The latest Dynasty Warriors spin-off takes on popular anime Berserk, but will you end up hating its Guts?
As soon as Die Hard became a massive hit there was the inevitable torrent of copycats. But so influential was the original that to this day any film trying to use the same template is described simply as Die Hard on a boat or Die Hard in the White House, or whatever location is involved. The wannabes may vary in quality but they’re all basically the same concept underneath. Which is just how it works with Dynasty Warriors. Except, rather than being a critically-acclaimed masterpiece the original Dynasty Warriors has always been rubbish.
The actual Dynasty Warriors games are based around 3rd century Chinese history, but since then we’ve had Dynasty Warriors with samurai, Dynasty Warriors with ancient Greeks, Dynasty Warriors with The Legend Of Zelda, and, in the future, Dynasty Warriors with Fire Emblem. And because the series is far more popular in Japan than it is in the West there’s been a slate of anime tie-ins as well, with four Gundam games, three for One Piece, two for Fist of the North Star, and one for The Heroic Legend of Arslan. And no, we haven’t heard of that one either.
What we have heard of though is Berserk, which has had a number of video game adaptations in the past (Guts’ Rage gained some small notoriety in the West, during the Dreamcast era). On the face of it a story about ultra-violent mercenaries in a fantasy world full of demons and magic sounds perfect for Dynasty Warriors-ification. But although we’re not familiar enough with the original manga and anime to say how authentic a tie-in this is, what we can say is that the game is awful. Even more so than usual.
Our usual way of describing a Warriors game is as a 3D version of old school scrolling beat ‘em-ups like Final Fight; in terms of both the limited number of moves, the equally limited intelligence of your enemies, and the intense repetition of the gameplay. In theory that’s not necessary the worst concept for a game, but rather than trying to find clever ways to compensate for its shallow gameplay and lack of variety the Warriors series has always seemed to reveal in it.
In most Warriors games the story campaigns are made up primarily of large-scale battles in which you’re attempting to fight thousands of enemies almost single-handedly, while capturing their positions and eventually taking over the whole map. All this goes on for far too long, and is never anywhere near as tactical as it should be, but it is the one element of the game you could imagine being fun under different circumstances. The problem with Berserk is that there are very few of these missions in the game.
Instead, most of them use just one of three very basic templates, where you’ve got to destroy everything, rescue a specific ally, or kill a particular bad guy. All this still involves mowing down hundreds of mindless enemies, but most of the missions don’t last more than 10 minutes. Objectives often change unexpectedly, and there’s a lot more storytelling in general than a usual Warriors game, but in terms of gameplay there’s considerably less.
While Hyrule Warriors and Dragon Quest Heroes (not officially part of the series, but it shares exactly the same DNA) made some faltering attempts to move the franchise forward, in Berserk everything is back to just mashing the light and heavy attack buttons and waiting until your special move is powered up. And we’re not exaggerating anything when we say that is almost all there is to the combat. Which seems even more appalling given the fact there’s no co-op, which most new Dynasty Warriors games have had lately.
This combined with the short, painfully uninteresting missions makes the game almost unendurable within just an hour or so’s play. There are other modes that let you play as other characters, such as Griffin and Casca, but even if you do know who they are their abilities are still very similar to that of main protagonist Guts. So it almost doesn’t matter that you rarely get to play as anyone but him in campaign mode.
The only positive we can think of is that the graphics are a little better than normal for a Warriors game, and try to mimic the dark tone of the source material. But when your cut scenes end up being longer than most of your actual missions, and yet the game still seems to go on for too long, you know something’s wrong. Especially when the obvious alternative is to just give up on the game and go and watch the anime instead. But while the latest Dynasty Warriors may pique your interest in Berserk, it’s likely to put you off Warriors games for life.
Berserk And The Band Of The Hawk
In Short: An astonishingly shallow and repetitive game even by Dynasty Warriors standards, and one that’s unlike to satisfy even the most hardcore fan.
Pros: The graphics are a little better than usual and although the storytelling is confused and fractured it’s a reasonable primer for the source material.
Cons: Instantly repetitive and horribly shallow gameplay, that downplays the one mission type that usually makes the series bearable. Terrible artificial intelligence and little character variety.
Formats: PlayStation 4 (reviewed), PC, and PS Vita
Publisher: Koei Tecmo
Developer: Omega Force
Release Date: 24th February 2017
Age Rating: 18