers in that aspect. One really GREAT thing about the game is that it goes well beyond the Golden Age Arc of the Berserk story and into manga chapters that have yet to be animated.
I've been playing Musou games for a while now and know what to expect from them for the most part. With Berserk, the game heavily copies the Dynasty Warriors engine and doesn't differ much from that style of gameplay. It's disappointing that Berserk doesn't offer much that we haven't already seen in other Warriors games. You'll mainly be taking on the role of Guts and fighting through big armies with his huge dragonslayer sword. From the start, you'll mainly be fighting constant soldiers and other military leaders while trying to take over a battlefield with the band of Hawk. If you've played a Warriors game before then you know how the gameplay works. Thankfully, as you go further into Berserk, the enemy designs will change and you'll be fighting a much greater variety of enemies. The story of Berserk has more demon enemies in it as it progresses past the Golden Age arc, so along with human enemies, you'll be fighting a variety of demons later too.
Your character is far more powerful than the basic soldier or even the leaders on the battlefield, but you'll eventually run into some true boss enemies that provide much more of a challenge. Some of the stages of the game are simply boss battles with a large enemy. Bosses can really take a beating and they will make you start to use extra items while fighting them. Unlike normal enemies, you can't stagger bosses, so you'll have to constantly watch out for their attacks while attacking them.
As you progress through the story, you'll be unlocking several new items, upgrades and new abilities. It's really amazing how long this game is. I was honestly expecting the game to end shortly after the Golden Age arc, but it keeps on going and you'll keep on unlocking newer abilities and items as you progress. New characters start to emerge that you can play as during some stages. Playing as Guts all the time does get old, but the game will allow you to choose between a group of other characters eventually for certain stages. Many of the stages have extra objectives (Behelits) that you can try for. You'll be gaining gold that you can use to purchase items with and you'll also gain experience that is used to level up your character. In between stages, you can equip items and accessories. Eventually, you'll reach a point where you can choose to combine (Amalgamate) your accessories to make newer and stronger accessories. Amalgamate isn't available until later in the game but you'll eventually unlock it along with a few other options as well. You can also enhance your current gear through stones and gems that are collected from a battle.
Each character has their own unique set of attacks and you can unlock more attacks by leveling them up. All characters have their own Frenzy Mode and a Deathblow attack to unleash during the Frenzy Mode that basically clears the screen of normal enemies and takes some major damage from bosses. Along with Deathblows, each character also has their own set of sub-weapons that can be used in between their recharge times - some of them can only be used a certain amount of times per stage. Guts gains many different sub-weapons as you progress further into the game - if you're familiar with the Black Swordsman arc, he starts to use an arm cannon as a weapon during those story chapters and you'll unlock that sub-weapon in the game starting with that arc.
The game seems to run at some sort of framerate greater than 30fps, but it doesn't go up to 60fps for sure. I did notice a bit of rare slowdown but the game keeps a very steady framerate for the most part. It's absolutely amazing how the game stays running at such a solid framerate with the enormous amount of chaos that is sometimes displayed on the screen. In between battles, you'll be treated with anime cutscenes (during the Golden Age arc) or in-game cutscenes (after Golden Age arc) and the entire game has several part with text and dialogue. Naturally, the game only has Japanese voices and in the case of Berserk, that is the better choice. You'll be fighting through battlefields in Midland, forests, Eclipse death fields and several other places throughout the many stages of the game and they are all presented quite well.
The game has a Story mode, Free mode, and Endless Eclipse mode. The Free mode allows you to play through all story missions with any character of your choice. You'll mainly have Guts as your partner along with whatever other character you chose. All cutscenes and dialogue still remain in Free mode so you'll have to do a lot of cutscene skipping if you don't want to see them during certain stages. Endless Eclipse is similar to Devil May Cry's Bloody Palace mode, only you get to take more breaks between waves of enemies. You have to go through stages and defeat enemies and their commanders and more powerful enemies to collect items and behelits. You can choose any unlocked character and you'll unlock several items in Eclipse mode. Every 5 stages, you'll be able to go back to a shop and replenish your items and equip new accessories. The catch to Eclipse mode is that you can't quit it once you start and there are around 80 stages in it, so you better have a lot of time on your hands when you start it or else forfeit your current progress once you stop it. Endless Eclipse is fun, but it still gets just as repetitive as the story mode. The best part about Eclipse mode is that it gives you a reason to use other characters besides Guts more often, so it's a welcomed mode overall.
Fans of Berserk are not guaranteed to like Berserk and the Band of the Hawk. To get the most out of this game, you need to enjoy Musou games and if you're a Berserk fan, that will make the game much better for you. The game is a flat out clone of Dynasty Warriors for the most part, so if you don't like Dynasty Warriors, you'll get bored with Berserk fast, but if you do enjoy them, whether you're a fan of Berserk or not, it's worth a try. Basically, your enjoyment of the game is dependent on how well you can handle hours and hours of Warriors button mashing style gameplay.
+ A long game that goes well beyond the first major arc in Berserk
+ The game incorporates parts from the manga that the anime leaves out (Wyald)
+ A nice variety of difficulties for a good amount of replay (Easy, Normal, Hard, Berserk)
- The game is a solid Dynasty Warriors clone for the most part
- Gets repetitive quickly like the usual Musou game
- The camera movement can often get out of control when you lock onto a target (especially a boss)
Final Rating: 75% - It doesn't bring anything new to the table past the usual Warriors style gameplay, so if you're both a Berserk fan and a Musou fan you'll get the most out of it.