If someone had told me that 2023 wouldn’t wrap up without a Hellboy roguelike, I wouldn’t have believed them, but here we are.
Inspired by Mike Mignola’s iconic works, Hellboy’s newest adventure takes place in the world of Wyrd, a fragmented realm that follows a story-like structure, all weaved by a mysterious woman named Scheherazade.
Hellboy Web of Wyrd looks like a comic in motion, as it perfectly blends shadows and cel-shading, even giving games like Curse of the Dead Gods a run for their money. Sadly, most of the environments are just a series of corridors and combat rooms, which don’t give the game a chance to show off its amazing art style.
Hellboy Web of Wyrd
Developer: Upstream Arcade
Publisher: Good Shepherd Entertainment
Platforms: PlayStation 5, Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, and Microsoft Windows (Reviewed).
Release Date: October 18, 2023
Levels in Hellboy Web of Wyrd are essentially just a series of arenas stapled together, and despite the game’s fantastic usage of shadows and cel-shading, they still look incredibly flat.
The Wyrd is divided into four realms, none of which have a very strong visual identity, instead just serving as bare-bones locations for Hellboy to traverse through. It’s pretty disappointing to see that the art style from Hellboy’s comics was adapted so well, but was completely wasted on such boring locations.
One environment that does get a lot of love is the main hub area, the Butterfly Mansion, which constantly expands as Hellboy progresses through the Wyrd. Most of the game’s levels feel like they were built at random, but the Butterfly Mansion has a soothing and cohesive visual identity.
I do understand that the areas look like that because the Wyrd is meant to be a fractured realm, but there are nicer ways of representing such aspects without making every single level look so flat and bland.
The game is sort of vague about its plot, but it seems that the mere existence of the Wyrd is causing spikes in supernatural activity, and the Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense, which Hellboy works for, is responsible for stopping these spikes.
I’d go over the plot a little more, but the game features some glacial story progression, essentially just spinning its wheels in place forever. The plot “advances” every time Hellboy defeats an enemy inside the Wyrd, but it essentially just boils down to him being told that an activity spike has gone down.
Each powerful creature that Hellboy defeats inside of the Wyrd stops an activity spike, but later on, it is revealed that there are even more layers to this fractured realm, which have been discovered many decades before by the Nazis, a common enemy of Hellboy and the B.P.R.D.
The Wyrd is divided between four levels, and in all of them the player fights enemies that behave mostly the same. Enemies are divided in two categories: The smaller ones, which you will completely ignore, and the bigger ones, which make the smaller ones disappear when they die.
It’s a pretty weird decision to only make one or two enemies in combat rooms actually matter, but at the very least, combat with the bigger enemies is not bad. Hellboy gets more weapon choices later on, even though hardly any of the game’s unlocks matter.
Hellboy Web of Wyrd picks the worst aspects of roguelikes to replicate, making each run a trek through boring levels while you collect pointless upgrades. None of the upgrades will change how you play the game, and their effects are always negligible.
There’s also the fact that the game is unbelievably easy, mostly because the combat system favors Hellboy over everyone else. If the goal of the game was to be a power fantasy, the developers nailed it. Hellboy can keep enemies stunned forever by breaking their posture and slamming them into walls, completely trivializing the game’s combat.
It’s not a cool system like you would see in Devil May Cry, where keeping enemies trapped in combos is super fun, as it’s more akin to beating up a defenseless person. The enemies quite literally just sit there and take it without trying to fight back; it’s almost depressing.
Hellboy Web of Wyrd unfortunately doesn’t have the bones to actually be a roguelike. The only replayability present in the game is when you are told to beat every stage again because the developers ran out of content. It barely feels like there’s enough content to play through the game once, let alone replay it.
Honestly, I’m glad I got off early, as I couldn’t properly wrap up my run because my save got bricked. I’m currently stuck in the game’s hub area, and access to every stage has been blocked off due to the game crashing in the middle of a boss fight.
Upstream Arcade’s previous title, West of Dead, was also a roguelike that fell a bit short, but Hellboy Web of Wyrd is ten steps behind it somehow. It’s unknown if something happened during development or if the game simply didn’t have a decent budget, but this is a substandard product, even for an indie game.
Clearly something was attempted here, and I commend the developers for trying their hand at a genre that doesn’t get a lot of love, the over-the-shoulder brawlers, but it’s easy to see that this game was not envisioned as a roguelike, and only became one due to some type of constraint.
It still can be argued that you could do a lot worse as far as 2023’s releases go, but things don’t look too good for Hellboy Web of Wyrd when I struggle to find any positive points when thinking back. I could praise the game’s art style some more, but it’s not exactly original, since it’s taken straight from the comics.
Overall, Hellboy Web of Wyrd is not offensively bad, but it surely suffers from a lot of issues that clash with the genre that it’s trying to emulate. The game is not compelling as a roguelike, and unfortunately falls short as a 3D brawler.
Hellboy Web of Wyrd was reviewed on Microsoft Windows using a game code provided by Good Shepherd Entertainment. You can find additional information about Niche Gamer’s review/ethics policy here. Hellboy Web of Wyrd is now available on PlayStation 5, Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, and Microsoft Windows (through Steam).