A Berserk game that inspires less anger and more boredom.
Omega Force’s “Warriors” games get a bad rap from the larger gaming community, really. Take it from someone who has now played at least some entry of most branches of the series, that there is a bit more going on besides mashing X to win.
Dynasty and Samurai Warriors can bring you into versions of historical skirmishes that decided the fates of nations. Warriors Orochi brings those figures into a more fantastical conflict with terrible demons. Bringing these chaotic war zones to life brings with it elements of territory control and hectic balancing of defending multiple fronts.
" I’ve spent quite a bit of time with the oft-derided Musou series, and while the cheap high of the power trip it offers isn’t stripped away, the Berserk name is little more than a skin on an otherwise barebones Warriors title."
Hyrule Warriors was really a fantastic game. Taking the usually slower paced Zelda franchise, and recontextualizing those many years of adventures and childhood characters into something completely new. It couldn’t have been easy bringing it to life in a way that it both fit into the Warriors mold and considered the legacy of the source material with the same kind of reverence that they show other asian mythologies in their Samurai Warriors and Dynasty Warriors series.
Of course though, this is supposed to be a review about Berserk, so why spend all this time on the history lesson? It helps put Berserk a bit more into context. Perhaps you consider the turn of phrase “The secret ingredient is love” to be a little trite, but that is precisely what bubbled to mind during my time with Berserk and the Band of the Hawk. I’ve spent quite a bit of time with the oft-derided Musou series, and while the cheap high of the power trip it offers isn’t stripped away, the Berserk name is little more than a skin on an otherwise barebones Warriors title.
The power fantasy that gets fulfilled by striking down 15 foes with a single swing of your massive sword should fit right into the Berserk universe, with powerful mercenaries fighting for the highest bidder. The protagonist Guts, nearly superhuman due to his training is loathe to become beholden to anybody. Guts is soon inducted by force into the Band of the Hawk, led by Griffith.
"The dark and oppressive world of Berserk has deserved a game for a long time, inspiring titles like Dark Souls. However, Omega Force chooses to lift those moments from the anime instead of gives us the tools to live them."
The beginnings of the saga get retold pretty faithfully, if melodramatically even for the source material, either recreated in engine or cutscenes styled from the anime. It allows the game to serve as an introduction to the source material, even if one of the more long-winded and tedious ones.
Unlike other crossover Musou like Hyrule Warriors that came across as true labours of love, however, Berserk settles for these surface level connections and keeping relative pace with the plot of the anime as enough. Mechanically the game does nothing to connect it to the source material and put you in the boots of Guts of the cast, aside from a cheap “rage” frenzy meter with accompanying “Death Blow”. The dark and oppressive world of Berserk has deserved a game for a long time, inspiring titles like Dark Souls. However, Omega Force chooses to lift those moments from the anime instead of gives us the tools to live them.
Beneath the tenuous skin of the source material, Berserk and the Band of the Hawk really does very little to distinguish itself, and the moment to moment gameplay is the worst that the genre has to offer. Where most Musou games have some sort of extra gimmick or scope that keep things interesting, such as Samurai Warriors and the two character gameplay, or Hyrule Warriors and their huge maps exploding with objectives, Berserk just feels phoned in by comparison.
"The typical Warriors combat system might thematically mirror Guts’ brutal fighting style, but in practice it grows repetitive far faster than any other game in the series. "
Maps in Berserk are far more limited, sometimes taking place within singular small fields instead of the sprawling environments these games usually have. Overarching objectives generally remain static throughout a mission. The situations may change, but the moment to moment gameplay remains rather banal. The typical Warriors combat system might thematically mirror Guts’ brutal fighting style, but in practice it grows repetitive far faster than any other game in the series.
Many missions can take place in what amounts to literal corridors, removing any element of territory management from the game as the fodder enemies are filed in as the plot demands them, asking you to push ahead or in most cases sit and defend a point. In the more open maps, the situation again may change but the reply to it never really will.
Defeat the captains to open the path for the siege tower, destroy the catapults and guard the rear for the retreating allies all sound on paper to be different objectives, yet the same gameplay loop of targeting the biggest guy resolves each situation. Past games would have mixed in surprises or dual objectives to prioritize, when the simple structure of Berserk’s levels frequently don’t allow such nuance.
"Limited maps and lacking mission design pair with basic Warriors series combat to deliver something that neither quite lives up to the Warriors series pedigree, or Berserk legacy."
Even the paltry three modes within the game function about the same, leaving nothing to break the tedium. You have the choice of following the story, free battle where you can follow the story with any of the playable warriors, and Endless Eclipse which thrusts you into a mission based tower mode with even less branches than actual story missions. It’s the most the game mixes up the core ideas, but it still loses to mechanical stagnation.
It’s a shame that Berserk ended up with such a soulless version of genre that could have done something with the source, and a source that so desperately deserved a good title. Limited maps and lacking mission design pair with basic Warriors series combat to deliver something that neither quite lives up to the Warriors series pedigree, or Berserk legacy. Perhaps it serves as an introduction to the series, but it is neither the most exciting introduction nor the most expedient. An easy skip.
This game was reviewed on PlayStation 4.
The deep connections to the anime make it an OK starting point if you wanted to get into the series.
Bad mission design, tiny and limited maps, basic combat even for Musou, all boil down to a simply boring, repetitive game by series standards. Not many modes to mix things up.
Berserk and the Band of the Hawk is the definition of phoned in, as even compared to other Warriors titles the combat is bare and they do little to nothing to mechanically bring you into the world of the game. Limited maps take away the extra juggling the series needs to keep interest and the result is just a pretty boring time.