General game information
Game name: Berserk And The Band Of The Hawk
Release date: February 21, 2017
Price: US$ 59.99
Genre: Third person action game
Developer: Omega Force
Publisher: Koei Tecmo Games
Berserk And The Band Of The Hawk is Omega Force‘s latest musou adaptation of a popular media franchise, and it’s probably one of their best efforts to date, thanks to the extraordinary quality of the source material and the way the company’s “one versus thousands” design fits the manga’s depiction of the hero’s swordfighting prowess.
The first third of the game follows the “Golden Age” story arc, and it features high quality anime cutscenes that work perfectly as a way of easing newcomers into the world of Berserk. Sadly, since only the Golden Age arc has received an up to date official anime adaptation, these cutscenes give way to CGI once the first third of the game ends, something that I personally found a bit jarring. The narrative is easy to follow, and even players with no previous knowledge of the manga shouldn’t have any problems keeping up with the story arcs featured here. It’s important to note that all the voiced segments are in Japanese, and the actors did a truly exceptional job, bringing their characters to life in a way that elevates this particular musou over older titles that relied on English dubs. Some people may dislike the fact that they must read subtitles mid battle, but I didn’t have any problems following the plot.
As expected, Berserk and The Band Of The Hawk‘s gameplay is very similar to Omega Force‘s Warriors series, with our playable character facing hundreds of weaker opponents and fighting moderately powerful officer units from time to time. During the Story mode we’ll usually play as Guts, an incredibly strong warrior who wields a powerful greatsword and different sub weapons that can be activated in order to gain an edge during particularly heated battles. Our heroes’ main horizontal slashing attacks can be used to start combos, and their charging (or heavy) blows may be combined with normal attacks in order to create powerful finishing moves. A character growth system is also in place, letting us learn more advanced combos, and gain helpful boosts to four different stats (Vitality, Attack, Defense, Technique) which may also be further upgraded through the use of accessories that can be found after defeating key enemies or completing specific objectives.
In place of the usual Musou gauge we can find a Frenzy meter, which can be filled up by attacking enemy forces or using special items. After triggering Frenzy mode, characters under our control will hit harder, killing weak foes in just one hit, and will also fill up another meter, the Death Blow gauge. We can use this special attack to decimate scores of enemies in just one hit, obliterating most non-boss combatants in one fell swoop. Frenzy mode can be used as many times as we can fill the bar during each battle, and it can also level up, becoming even more powerful as we use it. Berserk fans hoping for gory combat will be happy to learn that using Frenzy mode lets us dismember enemies, and our character will quickly be covered in their foes’ blood.
As the game progresses, we will also unlock new costumes (which come equipped with sub-weapons) as well as a number of accessories, consumable items and different horses. Up to three accessories can be equipped at the same time, and we may use them to increase our characters’ stats (Vitality, Attack, Defense and Technique) or add new skills. Since our heroes’ weapons can’t be changed (for lore related reasons) these accessories will be extremely important if we want to succeed in harder difficulties. After a certain point in the story we’ll be able to upgrade accessories using materials found in the battlefield, and later on, we may even mix several items in order to upgrade our favorites with skills found in trinkets that weren’t in use at the moment.
Aside from the usual “one versus hundreds” gameplay style, we will also come face to face with boss characters in both closed 1vs1 arenas and larger battlefields that also include weak mobs. These powerful foes come in all sizes, will withstand Death Blow attacks, can use Frenzy mode, and may even transform into bigger versions of themselves mid fight (not unlike the bosses found in Souls games). I’m not entirely sold on the way boss fights work in Berserk and The Band Of The Hawk, since some encounters may quickly become frustrating wars of attrition against enemies who abuse special attacks or seemingly broken hitboxes, but I welcomed the extra challenge after hours of slashing through less worthy opponents.
Most battles also feature side objectives that can be tackled in order to unlock Gallery items, and they may range from escort quests (which are far better than the ones featured in the Attack on Titan game, thankfully) to defeating a specific number of enemies before a timer runs out, vanquishing a boss before they transform, or helping party members in need.
Beating stages lets us replay them in a Free Mode, using any character we may have unlocked so far (there are eight playable characters, each with their own moveset, characteristic weapon and array of sub-weapons) A roguelike inspired mode called the Endless Eclipse is also available, offering specific objectives for every character and featuring an impressive number of floors to be conquered, though aspiring masters of this mode should know that death will reset their floor progress unless they reach specific checkpoints (and that the same boss fights present in the Story mode also make an appearance here) Achieving certain milestones will not only reward us with the chance to start this mode from more advanced floors, but also with new characters, horses and costumes which can be used in the Free Mode as well (character levels are also shared in all the playable modes).
As it is usually the case with Omega Force’s titles, Berserk and The Band Of The Hawk will not win any awards on the tech department if we focus on texture quality and polycounts (though the character models are exquisitely detailed and always stay true to the source material) but the sheer number of enemies on screen more than makes up for the game’s graphical shortcomings. Performance wasn’t an issue on my computer, something that was a relief after experiencing Toukiden: Kiwami‘s PC port, and the title’s gamepad controls work perfectly. I wouldn’t recommend using a keyboard, however, as the game doesn’t support mouse input, so players using this control scheme will have a hard time adjusting the camera, for example.
To conclude, Berserk and The Band Of The Hawk is one of the best musou titles to date, offering tons of quality content, a well told story and fun gameplay that will enthrall fans of the franchise and newcomers alike.
8.5/10 – Great.