I’m not going to waste any time here: from what I was able to play at MCM London Comic Con, Berserk and the Band of the Hawk is another Dynasty Warriors-style hack-and-slash game reskinned with a recognizable brand. That’s not inherently a bad thing, but that sentence alone will probably allow a good number of you to know if this game is going to be right for you or not.
Berserk and the Band of the Hawk apparently follows the story of the Berserk anime from start to the current end, and then moves into a little bit of the manga’s story too, in much the same way that Tecmo Koei’s recent Attack on Titan game did. The game follows Guts, a vicious mercenary, on his journey to achieve revenge for a serious betrayal, but in practice this means mashing light and heavy attack buttons while mountains of low level enemies lifelessly fall at your feet.
Where Attack on Titan’s adaptation drew heavily from its source material to create a combat system which felt fun, distinct and unique among the Dynasty Warriors-type games, Berserk and the Band of the Hawk feels a lot more comparable to the predictable gameplay formula of Hyrule Warriors. Thousands of identical grunt-like enemies throw themselves at your weapons while you mow them down, occasionally using special attacks to clear larger groups or larger-than-average enemies.
Occasionally, you’ll get to fight a sizable boss enemy which might give you a little bit more of a challenge, but most of the combat is style and flair over substance. The idea is to make you feel like a badass rather than giving you too much of an active challenge to face.
The game itself is fairly faithful to the tone, violence and action style of the Beserk anime and manga. The grunt-level enemies are faithfully presented and mowing them down felt rewarding. The boss I fought provided a healthy level of challenge, requiring far more use of well-timed blocking than I am used to from Dynasty Warrior games, and succeeded in being large and intimidating enough that defeating it felt rewarding.
Honestly, having played the short demo on the MCM show floor through, my main take away was that it is a Dynasty Warriors game for better or worse. If you’re already a fan of the series formula of smashing large crowds of enemies with weapons en masse, and then fighting one powerful boss as a level ends then you’re probably going to like Berserk. If you’re not a fan of that formula, then the fact that blocking is more incentivized in boss battles and that there’s a system that strengthens you as you pull off combo kills are unlikely to convince you that the gameplay is suddenly interesting.
It’s less of a mechanical switch up than Attack on Titan was, but it does do a somewhat good job of capturing the tone of the series.