Berserk and the Band of the Hawk - PlayStation 4 Review

  • System: PlayStation 4, PlayStation 3, PlayStation Vita, Windows
  • Publisher: Koei Tecmo
  • Developer: Omega Force
  • Release Date: October 27, 2016 [JP] | February 21, 2017 [NA] | February 24, 2017 [EU]

Who it Caters to

Berserk and the Band of the Hawk is the highly anticipated title from developer Omega Force and publisher Koei Tecmo, with many licking their fingers and getting ready for the hype. Taking the tried and true formula from the popular Sengoku Musou franchise and throwing Guts and his crew into the fray, you run through levels filled with bloodthirsty demons all trying to prevent you from saving Casca and putting an end to the God Hand’s tyranny.

If you grew up playing Sengoku Musou (Dynasty Warriors in the west) then picking up Berserk and the Band of the Hawk should be a no brainer, especially if you’ve been following the series for some time. With lots of button mashing, along with blood and guts splattering just about everywhere, Berserk and the Band of the Hawk caters to anyone who loves a good hack and slash with the added blend of RPG elements to keep you coming back for more and playing for hours.

What to Expect

As mentioned earlier, Berserk and the Band of the Hawk is nothing more than a hack and slash title with added role-playing elements to provide the player with a variety of options throughout the game. With so much to do such as upgrading items, merging, and just simply kicking a lot of ass, Berserk and the Band of the Hawk serves up a delicious plate of nonstop action with its incredibly powerful story as the extra added goodness.

There’s most certainly a huge amount of hours that you’ll need to put into the game, and similar to Sengoku Musou, you’ll most likely be doing a lot of missions which you’ll need to meet certain requirements in order to beat. We will give you fair warning however that if you’re totally new to the Berserk series, be prepared because there’s a ton of spoilers once you find yourself deeper into the game’s plot. The beginning isn’t so bad because most of it basically explains the origin of the Band of Hawks, and how everything came to be before all hell broke loose.

Berserk Musou OP

Story

Those who keep up with the manga will most likely already know much of the story, but for those who are relatively new to Berserk and have only watched the most recent anime, the game will actually provide you with a prologue which begins from the Golden Age Arc all the way up until the more recent Hawk of the Millennium Empire arc. After the Golden Age Arc, however, are major spoilers so just be warned if you’re looking forward to the second season or haven’t read much of the manga.

Berserk is about Guts, whose life came tumbling down after a serious turn of events leads him down a dark path, his close friend betraying him, and his love taken hostage by an extremely sinister group. Now Guts must use all that he’s got in his arsenal to put an end to all of the misery and save Casca before it’s too late.

Gameplay

Introduction - Story Mode | Combo System

The story mode is where you’ll more than likely be starting off in the game, as it’s the only playable option that will be available once you turn the game on. As you progress through the story, two of the other modes, Endless Eclipse Mode and Free Mode, will be unlocked. As with most musou titles, a lot of the meat and bones of the entire game are all found in the story mode and this is where you’ll be able to unlock more characters, upgrade your items, and take part in various missions that you’ll need to complete in order to progress.

Story mode starts off with a prologue which takes you back all the way to the Golden Age Arc where the kingdom is in shambles, and Guts is about to be introduced to the Band of Hawks. For those who’ve watched the Berserk movies, this earlier part of the game will be more of a refresher and what’s fantastic about it is that a lot of footage was taken directly from the movie to provide a much more enriching experience while playing.

The story mode is broken down into arcs similar to the series, so you’ll encounter a lot of familiar faces along the way and some new ones during the later arcs. You can also use other characters from the story as you unlock them, so you don’t just have to use Guts but you can choose from the majority of the cast once they’re available. Each character comes with their own unique playstyle such as Griffith’s very agile and swift maneuvering, Casca’s wicked swordplay, along with Schierke’s powerful magic spells and so the world is yours in terms of how you want to approach the game going forward.

Attacking in the game is very simple as it follows a sequence of buttons that the player presses, which unleash certain combos and enders. One example is pressing square 4x then follow up with triangle to create a new combo, then if you wanted to get real fancy you can dash cancel out of your ender and continue linking into bigger more damaging combos. You can also equip small sub-weapons such as knives to throw at the enemy for extra damage.

Hacking and Slashing your way through everything is what you’ll be doing most of the time, but you’ll need to be paying close attention to your objectives as they often tell you where you need to go on the map and provide you with Behelits which you collect once you meet the specific requirements.

Behelit? What Do They Do?

Behelits are eggs that come with a set of human features that are scattered across its surface, giving them a pretty creepy appearance. In Berserk and the Band of the Hawk they play a major role as you’ll need to collect them by completely clearing missions, and the more you collect they unlock parts of a puzzle that will eventually reveal itself once you manage to collect them all. There are a variety of colors such as green, blue, red, and purple, which all have their own puzzle that you’ll need to complete as you progress further into the game. If you don’t clear missions entirely, a greyish Behelit will appear next to your mission but of course, with any musou title you can simply go back and retry until you complete it all.

Berserk Mode | Flame Meter

As you take out your opponents one by one, your Berserk meter will rise the bigger your combos are and will allow you to pull off a massive killer blow that completely decimates the enemy, leaving a trail of blood everywhere. The Berserk meter is indicated by the purple bar just below your green health bar, and next to the meter is the number one. The number represents the power level, so the higher the number the more damaging Guts becomes, and also the faster your flame meter builds. As you attack enemies the gauge will gradually increase, with your special enders adding more to it.

