Berserk and the Band of the Hawk


How many issues can a man ignore? Before you call him a fan?

I’ll begrudgingly waste my introduction on what ‘Berserk’ and ‘Musou’ things are. So don’t be afraid to skip ahead to the review. I’m going to make this as boring as humanly possible, you deserve it.

Musou is the title given to the Dynasty Warrior games and their many, many spin-offs. You take control of a powerful individual slicing through hundreds of soldiers to carry out objectives on a teeming battlefield. Nice. Sometimes you’re charged with dicing a particular enemy, or the most dreaded of missions in which you protect an idiot AI. Damn your eyes escort missions! These games are closely related to the side-scrolling beat em up of yesteryear. Mindlessly therapeutic. Not for everyone.

Berserk is a grim 1988 manga adapted to every other medium known to man, and is a direct inspiration for things you might already love. I’m pretty confident few people are reading this review without a passing knowledge of the source material; which begs the question, why are you reading this intro? I told you, this is for those without any knowledge of Berserk. Are you mocking me? Oh yes, it’s a big laugh for you isn’t it. ‘Look at him, wasting his time, explaining the things we already know’. Shall I dance now? Dance for your entertainment.

Sigh, anyway. Berserk tells the story of Guts the lone mercenary, and his sexy friendship with another man, and his mercenary group the Band of the Hawk. I’d suggest any newcomers watch the 2012 films, or original 1997 series. The game does a terrible job at digging into the story.

I’m tired now, and that was pretty boring. I’ll finish this tomorrow.


Hey now. Smack.

Our hero Guts is an unstoppable juggernaut, merrily carving his way through his happy-go-lucky adventure in the fantasy medieval world of Berserk. In theory this suits the Dynasty Warriors engine, as you’ll regularly introduce a gigantic sword to several hundred blokes. Epic battles and cunning tactical gambits permeate throughout the story, unfortunately no-one bothered to replicate this in game.

There are few cunning moments, no real surprises, nor different ways to complete an objective. You go from one point to another, slaughter a general, flick the hair from your eyes, and before you can pout it’s mission complete. Despite having the capacity to provide epic battles, they feel limp, small and lifeless. Yes, every now and then the missions try to mix it up a lil’ and you will come across situations, or bosses, but they rarely provide the excitement expected. The game seems more concerned in showing you the grand story…

How to do the combats in a Dynasty Warriors game? – You mash the hit people button, and if you’re feeling fruity, can mix it up by hitting the hit people even harder button. A tiny gauge builds up to enable you to smack people in a powered-up state. Hazzah! Whilst in this mode you charge another bloody gauge to unleash a screen-clearing bastard attack, thus being the best at murder. Hooray! a selection of sub-weapons are usable, and are only useful for bosses, or if you tire of swinging a sword.

… as the game re-uses clips from the 2012 feature films. An excellent way to save money, up until they run out of film footage. From that point they clearly struggle to muster an adequate replacement. Playing this game would be the worst way for a newcomer to experience the world of Berserk.

Berserk 1

Hey now. Ka-pow!

Concentrating on Guts story removes the need for a large roster and provides an excuse not provide a two player experience. The optimum way to play any of these games. Whilst you’re offered the chance to select one of 7 characters, the story mode ensures most, if not all, fun-time characters are locked away. When you do get your hands on them, they are a treat as their styles differ, and these moments break any creeping tedium. Unfortunately you cannot change their iconic weapons, or even pick different outfits, unless you revisit the battle or enter endless battle mode. I did not want to revisit any battles at all. All of this nullifies the strengths of your traditional Musou game. With Dynasty Warriors you can change things up with different generals, and weapons. You can pick three different kingdoms with stories for each general and much, much more!  Berserk seems like a missed opportunity, as we’d love to take to the battlefield as Pippin; or even entertain the idea of fantasy by telling the story from a different perspective. You know what I’m talking about, wink, wink.


“Hey now”.

So how did I manage to invest 13 hours into its completion?

Sometimes it’s the little things. Like the sound of a giant sword cutting through the rank and file. The snippets of dialogue before battle. The base simplicity of the on-screen slaughter; albeit at a reduce rate closer to the end of my journey. The need to see the journey through to its conclusion, even if you already know it. It’s like an illness.

Talking of on screen slaughter, we should talk about the graphics. It’s passable, fluid and fast, capable of rendering lots of on-screen action. The downside to this is that it gets too busy. With the special effects and crappy camerawork there are times where you can’t see a bloody thing. The dialogues not translated, which is fine as I don’t mind subtitles. Oh, unless it’s barely legible and displayed at chaotic times… which is all the time! They shouldn’t have bothered. The maps are mostly uninspired, dull and ugly. Of course, there are exceptions to this rule, as a couple of maps ‘nail it’.

Base commanders are a redundant leftover of the Dynasty Warriors games. They are there, because the other games have them. You take over these points of the map for no real reason, other than to collect shiny items.

I’ve encountered annoyances, such as bosses trapping me in corners, the camera giving up and showing me the inside of gut’s Guts and the dreaded death spiral of infinitive hits. You’ll rarely die in this game, but fear your greatest enemy in these games.



Hey now, I can’t get past this pebble. Wait, this is still a thing in level design?

For the discerning Berserk fan there is a joy in getting to the final story arcs, as they go beyond the animated tales. Guts accrues further abilities that maintains interest for those already invested in the story. Whilst the boss battles are mostly terrible, again, they work for those that know the characters involved. Whilst this makes for a poor game, it does allow for some excellent fan service.


How now?

Only a few times at the beginning and end do you glimpse it. The sprawling battlefield, the chaos of war. The potential. Especially in the later stages were it all comes together in a dynamic fluid environment. Dashing from one issue to the next, taking on powerful units.  Aiding your allies, juggling responsibility and maximising the slaughter.

If only they’d cut down on the empty padding. I’m sure many will abandon the mid-game as it takes an awful dip. They could have halved the 46-odd missions to concentrate on the grand exciting battles. Maybe taken some risks with the story? Maybe have the AI teammates do more than beg for help? Throw in some random elements? Chuck in more than the bare minimum? Narrow the focus to what makes a great game, rather than concentrating much story can we cram in. To create a game for everyone, not just the fans.

Berserk and the Band of the Hawk had the potential to provide so much more than fan service.

6A game that ignores the strengths offered by the Musou engine.

Fans of Berserk will get something from this. For others looking for simple brawling pleasures, it would be wise to seek out the superior Hyrule Warriors.