Review: Berserk and the Band of the Hawk

Guts, not Glory.

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Review: Berserk and the Band of the Hawk
Developer: Koei Tecmo
Publisher: Koei Tecmo
Available At: Steam

The best thing that can be said about Berserk and the Band of the Hawk is that it is a rather excellent gateway into the 28 year old Berserk manga series, thanks to the two or so hours of anime and CG cutscenes detailing some of the most important events in the life of Berserk protagonist, Guts. You see him transform from a homicidally angry teenage mercenary driven by rage and bloodlust, to a homicidally angry adult driven by rage and revenge. That may not seem like a particularly huge difference, but compared to how the action in the game progresses, it’s a radical transformation.

Berserk is a series almost ideally suited to being included in the Omega Force stable of games. In everything but look, Guts is the type of character you see in the Dynasty Warriors series - a phenomenally powerful warrior capable of cutting his way through waves of enemies with ease and dispatching a dozen or more foes with a single swipe of his sword. Unfortunately Dynasty Warriors has something that is sadly lacking from Berserk - variety. Without any multiplayer available, players of Berserk are limited to three modes - a 46 mission story mode, a free mode that allows people to play through already completed story missions with new characters, and an endurance mode in which players can take any character through a 100 level dungeon. 

Of the 46 story missions, only five feature a character other than Guts. With so little variation as to how battles play out, things become very dull, and remarkably easy, very fast. Given the fact that players can only use unlocked characters in a repetitive and draining endurance mode, or to play through story missions you’ve already completed detracts from the appeal of playing them beyond their single chapter. Combat is adequate but uninspired, especially given how good the last two Omega Force, non Dynasty Warriors games have been. There is some satisfaction to be had charging up and using a massive execution move capable of killing every enemy in range, but after the 50th time you’ve reduced every enemy to glowing balls it begins to lose its charm. By the time the 500th time rolls around you’re barely even aware it has happened.

Missions are broken into three types but with the exception of a few novel boss battles (including the best against Nosferatu Zodd, a battle made interesting due to its one-on-one nature), all feel the same, the major difference being the interstitial cutscenes. The best mechanic of the Dynasty Warrior series, region dominance, plays such a small role that it’s debatable whether it’s there at all. 

Aside from the cutscenes either taken from the excellent Golden Age anime film trilogy, and the interesting CG cutscenes that add depth to Guts’ story, there isn’t a whole heap to recommend Berserk and the Band of the Hawk. It’s linear, repetitive, and nothing more than adequate. A few of the interstitial bits are also kind of rapey as well. 

4 10
Verdict
When the best parts of a game are the parts that aren’t the game, something is wrong.
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