Sword of the Berserk: Gut’s Rage is a Third Person Hack & Slash game taking place in the dark and vicious universe of the iconic manga/anime, Berserk. It follows the journey of Guts, a cursed swordsman on a quest for revenge. The story takes place after the Golden Era saga so if you are not got up on the manga this will spoil it for you. We kick off the game with a cut-scene showing a wagon full of people being mugged by bandits then Casca running into the fray of it. Inevitably where she goes, so does Guts and we are immediately tasked with slicing the lot of them.
The game wastes little time into getting you into the thick of it and will not give you time to get a feel of the controls before you are forced to fight for your life. Wielding his giant sword, he has both a heavy and weak attack to combo any enemy that get in his path. For such a massive sword it does an underwhelming amount of damage to even regular soldiers. It is relatively slow paced for the genre having a bigger focus on positioning and knowing just when to strike. Due to the massive size of the sword, you can easily be flanked since you can’t control your positioning or change which direction you swing once you commit to an attack.
Environments also play a role in swordplay, striking a wall or sturdy object will cause your blow to rebound and leave you vulnerable for a few seconds. Sounds awesome but there are two huge problems to this type of realism in Berserk. First is that Gut’s sword being your typical extremely over-sized anime sword and secondly a large portion of where you’ll be fighting is very constrained in size. This results in the inability to fight with any semblance of confidence due to going into battle wielding a helicopter blade that is more likely to get caught in the environment than to slay a foe. It is a fun system when the levels open up a bit but most of the time you’ll be staring at the practical weapons of random grunts in envy.
The real kicker is that the blade rebound mechanic is turned off when you enter Rage Mode, an automatically activated form that occurs after Guts has caused or taken enough damage. In it you are faster, dos not take damage and can swing freely making the combat much more enjoyable. The level design simply does not fit with the normal game-play mechanics and it harms the title’s enjoyment factor a fair bit as a result. It does try to counteract it by allowing you to sheathe your sword and going mano a mano with a mob of enemies which are typically vicious deformed monsters ready to maul you.
With your weapon sheathed you can also use Gut’s mechanical crossbow arm to try to take enemies down from a distance. In addition, you can access 4 sub-weapons at any time. One is a bag of fairy dust to completely heal you, a grenade-like object, a throwable knife and finally a huge gunshot out of his mechanical hand. All of them are replenished by finding them in crates or beating bosses so they are usually to be used in tight spots. As much as I’ve bashed the combat so far it is fun and varied at its core, making the sections more suited to it a blast.
Boss fights are where this game really shines. You will be faced by enormous demonic looking creatures both new and old foes from the manga. This is the only time you’ll be thankful to have a sword that large. As tough as Guts is he still cannot take many blows so you’ll be dodging, shooting, swinging and doing whatever you can to take down your far superior foe. Simply awesome. You are given a certain amount of credits to complete a level so dying too much will usually result in you having to fight the boss a second time, further upping the stakes of failing.
Unfortunately, the game will throw a few random Quick Time Events from time to time with little room for hesitation that may result in your death or an injury. These are annoying though spaced out enough to become less of an issue and only a single boss fight has them in it. What did nearly make me seriously consider giving up on the game is a certain section in the last level that has Berserk turn into a poor man’s Crash Bandicoot. You’ll be running towards the camera with little room for error and a ton of tentacles to knock you down as you are chased by something that kills upon touching it. Due to how the camera is angled you’ll have little time to react and it comes down to memorization as well as luck in a game whose controls are clearly not meant for this type of gameplay.
In a pleasant turn of events, the story in Sword of Berserk is pretty decent and perfectly captures the Berserk feel to the point where I had to look up if it was canon or not. The tone is dark, there are no objectively evil characters and the writing is solid. Character’s personalities are exactly as they should with little in the way of your typical hero. There are also a quite a few cut-scenes to further develop the plot all throughout. Voice acting is pretty mediocre and in a world as serious as Berserk having some B-movie like voice acting is a slight detriment. Still, they created their own story instead of relying on the previous material and it is definitely worth a watch for fans of Berserk.
It is not as extreme as the manga, lacking the very dark subjects such as rape and other terrible things yet it still manages to be disturbing in true Berserk nature. In other regards, this is a very flawed game without a doubt, though it is still worth a play for fans of the series. It’ll only last you a bit under three hours however you unlock stuff such as an arena mode when beating the game on different difficulties. Sword of Berserk had amazing potential but was let down by a few serious flaws that bring it down to just an average game. For those that have no knowledge of Berserk there are a few quips of info in the extras menu of the game though nowhere near enough to get the gist of things. This is a game only prior fans of its universe will get the most out of and if you are such a person I’d recommend giving it a try.