The flame meter plays an integral role in overcoming the swarm of enemies because once Guts is in Berserk Mode, he becomes a beast and so once the flame meter reaches max, pressing the [O] button will unleash his most powerful attack, swinging his sword and wiping everyone out who stands in his way leaving a bloody trail behind. This is what truly brings the game to life because every time you power up to max you just get so pumped up, as you watch the quick cinematic of him destroying everything and blood dispersed everywhere.

New tactics will then need to be considered once you start fighting Apostles and bigger enemies so knowing how to build meter will be essential but also having the right items equipped is the most important. Each character as well comes with their own perks, so coming to understand them will be important later in the game.

Talk Events | Equipping Items | Enhancing | Merging

Throughout the story, you’ll slowly unlock events known as talk events, which pretty much provide you with extra bits pertaining to the story and help guide you along the way if you’re perhaps new to everything. There’s no extra bonus for these events, they’re simply just added dialogue that you can listen to and pick up some extra tidbits to keep you up to date. As you slash your way through the story, you’re always greeted with wonderful animated cinematics of the footage directly taken from the anime that really just keep you glued to the screen at all times. After completing missions you’ll receive items which range from gemstones, rings, necklaces, orbs, and flags, all of which help to boost your health, attack power, defensive ability, and technique.

Equipping the items is very simple as all you need to do is choose the one that feels best and adds it to the slot. You’ll also be able to equip horses along the way too, which have their own perks pertaining to speed and travel. Equipping an item, however, is just part of the puzzle as you’ll need to enhance these items to further boost your abilities and take down the enemy a lot faster over time.

To enhance your items, simply go to the [Shop] option then [Enhance] and from there you’ll see a list of the gemstones you’ve collected, all of which have their own buffs in terms of boosting specific abilities such as attack. This is where the RPG element kicks in because choosing which ability to boost more is simply down to personal preference, and can wield different results depending on your style of approach. You can also buy these items in the shop itself if you feel you need to do more upgrading, and don’t want to depend on the mission drops for everything.

Merging is another option in the game that allows you to combine various items to create a much more powerful one. Once you complete a certain mission in the story, the merging option will become available so it’s encouraged you grind your way through if you want to take advantage of this. More options will become available over time so we encourage you to play through to see what lies in store!

Free Mode

While the story mode is where you’ll be spending most of your time, Free Mode allows you to go back to the levels which you completed and just have a good ole’ time tearing your enemy to pieces without having to worry about any requirements. As you play through the story mode you’ll unlock more characters which can then be used in the free mode to just have fun with and pass the time.

Endless Eclipse Mode

Eclipse Mode is the equivalent of Sengoku Musou’s endless mode, where you’re given a series of events to choose from all of which take place in different arcs from the story. You can select from desires, which are essentially your missions and along the side are your requirements that need to be reached in order to collect Behelit. As you progress through each chapter of the mission, you’ll come across more enemies with the final chapter almost always being the boss of that particular mission. One thing to note is that all of your progress from the story mode, pertaining to your skills, are all taken into account and can be used while playing in Endless Eclipse Mode. You can also obtain better items in this mode also which you can then take back with you to story mode and wreak, even more, havoc.

The whole point of Endless Eclipse Mode is a test to see just how much you can handle, and how far you can go without quitting while collecting as many purple Behelits as possible to add to your collection. There’s a ton of action in this mode so we encourage you to try and rage mode your way through to gather more rare goods. A heads up, though, if you back out during your progress you’ll have to start right back at chapter 1 again. You won’t lose any of the items you’ve earned, but you’ll just have to climb your way back up which can take some time. There’s tons of replay value in Endless Eclipse Mode so be sure to make good use of it to level up your characters and buff whatever skills you can.

Honey's Gameplay Consensus:

The PlayStation 4 version which we managed to use for this review pretty much ignores all of the hiccups from our Japanese Vita version, and totally blows everything out of the water pertaining to overall performance, visuals, and framerate. We didn’t try it on a PS4 Pro, but we imagine that with the upcoming 4.50 firmware update with boost mode, Guts will look a lot more badass this time around. The story mode will certainly keep you occupied for some time, especially when trying to collect all of the Behelit and taking part in the harder difficulties. Endless Eclipse Mode will surely be backbreaking for some, but once you continue to invest more time into it you start to realize just how amazing and rewarding it truly is.

Honey's Pros:

  • Extremely fun and rewarding experience for anyone to musou, new or veteran.
  • Hours upon hours of gameplay.
  • Blood, guts, and action!
  • Beautiful cutscenes that explain the story in superb detail.
  • Organized layout.
  • Retains all of the same voice acting from the anime!

Honey's Cons:

  • Poor camera function during battles.
  • Sound clipping issues on the Vita version.
  • Texture mapping seemed off in some areas.
  • Small bugs pertaining to attacking but nothing game breaking.

Honey's Final Verdict:

With so many hours poured into the game and still so much more to complete in Endless Eclipse Mode, the Berserk franchise is a perfect match for the musou environment because it truly feels like you’re watching the anime but you’re controlling everything as it happens. It’s immersive experience really brought out the tension during battles, and it’s rich dialogue kept us coming back for more every time. Don’t ignore this game because you’ll be missing out on a ton of crazy over the top action, and endless gameplay.

As always for all things sweet, with all the buzzing news straight from Japan, be sure to keep it locked here on Honey’s Anime.

Rob

Editor/Writer

Author: Rob "NualphaJPN" B.

100% Vegan. A passionate fan of gaming, writing, journalism, anime, and philosophy. I've lived in Japan for many years and consider this place to be my permanent home. I love to travel around Japan and learn about the history and culture! Leave a comment if you enjoy my articles and join me on Discord! Take care!

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