Hellboy: Web of Wyrd is an over-the-shoulder action brawler developed by UK indie studio Upstream Arcade. Set in 1980s Argentina, Web of Wyrd (pronounced “word”) sees Hellboy enter the mysterious Butterfly House, a mansion that acts as a portal to other dimensions, to save a missing BRPD agent. At Gamescom 2023, we sat down to get a brief hands-on with Web of Wyrd, playing about 20 minutes of an early part of the game.
Players fight their way through a series of procedurally generated levels within multiple distinct biomes, each with their own individual stories, piecing together a wider mystery along the way. Web of Wyrd is an original story that sits outside of the established Hellboy canon, albeit with plenty of allusions to the events and lore found in the comic’s original 1990s run.
Web of Wyrd is developed in partnership with Dark Horse Comics and Hellboy creator Mike Mignola, translating Mignola’s distinct, thick-border art style into cel-shaded 3D. Upstream Arcade has done a fine job of faithfully recreating Mignola’s iconic bold black border and bright color style, and special moves prompt freeze frames that feel ripped from the pages of a comic book.
Web of Wyrd sees Hellboy embark on runs through its procedurally generated levels, battling myriad creatures and earning the types of modifiers and upgrades that are now staples of modern roguelikes. At the start of each run, Hellboy can select a weapon–a shotgun and grenade launcher were on show alongside his iconic revolver–and a charm, which bestows a special power that operates on a cooldown.Our demo featured a charm that allowed Hellboy to repel enemies with a wave of energy when surrounded, for instance.
Each charm and weapon can be upgraded permanently at the Butterfly House (which functions as a kind of hub world between runs) and modified mid-run to give Hellboy extra ammunition or add elemental damage to his attacks. Our hands-on was too brief to see exactly how these modifiers, weapons, and charms will interact across a full run through the multiple depths of each biome, but it’s easy to see potential for the kinds of game-breaking builds fans of roguelikes enjoy.
Combat leans into Hellboy’s brutish frame, with slow, lumbering movement and weighty attacks, encouraging considered play rather than button-mashing. Weapons such as the revolver are reserved for heavy attacks and are used in tandem with quick hand-to-hand attacks to create bone-crunching combos. Environmental elements like rubble can be thrown at enemies, and dodges, parries, and blocks help mitigate enemy attacks.
Alongside health, Hellboy has a “Toughness” meter–a kind of posture bar–which can help mitigate damage taken by enemy attacks but leaves you vulnerable should an attack break your Toughness entirely. Enemies also have a Toughness meter, and breaking this through repeated attacks allows Hellboy to follow up with a finishing move to put them out of their misery.
NPCs populate the hub area of the Butterfly House, meaning there is more than a hint of Hades to Hellboy: Web of Wyrd, but whether it is able to incorporate its ambitious story into its repeated run structure in the same way remains to be seen. Dying during a run prompts the game-over message “The Tether Snaps…” which suggests Hellboy’s repeated dives into levels will be contextualized within the story, but it was difficult to gauge how reactive the story will be from such a short demo.
The developer at our hands-on session hinted that, as you progress through the game’s story, previously visited biomes may be transformed and reshaped, incentivizing you to replay older biomes for reasons beyond grinding for currency to spend on upgrades. If Upstream Arcade is able to tell an engaging story in a reactive world within the roguelike structure, Web of Wyrd could be a treat for Hellboy and Hades fans alike.
Hellboy: Web of Wyrd arrives on PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, Nintendo Switch and PC on October 4.
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