After playing Berserk and the Band of the Hawk at the Koei Tecmo event, and being a fan of the series, I made sure that I was the one to get my hands on the final game – and I have to say I wasn’t disappointed. So like I explained briefly in my previous article, the game follows the story of the popular manga and anime series, starting with the Golden Age Arc and ending with the Falcon of the Millennium Empire Arc. With the return of the Berserk anime the game’s release fits in perfectly with all the hype revolving around the series.
The game’s made up of three main modes, these are Story Mode, Free Mode and the Endless Eclipse Mode. The Story mode allows you to play through the events of the Golden Age Arc all the way up to the Falcon of the Millennium Empire Arc; like all Warrior games you’re given scenarios/missions that are based on the Berserk story. Some levels will have extra conditions that will allow you to obtain things called Behelits that I will cover later on in the review. Most of the missions you’re made to play as Guts which is understandable seeing as the series is from his point of view, though there are a few missions that will allow you to select from the other character that you have available. While playing through the story you will unlocked Events, these are little side stories where you will have the chance to interact with other characters or watch through an event that has happened during the story, they’re not really needed but are a nice little addition if you like character progression and backstory.
Free mode is basically the same as the story but with a few added features. You’re able to play as any character you have unlocked in any of the story missions. For example you can play through the whole game as Nosferatu Zodd or even Serpico (If you have unlocked them). You can also select to play a mission with different character costumes. Like Guts’ Band of the Hawks outfit or Judeau’s Member of the Hawks, Later year outfits, to name a few. You can unlock outfits by meeting certain requirements in the Endless Eclipse or by completing certain story missions.
Finally we have the Endless Eclipse mode. This mode is at its best when you have complete most of the Story mode as more Layers are available for you to play through. It allows you to play as any character you have at your disposal with each one having their own ‘Desires’, completing these will progress you through the Endless Eclipse. Every five layers you are able to select new desires that in turn will help you reach the deepest layers, you can clear the Endless Eclipse by reaching its deepest layer. By progressing through the layers you will unlock some awesome rewards, one of which is the Beast of Darkness outfit for Guts. The real challenge with this mode is that your health and items don’t replenish, unless you help soldiers or characters transporting goods, if you succeed in helping them then they will give you recovery items. You will eventually be able to unlock the ability to start from select layers which is nice because if you die, or leave the mode, you basically lose all your progress and have to start from layer 1 – but if you get to certain layers you will unlock the ability to start from that layer instead of starting from the beginning.
The Gallery is more of a collectible/archive feature, which has a few different things; including a Dictionary, Events (so you can re-watch events from the Story, and partake in a fun Puck mini game, that is if you can find it), Equipment List; that allows you to look at all the different Sub Weapons, Items, accessories and Warhorses. There is also the ability to view characters you have met in the game, you can take a look at their different outfits as well as facial expression images. This is just a nice added bonus as you are able to track how much you have collected, it appeals to players that like collectibles and it adds another reason to replay the game.
So the gameplay for Berserk and the Band of the Hawk is similar to Omega Force’s Warriors series with some new mechanics thrown in. You have square that is your standard attack, triangle which is the charge attack, Cross that is quick step/evade and then L1 for your guarding/blocking. While in combat you are able to lock onto certain enemies (these are bosses or named enemies) by pressing the R3 stick and ride Warhorses, these can be called to you by pressing L2 then pressing cross to mount or by holding L2 to just mount it automatically. I found myself only using the warhorses to get from A to B quicker as the combat while riding the horse didn’t feel right and was very hard to hit enemies… yeah even with Guts’ greatsword. The horse can attack enemies but it’s not the same.
Characters get sub-weapons and item pouches that can be chosen at the beginning of missions. Different characters can use different sub-weapons, for example only Schierke can use the Golems. Using things like throwing knives can immobilise enemies, which in turn can give you the upper hand in battle and so on. You are able to switch between sub-weapons and items mid combat by hitting either up or down on the D-Pad and then Left or Right to select which one you would like to use. Items give you certain buffs or recovery to your health. So make sure you’re selecting the right items before each mission. During missions you will come across random treasure chests that it you hit hard enough will reward you with money or recovery items.
