Mike Mignola’s Hellboy franchise has had an interesting set of adaptations already, with 2 great films, and one other film. The Dark Horse comic book has enjoyed critical acclaim as its cambion protagonist fights demons and Nazis while investigating with the Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense (BRPD). His latest adventure is chronicled in this game as a roguelike beat ’em up, where he must dive further into the strange realms of the Wyrd. In our review of Hellboy: Web of Wyrd, I set out to find out how worthwhile this adaptation truly is.
Brimming With Style and Atmosphere
Hellboy is a distinctive series in no small part due to Mike Mignola’s art style, so the minimalist color palette for any given backdrop, along with the hand-drawn visual style, feels appropriate. It feels like a side of Hellboy we’ve not seen put to the screen which is a nice touch, while retaining his usual traits, albeit without Ron Perlman or David Harbour. Instead, we get the late Lance Reddick voicing the titular protagonist, which is rad.
When moving about in the Butterfly House and descending into the Wyrd, you’ll notice the environments are different enough to be noteworthy, while also limited in features to not pull focus from pushing forward. You’re in a roguelike, and you must survive, so don’t take too much time to smell the roses. Environments include antiquity-laden ruins in some places, surreal undersea elements in others, and even some unwelcome presences manipulating the show deeper within. The game is brimming with style and atmosphere, however, there’s a drawback.
The Style Lacks a Significant Amount of Substance For Balance
Roguelite games have been incredibly successful lately, and I can’t help but think of Hades whenever comparing new contemporary entries in the genre. While Web of Wyrd doesn’t attempt to be just like Hades, opting for a third-person beat ’em up with minor shooting mechanics, it also doesn’t do much beyond just differentiating itself. The game is full of style, but the style lacks a significant amount of substance for balance.
There’s action in nearly every room you explore, with dimension-specific monsters including armored constructs, giant angry crustaceans, and other paranormal enemies. It’s a procedurally generated hive of enemies you must clear out, and as you clear the set of realms, you must go through again, with new secrets and stories unfolding. The story itself is pretty simple, with you seeking a BRPD agent who’s gone missing, only to uncover some fun occult plot twists along the way.
The Gameplay is Fun but Lacks Depth
When you’re exploring the Wyrd, you’ll be able to brawl with the countless enemies awaiting you, and as you beat bosses guarding the final portions of each level, you’ll unlock new abilities you can upgrade yourself with. This is pretty standard fare in roguelike games, but where Hellboy feels different is in its action.
Hellboy isn’t as fragile as other rogue-lite characters, so you can take quite a few hits thanks to a Toughness mechanic that provides a shield before losing any real health, and it can be regenerated. You can find upgrades for this toughness or health pool, and as a result, the blocking and countering mechanic feels like a legitimate alternative to just dodging.
The combat is third-person with lock-on mechanics that remind me less of Dark Souls, and more of Ocarina of Time in the sense that it can be way more awkward to hit moving targets without it. But the similarities end there because at least you can aim a bow in Ocarina, whereas in this game if you whip out your pistol, shotgun, or grenade launcher without locking on, you’re often wasting a bullet and leaving yourself wide open for way too long. The combat can also be painfully slow if you fall out of the flow, the biggest culprit of this being guns.
This brings me to my most aggressive gripe about this game: the ranged weapons are not good, at least, anything aside from the pistol. While I understand the appeal of the grenade launcher’s capacity to take out mooks and recover Toughness, it’s got horrendous reload speed, and even an upgraded pistol is a risk to get ready for more. The shotgun in particular is one of the worst-feeling guns I’ve used in a long time, and shotguns have always been traditionally pretty easy to use, limiting optimal choices to pretty much just the pistol.
This isn’t just applying to ranged weapons. In Hellboy: Web of Wyrd, the gameplay is fun but lacks depth to keep you wanting to play more or change things up. You’ll find that, while there are some (very limited) options for the upgrades you find along the way, many don’t feel like they balance their appeals well, and you’ll often stick to one playstyle the entire run.
Hellboy: Web of Wyrd is full of style and runs perfectly stable as is typical of roguelite games. However, unlike the greatest games from this increasingly popular genre, it lacks enough of a hook to have players wanting to experiment with its mechanics. While the story can be entertaining, it’s nothing too special.
Graphically speaking, it’s stylish and runs smoothly with a minimalist comic book feel, but lacks a certain spark that brings this game from good to great. It’s a reasonable value proposition for the hours of gameplay you’ll get out of it, but it hardly measures up to greater games in the genre that sell for as much.
This review was made possible by Good Shepherd Entertainment with a complimentary copy of Hellboy: Web of Wyrd, released on October 18, 2023.
- This article was updated on October 19th, 2023