Title: Hellboy Web of Wyrd
Developer: Upstream Arcade
Release Date: October 18, 2023
Reviewed On: PC
Publisher: Good Shepherd Entertainment
Genre: Action Roguelike
Hellboy is a character that originated in the early ’90s comics and has evolved into a multi-media franchise, even making appearances in games like Injustice 2. However, the announcement of Hellboy Web of Wyrd as a roguelike caught me by surprise. Approaching it with an open mind, I hoped for a fresh take beyond the usual beat ’em ups or mobile games associated with licensed properties. Yet, my experience with Hellboy Web of Wyrd left me feeling rather indifferent.
An Unconventional Roguelike
Hellboy Web of Wyrd follows the titular protagonist in a brand-new original storyline created in partnership with Dark Horse Comics alongside the creator of Hellboy himself, Mike Mignola. After saving a friend of his, an agent of the Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense (B.P.R.D), from a mysterious dimension called the Wyrd, Hellboy finds himself assigned to investigate that same place. The mysteries of this locale, comprised of numerous bizarre monsters, tie into another area called The Butterfly House, built by occultist Pasquale Deneveaux in 1962. The Wyrd is accessed through here, leading Hellboy’s allies to set up shop in this very spot, serving as a convenient hub for your typical roguelike.
Following some introductory scenes and a tutorial elucidating the basics of how everything works, you’ll find that Hellboy Web of Wyrd has a transparently identifiable gameplay loop right from the outset. Aside from a few NPCs hosting self-explanatory menus, the hub area has purchasable and upgradeable weapons for Hellboy to utilize when traversing the Wyrd. You can also submit findable collectibles delving into The Butterfly House’s lore, learning more about the abode’s contextual circumstances.
As for the Wyrd itself, that’s where you’ll spend most of your time. If you’ve ever played a roguelike before, then you’ll know exactly what you’re in for straightaway. You’ll navigate a series of rooms across several floors, each comprised of enemies and upgrades. The ultimate goal here is to reach the end of a section, defeat its boss, return to the hub, and then rinse and repeat. The upgrades are primarily notable for enhancing select stats.
If it sounds like I’m explaining the obvious, that’s because this attempt at the genre isn’t instilled with much uniqueness. This is by no means an inherent negative, but it does inadvertently lead to a generally unmemorable experience. The floor layouts and enemies are all so by the books and elementary that I can barely remember anything that actually stood out other than a few easily passable traps. Unfortunately, the same generalities can be honed in and applied to the combat system.
Comic-Style Presentation and More
As you would expect, given his large build, Hellboy is slow with both movement and battle, requiring slight windups to perform attacks. Still, that itself isn’t much of a problem since the foes perfectly complement this design choice. Their telegraphs are highly evident, and they take their time dishing out their maneuvers. The execution of the latter makes me believe that Hellboy Web of Wyrd is a title primarily catered to those inexperienced with roguelikes and perhaps action games as a whole.
“Hellboy Web of Wyrd takes a notable step forward into the roguelike genre but fails to find its footing.
While I wouldn’t describe progression as thoughtless, you’ll only have to apply surface-level enemy and environment cognizance to prevail, even against bosses. I can’t really fault the title much on that front since the enemy design gets the job done in the realm of fairness, yet I just found it all too easy. At a certain point, I stopped treating encounters with caution because of the overabundance of health you initiate with and the minimal damage you receive. Yet, even when doing this, I never fell once. A pre-launch update claimed to make the game more challenging, but it all felt about the same to me. Besides the meager difficulty, the foes all began to feel the same after a while, and not solely because of the lack of variety. So many tells and movements just felt overly similar.
In essence, the Wyrd gets the essentials done of being a roguelike experience. But it never reaches beyond that point. The supplemental facets, like the powerups you can obtain, tend to be numeric, and the cases that don’t fail to instill the integral deviation needed to ensure effective replayability. For instance, you gain guns that can be useful, yet in-your-face melee is the usual go-to simply due to its incredible initial strength. Moreover, the enemy layouts throughout the floors are questionable.
Encounters are typically comprised of a significant enemy accompanied by fragile ones. The latter always seemed needless since they died with little effort and barely performed any actions. Plus, you can only lock onto the bigger enemies, meaning that while the gun will auto-target nearby weaker foes if you’re not manually locked onto anyone, it feels relatively awkward in practice. Regardless, it didn’t help that I could spam combos on the significant foes in almost every room and defeat them, which then caused the fragile enemies to vanish entirely. Aside from currency drops, they seemed more like decoration above all else. I would’ve preferred them to have actual roles or just not be present at all.
Lacking Diversity and Challenge
I wish I had more to discuss with the gameplay throughout Hellboy Web of Wyrd, but there honestly isn’t much else to say. It’s all basic and straightforward, with nothing pushing those mechanics toward distinction. I had some fun in the moment, though it was more of the passive kind that didn’t keep me continually engaged. The enemy variety is noticeably lacking, and minor inclusions like hitting foes into walls and pillars providing feedback feel like tacked-on flourishes without substance. One of the most egregious faults, however, is the lack of a map. While you can see a flare in the distance signaling the location of a boss key door, you’ll have a hell of a time trying to find unopened optional rooms.
While I wouldn’t describe progression as thoughtless, you’ll only have to apply surface-level enemy and environment cognizance to prevail, even against bosses.
In the realm of presentation, Hellboy Web of Wyrd looks like it was ripped straight from the comics, with the Butterfly House and Wyrd boasting environments entirely within that medium’s style. The characters are terrifically depicted, too, even though their eyes are occasionally overtaken by shadows depending on the angle. I’m unsure if that’s a stylistic choice from the comics. Performance-wise, it was a bit rough on PC, chiefly when transitioning rooms, since Hellboy is shown falling down an endless pit while loading, and it can stutter heavily there and in other seemingly random instances. As for the voice cast, that’s where this game excels the most. Everyone’s enunciations and tones are fantastic, including Hellboy himself. They complement the somewhat strong writing comprised of comical banter and intriguing lore bits.
A Step Forward but Not Quite There
Hellboy Web of Wyrd takes a notable step forward into the roguelike genre but fails to find its footing. While it successfully implements its gameplay loop and progression mechanics, it offers only a baseline level of satisfaction as a package. The distinctive comic-style presentation and impressive voice work contribute to the game’s appeal but fall short of igniting a strong desire for replayability. Fans of the Hellboy franchise may find deeper enjoyment due to their attachment to the source material.
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