Ahhhhh Berserk. While I don't watch/read to much anime/manga anymore Berserk is the exception. It is my favourite and while not one I would recommend to most if your not turned by more graphics things like people being disembowled, rape and the main character being set on fire and putting themself out by tearing a cocoon containing a child being transformed into a demon and using said transforming child and the stuff within it to put himself out. Yeah Berserk is graphic. Still it has had a few games with one being on the dreamcast which was okay, a PS2 game which came out in Japan only and now Berserk Band of the Hawk done by Koei and based off the warriors series. Well as a warriors fan and a Berserk fan this should be a great game for me... mmmmmm.
So Berserk and the Band of the Hawk is based off the warriors game series but does have some tweaks. The main game play is the same you have basic attacks, charge attacks and a musou gauge though here it is called the frenzy gauge. You will also have to deal with a crap ton of enemies though most are cannon fodder and it's only the generals and story characters you will have to worry about.
Now Berserk does add a couple of unique things to the formula the first being death blow. Now this is used during the frenzy state where as you cut down enemies your death blow gauge fills. Once done you can use it to unleash a devastating area of effect attack that basically one shots most things bar bosses and also where the violence comes in as arms, heads, torso's going flying all over the place. Yeah the violence is kind of turned down a bit here with frenzy and death blow being the only play it really shows. Kind of weird cutting down several people with Dragonslayer and they just flop over. The other is sub weapons. These are items you can use while in batte that have a cooldown but are generally useful and vary from character to character and even from costume to costume. Lets take Guts early on while in the Band of the Hawk he has throwing knives but as the story progresses he gets his crossbow and cannon arm, then explosives etc etc. These are quite useful and help out in certain things like the cannon being excellent crowd control. Each character has their own unique weapons though some are shared like throwing knives.
Now as for characters there... aren't to many. The characters you can play are Guts from his mercenary days up to getting the berserker armour, Griffith with his Band of the Hawk and Femto form, Casca, Judeau, Zodd, Wyald, Serpico and Schrieke. Yeah not to many characters compared to others however they all feel unique and play totally differently with even the different costumes for Guts and Griffith have slight variations which is really nice. However I have one complaint. That is the Skeleton Knight a quite prominent character who is in game as a NPC isn't playable... but Wyald a completely minor character is. What the hell. Yeah this a weird choice and is something that bugs me but oh well. Still most other characters show up as NPC's so they are there just not playable.
Now onto the game modes. There are 3 story, free mode and endless eclipse. Story basically follows Guts from where he started as a lone mercenary and goes all the through to the end of the Falcon of the Millenium Arc. This is pretty good and the story is well told so if you don't actually know anything about Berserk it does a great job of telling the story. However story has a couple of problems. The first is the cutscenes which for the Band of the Hawk arc are all taken from the last 3 Berserk films and they fit in well. However once it gets past that arc it just uses in game cutscenes as the anime has only just started again last year so there wern't any. This a little annoying and makes me think they should have just stuck with in game only. Still the other problem is Guts. So playing Guts is enjoyable. Playing Guts over, and over, and over, and over... gets a little boring. Yeah as the story mode basically follows Guts journey he is person you will play for bar 6 missions... out of 46. 40 missions just playing Guts. Suffice to say I got a little bored of just playing Guts after about half way so yeah this is something to keep in mind. It also doesn't help that bar major story events like the Eclipse, Battle of Doldrey etc most maps are reused in some way which again doesn't help. Granted they may only used certain parts of it but yeah again not great.
However one thing it does really well is the Apostles. There are quite a few in game and they are challenging. Most human sized enemies you encounter are fairly easy to beat and bar a couple will be fairly simple. Apostles on the other hand are different and very challenging. This comes down to most of your attacks... they don't give a crap about and will keep coming at you and their attacks hurt a lot. This means you have to think carefully how to fight them by either using the arena to your advantage. The only exception to this is if you play Zodd/Wyald and transform into there apostle forms. In that case it basically becomes a punch the other one dead first. Kind of a shame.
As for the other modes Free mode is the usual play a story mission but with anyone. Yeah nothing new here.
Endless Eclipse is the unique mode to this one and is basically a 100 floor tower that gets harder and harder with each floor. Now whats interesting is the tower has 100 floors to be completed by each character. So Guts has his own tower, as does Zodd and so on and so forth. Now they all the function the same it just means that you will unlock more costumes or other stuff for the characters as you complete them. As for the tower itself every 5 levels you will be given a mission. This missions will basically determine what enemies you will fight, who will help you out and what reward you will get. Some are generic like helping Midland beat Chudah but their are some special ones like helping Zodd find a worthy opponent where he will fight alongside you for 4 levels and then on the last decide your the worthy opponent and take you on. Each level is short taking a few minutes each but I feel this is the right choice for it without it feeling like a grind. Still not all characters and levels are unlocked right at the start of it and have to be unlocked in story mode with more floors being done every time you complete a major story arc. Wyald is the exception as you unlock him playing endless eclipse... making me question him being playable even more.
Yeah that's it gameplay wise what about other things?
Well I own the Steam version but no noticeable performance problems with it running fine however it does have a problem with Xbox One controllers where it doesn't register the RT button. This is something Koei needs to fix with their PC ports as other games have had similar things but thankfully it can be rebound to select but is annoying as its used for transformations.
Sound well only Japanese Voice Actors which is a slight pain here as there is a quite a bit of dialogue in battle and it's hard to focus on it while cutting down waves of enemies so if you don't know the story can be quite easy to lose track. Music is okay don't really remember much of it other then Forces is not in which greatly dissapointed me. Still Dragonslayer and the other weapons sound and feel like they should which is very nice.
As for other stuff there are gallery options you can unlock by collecting Behelits by completing objectives in story mode or finding hidden Apostles in Endless Eclipse but that is really it.
So overall would I recommend it? As a fan of the Warrior series. As a fan of the Berserk series. I would say... not at it's current price. Really Berserk and the Band of the Hawk is... okay. Story mode is... okay, the characters are... okay, Endless Eclipse is... okay. While the game is okay... there is nothing special about it. It is bones of Berserk game and the bones of Warriors game but it's missing the things need to flesh it out.
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