When you kill enemies they can sometimes drop accessories that can be used as buffs when attached to characters. You’re able to sell or buy these accessories from the merchant (only before missions) or use them to enhance and amalgamate accessories to make them stronger and have better stats. Attaching the right accessories to the right character can really help when you’re trying to do the harder story missions or tackling the Endless Eclipse. Enemies can also drop gold which is need for enhancing and amalgamating accessories as well as buying. You can also use money to level up your character, though only to level 30. Each character has the potential of reaching level 99 if you’re willing to put the time and effort into them, which I can see myself doing, also the more you level up characters the better combos you are able to perform.
Right now to talk about Behelits, these are collectables that you can get through Story mode, free mode or Endless Eclipse. You have to meet certain requirements to obtain them and when you have collected them it unlocks an original picture panel that you can view in the gallery. There are 6 pictures in total and a lot of Behelits to find. These are fun to collect and if you don’t manage to get them on your first play through you can always play free mode and use any character to collect them.
The big new feature in this game is the Frenzy Gauge and Transformation mode. The Frenzy Gauge fills up when you are attacking enemies and will go up quicker if you’re pulling off mad combos. Once full you’re able to hit circle and go into Frenzy mode. While in this mode you are strengthened, do more damage and get the added bonus of not losing any vitality (Health). Alongside this you have the Frenzy Level, for every time you fill up the frenzy gauge it adds one to the level, the max level being five depending on your character’s level. The higher the frenzy level the better your combat abilities become when in frenzy mode. But the carnage doesn’t stop there, when in Frenzy mode you have the chance to fill up your Death Blow Gauge, once this is filled you can perform a devastating Death blow attack that is visually pleasing and fits the characters to a T. You fill your death blow gauge by defeating enemies in frenzy mode because they drop things called lost souls. Then we have obliteration, this is where you basically obliterate enemies by either knocking them flying or slicing them apart (which Guts is well known for doing anyway). It’s best to try and obliterate enemies while frenzied because they drop larger souls which in turn fills up your death blow gauge quicker. Once you have filled the Death Blow Gauge you are ready to do some real damage, while still in Frenzy mode and having a full Death Blow Gauge press circle to unleash that devastating attack, but after using this attack if you still have some juice left in your Frenzy gauge you can fill up the bar again and if you’re quick enough you can perform multiple Death Blow attacks. This has made for some very bloody battles and game changers in my play through. Though the animation can get a bit boring after a while but on the plus side I can wipe out 100 plus enemies with one strike. Then we have the transformation mode, if you’re playing as the right character, for example Guts or Griffith, you can transform into a new form where Guts’ will don his Berserker armour and Griffith will transform into his Femto form. This is something that you unlock later on into the game, but really adds to the whole overpowering feeling you get when playing this game and I have to say it suits Berserk perfectly.
After the Golden Age Arc you will unlock a few more playable characters, each one bringing a unique flare to the battlefield. I don’t want to spoil too much about these characters but when playing as Schierke you’re able to use magic!!!
The soundtrack to the game is nice but not really anything memorable. The voice acting is brilliant due to the anime cast members voicing the games characters, though sadly one of the biggest things about this game was its facial motion capture. As exciting as this might sound it has led to some poor cut scene sequences where the facial animation just looks terrible and doesn’t really resemble a PS4 game. I enjoyed being able to watch clips from the Anime movies at certain point in the story mode, but after the Golden Age Arc finished you are left with CGI cut scenes which are good… but not as good as the anime film scenes.
The game from the get go had my full attention, the hack and slash genre that we know from the guys over at Omega Force is a perfect match for the Berserk series. It wouldn’t be wrong saying that this is the Berserk game that fans have been waiting for! Sure, it has a few negatives like the facial animation (being the main one), but it pulls it back with it incredible story line, hours upon hours of hack and slash mayhem and getting to play as the Black Swordsman himself. The Endless Eclipse mode is challenging as well as engaging and the free mode, which allows me to play as some of my favourite characters in the series, is fun too. It is noticeable that it doesn’t have as many characters for you to play as, like in previous Warriors games. Personally it would have been nice to have had the chance to play as Skeleton Knight but who knows, maybe a DLC character? Nevertheless, you still get some amazing gameplay from the roster available. If you’re playing the game on a PC be warned that there are no options for Keyboard and Mouse controls, so you will have to use a controller. Berserk fans, or people wanting to get into the series, should definitely pick up this game as it will be perfect for you. Warriors’ fans will also find love in this game due to its similarities and enjoyable gameplay. From the time that I have put into this game, as well as the many more to come, I’m happy to give Berserk and the Band of the Hawk a well-deserved 9 out of 10.
Berserk and the Band of the Hawk was review on the PlayStation 4, the game is also on PC via Steam