STAFF REVIEW of Hellboy Web of Wyrd (Xbox One)

Friday, January 26, 2024.
by Kirby Yablonski

Hellboy Web of Wyrd Box art I don’t know about you readers out there, but I must admit that I am a bit of a Hellboy fan. From Ron Pearlman’s two movies (2004 and 2008) to the reboot of the character in 2019 with David Harbour taking on the role of the devilish hero, each movie offers up a good time. Personally, I am a fan of Ron Pearlman’s version of Hellboy, given the humour that was included in each movie, but to each their own right? Well, now a game has hit the Xbox platform for fans to enjoy. Hellboy Web of Wyrd is a game that harkens to the animated movies in terms of visuals and story. I guess this makes sense given it is a video game. This roguelike brawler does have some enjoyment within, but you’ll have to look past a few flaws to really, fully enjoy it.

The story in Web of Wyrd takes place during the Falklands conflict which began in April 1982. Although Hellboy, and the rest of the Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense (BPRD) are not involved in the actual conflict that took place, you will be heading into psychically spiked versions of different places within the world, and these areas are known as Wyrds, hence the title of the game. Your goal during the third person based 10-12 hour campaign is to find out what is causing these psychic spikes that are spilling out into the different areas you must explore.

The story itself is not that bad. Sure, it won’t win any awards for the content and presentation, but there are a few twists and turns as you make your way through the game. I won’t spoil it, but as you feel like you are about to finish the game a plot twist occurs, the story continues, and you’ll have to go about exploring somewhat new areas while facing some new villains too. The best piece of advice I can give here is that as you go into Web of Wyrd, make sure it is with an open mind and open expectations.

Each area that you discover is basically a maze-like environment. While venturing throughout each you'll battle enemies, avoid traps, search for power-ups (called blessings), in-game currency, relics, and in-game lore, as well as seek out the area’s specific end boss. The power-ups that can be found help you with extra ammo, quick reloading, increased toughness (equivalent to a shield) or health, a chance for health to drop upon an enemy’s death, and a few more. All that is mentioned here is basically each area’s gameplay formula during the whole game. As you progress from one specific region to another, the level design grows in length and enemies are specific to where you are at the time.

Speaking of enemies, they are specific to each area you must explore. You’ll find that each level has traditional minion-like foes while there are four or five different larger and more powerful enemies in each. The latter have their own toughness meter that you must break to allow you to start to drain their health meter with your attacks (heavy, light, special, weapon based). Figure out their attack patterns, know when to attack or counterattack, and watch for the signals when to dodge. The bigger enemies also have attacks that cannot be blocked or dodged, but when you are about to get hit with one, running away to reset for battle is a possible way to avoid it. In many ways you will find the formula to be somewhat rinse and repeat; however, slamming enemies into walls or breakable objects didn’t get too old, as the sound of the crunching punch and inevitable enemy death was quite satisfying.

As you progress through the narrative that is presented, you will learn specific details about your homebase, which is in a house called ‘The Butterfly House’. It’s here you learn about the house itself, who the architect is that built such a structure, and more. You can also talk to your fellow NPCs to further the game’s story. Of course, it wouldn’t be a ‘homebase’ if you couldn’t purchase and upgrade a variety of weapons and charms, as well as your health, defence, and counter attacks, all which help our trench coat wearing hero kick some ass.

One of the biggest complaints that I have about Web of Wyrd is that there is not a whole lot of variation in gameplay mechanics. As you continue to play you will feel repetitiveness of the gameplay formula. You’ll also have to farm for in-game currency a lot, and if you are like me, not too good (but not too bad) at roguelike games. I found myself repeatedly farming levels to get the currency needed to level up specific weapons, charms and character attributes. It paid off for me, but probably added more playtime to my experience. I truly believe that those who are fans of the genre and play a lot of roguelike games will have an easier time than me.

Another complaint I have is the fact that there is no in-game map. You will find yourself, as I did, backtracking often to find a missed item. You’ll then need to make your way back original point. While making your way back, by memory, one wrong turn and you’ll find yourself lost and needing to just explore more to get to the right point where were left to move forward. Maybe this was a developer decision to extend the actual gameplay length, but it was annoying to say the least.

A final quirk worth noting is that Web of Wyrd’s control scheme is unique to say the least. You’ll find that the assigned buttons for various actions (e.g. gunplay, special abilities, dodging, etc.) don’t feel as natural as one would hope. To compensate for this, there is an option in the menu to remap the games assigned buttons, but still, trying to take on the game the way the developers envisioned it with the default control scheme feels kind of weird. Yes, I know this is a very tedious thing to complain about, but hey, it’s the way I felt when playing.

Web of Wyrd’s overall presentation is more positive then negative, but it does have its limitations. I really appreciated the cell-shaded artwork that the game is uses. From Hellboy and his overcoat, his stubby horns and oversized fist to the various environments that one explores, including the enemies that populate each one. Animations of all characters were smooth, fluid and without any major issues. The visuals draw-in more then I would have liked to see, but it is not jarring, and I did hit some slowdown two times during my playthrough, but given this is all I noted regarding any issues with the visuals, it’s not that bad at all.

The voice acting that helps tell the story of Web of Wyrd is very solid. A lot of hurrahs have been made regarding the voice of Hellboy being played by the late Lance Reddick, but it doesn’t take away from all the other voice actors. I found it somewhat ironic that one of the main NPCs is voiced by Mara Junot, who is currently the voice actor of Ikora in Destiny 2. As her and Lance Reddick converse throughout the game it is immediately identifiable who she is. The rest of the voice cast manage to do a fairly good job, but Lance Reddick’s Hellboy lines are very notable given he is the main character. I didn’t like the fact that during the times when you were talking to NPCs, or an enemy was talking, no one’s mouth actually moved, and I do mean no one. It was a bit of a letdown as you hear the voice, see the subtitle, but you don’t see the mouth of anyone moving when they speak.

As for the rest of the audio, it is fairly strong and helps make the game what it is. The atmospheric music changes as you explore each area, and you’ll find it picking up or changing pace during certain situations. The mood of the music seems to fit the nature and settings of the game. Finally, the sound effects does a good job at conveying the environments and on-screen action. From the final punch of an enemy who flies into a column causing it to shatter and fall on themselves, to the eerie sounds of each area that is affected by psychic spikes, it all makes for an enveloping aural experience.

I have to say I went into Hellboy Web of Wyrd with zero expectations, even as a fan of the live action movies. I walked away after playing with the view that it is definitely not a bad title, but it’s not a great one either. The visuals are good, the voice acting is solid, and the gameplay has some merits, although the latter is affected by the rinse and repeat gameplay that does become quite repetitive. If you are looking for something different, or are a fan of that short horned, devilish hero, then it would be worth your time to check out Hellboy Web of Wyrd.

I truly think that this game deserves a sequel. Take the time to fully flesh out the universe, add some spice to the repetitiveness, and have some bigger levels and make this a series that could be wonderful.

Overall: 6.9 / 10
Gameplay: 6.5 / 10
Visuals: 7.0 / 10
Sound: 7.0 / 10


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