Berserk is a long-running anime and manga series by Kentarou Miura that should be perfect for a musou-style video game made by Dynasty Warriors developer Omega Force. Berserk and the Band of the Hawk is exactly what someone might think of when combining the gameplay of the Dynasty Warriors series with the plot of the Berserk anime for both PlayStation 4 and PlayStation Vita. Slaying hundreds of enemies on the battlefield is the element that should make this combination of anime and video game a match made in heaven. Unfortunately while the spirit of the anime is widely present in its gameplay, so too are elements of over repetitiveness and technical flaws that make Berserk and the Band of the Hawk a subpar game at best.
The Story Mode and Free Mode are where you’ll spend the most time with playing Berserk. Story Mode takes you through events of the anime that’s told through anime footage and some in-game cutscenes between stages. Free Mode allows you to replay stages you’ve completed in Story Mode, but allows the use of other playable characters. While it’s great to see anime clips for a game based on the anime series in Story Mode, it makes the in-game cutscenes look very stoic and out of place.
There is a few action moments that look better, but the majority of the in-game cutscenes have characters standing idly by with dialogue exchanges. I would have rather just had the anime clips for story moments since they were always more pleasing to look at. There’s also a survival mode called Endless Abyss, where you fight through multiple stages of enemies with each playable character and unlock some additional content. Unfortunately the time and effort required to gain most of the rewards is not worth it, even with the few bonuses you gain for completing it with each character.
If you’ve played any Dynasty Warriors or Samurai Warriors game before, then you can expect the exact same thing with Berserk. You take control of main protagonist Guts, or any characters from the anime, and lay waste to hundreds of enemies that stand in your way towards completing key objectives in each stage. Each character has small nuances that make them feel a bit unique, but for the most part you’ll be using the exact same approach against enemies. Unlike the former games however, Berserk and the Band of the Hawk focuses less on capturing territories over large maps and more on completing smaller objectives related to its narrative.
Most of the time, you’re taking out groups of enemies that wander aimlessly on the overly large maps or fighting a specific boss character that will help progress the story. Like every musou game that’s come before, the gameplay can become overly repetitive very quickly within the first few hours of playing. Throughout my time with Berserk I only really did one of two things in every stage, mash the Square and Triangle buttons or navigate the menus.
Berserk tries to make things a bit more intricate by allowing you to equip different items and gear to your characters. Gear increases stats to your attack, defense, and techniques used in combat, but they don’t really change the style of which you approach battles in each stage. Early on, I found myself over-powered quickly with a few pieces of equipment that gave huge boosts to my attack and defense, allowing me to effectively squash most enemies I ran into on the battlefield. In addition to standard attacks, you have access to sub-weapons and items that can be used immediately while in battle, but I hardly felt the need to use them when my normal attacks and combos were already so effective at taking out enemies.
Berserk unfortunately suffers from a variety of technical issues, most of which are found in most other musou-styled games. The camera can be a real annoyance when it zooms in on tight areas and corners while moving around during battle. A few times I ended up fighting blind, staring at a wall on my screen as my character attacked wildly from mashing the Square button. I also found the hit detection for strong enemies and bosses can be way off and downright laughable at times, especially when I was hit from melee attacks that were very far away. These were issues that happened frequently and made battles frustrating.
One boss fight early in the game had me fighting a giant monster alone, where some of its melee attacks would still reach me from a great distance, despite its attack never being near my character. In other times, I found myself being followed by huge groups of enemies that would never attack over the course of a whole map during Story Mode. Both small enemies and powered-up foes would just stand idly by and wait for me to destroy them without ever taking a swing at my character.
If you enjoyed watching the Berserk anime or reading the manga series, then you may appreciate Omega Force’s rendition of its plot in video game form. However, Berserk and the Band of the Hawk won’t make new fans out of anyone who just plays the game. The various technical flaws and overly repetitive gameplay make Berserk and the Band of the Hawk just an average experience of an otherwise great concept. If you’re still curious about the story, you’d be better off just watching the anime instead of playing it.
This review of Berserk and the Band of the Hawk is based on a digital copy of the game for the PlayStation 4 which was provided by Koei Tecmo.