Review: Berserk and the Band of the Hawk (PS4)

Formats:

  • PlayStation 4
  • PlayStation 3
  • PlayStation Vita
  • PC

Format/Hardware Used:

  • PSN Download
  • PS4
  • HDTV

Extras:

  • DualShock 4 Required (1)
  • Move None
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Title: Berserk and the Band of the Hawk
Format: Blu-ray Disc / PSN (21.31 GB)
Release Date: February 21, 2017
Publisher: Koei Tecmo
Developer: Omega Force
Original MSRP: $59.99
ESRB Rating: M
PEGI: 18
A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review purposes.
PS Nation Review Policy

Gameplay:
If there is one manga/anime franchise that was made for a video game adaption it is Berserk, a long running manga filled with intense violence and a deep lore that if done right could be amazing.

While there have been previous adaptations, it’s been quite some time since the last attempt and it feels like a good time for this franchise to return to gaming.

Berserk follows the story of Guts, a loner mercenary who is gifted in combat. As a young man he crosses path with the ambitious Band of the Hawk leader, Griffith who defeats a young Guts and forces him to be part of his army.

Reluctant and without much choice, Guts joins the Band of the Hawk and over time becomes a devout follower of Griffith. Under Griffith’s leadership and behind Guts’ sword, they plow through whatever foes challenge them.

I’m quite impressed on how much is covered here. The story goes far beyond The Golden Age arc, which is probably the most covered having an anime and film trilogy. The story uses the recent animated film adaptation for cutscenes until it runs through all three films and has to transition to in-engine cutscenes for the the last third of the campaign.

As for mechanics, it’s a Dynasty Warriors clone, and a very light one at that. You control Guts primarily with a light and heavy attack while later gaining an ability for projectile attacks. There is no deep upgrade system which is unfortunate because after a couple of hours it starts to feel repetitive.

… it loses its appeal after a while …
You slash through waves and waves of enemies like you’d expect from this type of game and while the combat is cool it lacks depth and challenge. Guts is a mighty character to control and while you feel unstoppable while playing him, it can become stale.

Slicing and dicing hundreds, and sometimes thousands, of enemies in a mission is fun, but it loses its appeal after a while. You can control some of the side characters to replay missions which does add some replayability, but there isn’t much incentive to do so outside of playing someone else.

Beyond the somewhat lengthy campaign, there’s an Eclipse Mode which is pretty much horde mode style scenarios. The whole game is a horde mode to be honest as each level you’ll battle waves and waves until the mission is over.

In Eclipse Mode you battle demons and other monsterly creatures and dig deeper into the underworld to reveal a little more about your character. I didn’t find much reason to dive into this mode because the mechanics are too simple and repetitive and it does little to nothing to change things up.

… The engine is rather bland looking outside of the cutscenes …
Visuals:
Using the recent film trilogy for the cutscenes works tremendously well as they are beautiful. I went into the game with little to no knowledge of the franchise so I was delighted with the story, up to a point, and the wonderful animation is the main reason why.

I learned though after a couple hours that the game’s story goes far beyond the movies and all the beautiful animation becomes farther and fewer between until they’re pretty much all gone after a point. Once the films are wrapped the remainder of the story is told through in-game cutscenes which feels like a drop in quality to say the least.

This is honestly something I had an issue with. The engine is rather bland looking outside of the cutscenes. In them we’re treated to beautiful animation with bright colors while the actual game features backgrounds with a color palette that is mostly red, brown, and black.

It’s a sharp turn going from movie to gameplay and when the movie is over you’re just left with the engine for storytelling. As I continued I became less and less interested in the story due to the transition of the format.

… I never felt challenged and there aren’t many attempts to change things up …
Audio:
Voice work is in its native Japanese and I prefer it that way. When I watch anime, I fall in the subtitles camp in the fanboy war of Sub vs. Dub. Overall the acting is solid and not too over acted as I expect from most anime related things.

The soundtrack is decent though nothing’s truly memorable from what I recall. It features background music that never tries to be much more than what it is, background music. I remember swords slashing and enemies screaming more than anything else and for a violent title like this, it feels right.

Online/Multiplayer:
This game is singleplayer only with no online component.

Conclusion:
For fans of Berserk this might be worth checking out for the story aspect, but don’t expect a thrilling gaming experience.

The combat is rather weak for a Dynasty Warriors variant because it lacks any meaningful depth. From the start, the game puts players in the boots of a powerful character and it never really grows beyond that.

I never felt challenged and there aren’t many attempts to change things up throughout the course of the game. I still had a lot of fun, I would have just appreciated more depth in the gameplay department.

The only real reason to play through it is to see where the story goes. The manga has been running since 1989 and from what I understand the story goes far beyond what the movies and anime series have covered, which for fans might be a real incentive to play.

I struggled to get through the last third of the game but maybe if I was a big fan beforehand I would have eaten this adaption up. Instead I only had what was presented to go off of and the gameplay is far too simple to give a full recommendation.

Score:
6.0

* All screenshots used in this review were taken directly from the game using the Share functionality on the PlayStation 4.

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