Berserk and the Band of the Hawk Review -- All Guts, No Glory
Berserk and the Band of the Hawk brings the story of Guts to current hardware creating an excellent introduction to a series that some may have overlooked.
Berserk and the Band of the Hawk
Review copy provided by the publisher
My history with the Berserk franchise is very limited, but the series has been praised as one of the best heroic stories in manga history. It’s true that the manga has been in publication since 1989, with anime adaptions running throughout the franchise’s life time, but what about players who want a quick update on the Berserk series, without having to read 28 years worth of manga? Developer Omega Force might have a solution; unfortunately, they probably can’t match with the quality of the original work.
Berserk and the Band of the Hawk was developed as a musou style game for PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita, and PC following developer Omega Forces’s recent success with handling manga license, Attack on Titan. With years worth of reference material, the studio made a good attempt at bringing this series to life. However, its possible Omega Force put too much focus on one design aspect which caused the developers to disregard others.
Berserk and the Band of the Hawk begins by introducing us to the up-and-coming mercenary, Guts, as he almost single-handedly captures a castle and takes out an entire group of bandits. That’s to say he probably would have won, if it wasn’t for the beautiful and majestic Griffith at the scene to show Guts some quick swordplay. Since Griffith spared Guts in battle, he convinces him to join their movement — and by “convince.” I mean wins against a bet of strength against Guts.
If this introduction sounds family to fans of the series, it’s because it’s taken straight out of The Golden Age Arc. The writing throughout the game shows Omega Force’s attention to the Berserk brand and lore as they bring key scenes to life for fans to play through. Between missions, players can even choose optional short events that have Guts interacting with members of the Band of the Hawk which offers a more understanding of their relationship together.
Gameplay offers your typical musou formula having the player hack and slash their way through tons of enemies to capture points on a map. However, the game does try to mix up the the formula by having players travel to one end of a map to another with the only objective being to get to the other side alive. Whether this type of gameplay works for you or not, it always ends up coming off as repetitive. That said, I don’t think that’s an issue to fans of the genre. As for me, I respect those who show appreciation for this genre and I find it to be quite satisfying to rip through an endless amount of enemies, even though I wouldn’t consider myself a hardcore musou fan.
Throughout the story, players will have access to a well know cast of playable characters including Casca, Griffith, Judeau, and more. These characters will alternate their availability throughout the game depending on what arc you are playing. Each character has their signature weapons and move set, with a special attack unique to them. This is done be taking down enemies to fill up a “Frenzy Meter” that will power the character up for a short amount of time, but the power doesn’t stop there. If a player takes out enough enemies before the meter is drained they can unleash their special attack.
I often saved these powerful attacks to unleash on the bosses or stronger enemies. Using them against bosses usually would take a good deal of HP from them, making the fight a little easier. The normal enemy soldiers never seemed to pose any real threat as a I ran from one end of the map to the other. This is common in the musou series, and as always I turned the difficulty up because I crave a challenge. With that said, if you are only getting into this game for the Berserk story, putting the game on easy makes the missions a cake walk and will get you to the next story section in no time.
Players will choose missions from camp that can be replayed as many time as they want. After, players will chose the character they wish to bring into battle. These characters level up independently and all have their own stats. Additionally, weapons can be further upgraded using items found in battle or bought in the story. I liked finding new weapons and customizing my characters to my preferred playstyle. The systems aren’t super deep so they are easy enough for a newcomer to understand, but they also offer some bonuses for players that want to get the most out of each upgrade.
The graphics featured in Berserk and the Band of the Hawk are hard to judge because the good and the bad side of the visuals are constantly on screen. On one hand, the character models look great, Omega Force put in a lot of time to make these character resemble their manga counterparts perfectly. I was also impressed with the blood that covered the characters and the battlefields which also stays true to the series. On the other hand, the draw distance is pitiful. Towers and structures will pop up in front of you constantly giving the feel that you are playing a musou game from last generation.
This wasn’t the best setting for these characters to inhabit. Even though the levels changed themes often nothing really showed me that the developers really put any time into the maps. These bad draw distances are most noticeable in the wider open areas, but I’m sure if a little more time been put into this area of development they could have fixed this issue.
After missions there are anime cutscenes that are lifted from the Beserk movie trilogy. Having only watched those movies once when they were released, I almost thought they were exclusive to the game. Even though these scenes fit within the story being told, it would have been nice if Omega Force could have acquired rights to create new anime cutscenes. Either way, I enjoyed the break from 3D graphics for the time the scenes played out.
The music featured in the game is a joy to hear as a newcomer, but may disappoint fans of the series. Each score adds to the intensity of battle and will change depending on the state of the mission. Sadly, there won’t be any recognizable songs for seasoned Berserk fans to drool over. I could only assume this is due to certain licensing reasons, but it would have been a great inclusion.
Berserk and the Band of the Hawk is one of the better manga licensed games out there. Omega Force spent a great deal of time making sure that the game stayed true to the writings of Berserk which fans of the series will respect, but the bad draw distance could end up distracting for those who want a true current gen Berserk experience.
I enjoyed my time with Berserk and the end game content offers hours and hours of replayability for fans who just can’t get enough. The gameplay would definitely stand toe-to-toe with other licensed musou games like One Piece: Pirate Warriors and Dynasty Warriors: Gundam, but maybe this game could have strayed further away from the typical musou formula like what fans saw with Attack on Titan. Instead, it seems Omega Force played it a little too safe.