Review — Berserk and the Band of the Hawk

With all the many Berserk references found in games like Dragon’s Dogma and the Souls series, I really hoped for the upcoming game adaptation to be of the same ilk. Wasn’t exactly stoked to learn that it had been given the Dynasty Warriors treatment instead.

Despite my disinclination, there’s no denying that the ‘warriors’ approach was the definitive choice. Afterall, Guts never were one to cower behind a shield, nor is he the type to just perish so easily. Developed by Omega Force —the foremost expert in the hack-n-slash ‘warriors’ genre— they’ve done the series justice. The size of Guts’ hulking Dragon Slayer sword isn’t totally wasted on this title.

You’ll be treated with animated cutscenes of this quality throughout the story.

The game takes you through the Golden Age arc all the way up to the Hawk of the Millenium Empire arc. Fans might rejoice at revisiting Berserk’s most iconic moments but series newcomers are in for a considerably entertaining shortcut to discover and experience the Berserk narrative, despite maybe some slightly altered scenes. The animated sequences are all new, remastering iconic scenes in high-definition. The same kind of 2D/3D technique from the rebooted anime is used here but with considerably better quality —using the 3D part mostly just for populating the screen, leaving all the interesting bits in traditional 2D— enough to make Berserk and The Band of the Hawk a much better alternative to watching the actual reboot. These story intermissions are played before and after each mission, resulting in a steady and consistent story progression.

“Berserk’s simplistic nature eventually begins to feel repetitive…”

From all of Guts’ sub-weapons, the hand cannon is the most useful.

Berserk and the Band of the Hawk is a full-on hack-n-slash. You string together light and heavy attacks, pulling off different moves and filling up your frenzy bar. Activating frenzy increases both your range and damage output as well as allowing you to build up your Death Blow. Filling up your Death Blow gauge allows you to perform a devastating attack that pretty much wipes out anything still standing if any at all. You also have access to sub-weapons and buffs, too, as well as trinkets that can offer significant boosts in a number of ways.

“…the story mode only presents a moderate challenge, even on the highest difficulty.”

This is how the game goes, 99% of the time.I had a heck of a time mindlessly hacking and slashing, cleaving dozens upon dozens of minions at a time and pulling off satisfying deathblows again and again…. and again. As addicting as it is, Berserk’s simplistic nature eventually begins to feel repetitive. Sure, there’s unlockable characters to play around with in free and endless eclipse mode, but for the bulk of the 40+ campaign missions, you’re stuck with the greatsword swinging swordsman.

Thankfully, the story mode only presents a moderate challenge, even on the highest difficulty, with many of the real challenges reserved for free mode and endless eclipse. Character progression is the only real benefit of taking on these challenges, the actual rewards are often more trouble to get than their worth. Each successful mission rewards you with experience and gold, which you could then use to purchase and enhance equipment that significantly affects your characters attributes. A nifty little metagame that is as useful as it is fun to tinker with.

Berserk and The Band of the Hawk offers a hypnotic hack-n-slash experience that rewards players with an engaging story that expertly distracts you from its bare repetitiveness. With its top-notch animated cut scenes, Band of the Hawk serves as an excellent alternative for series newcomers to experience Berserk. BatBotH may not be the definitive game long-time fans have been waiting for, it’s at least an experience that’s just enough to quench their thirst.

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