I’ve been a lifelong fan of Worms. One of my fondest childhood memories was playing the original waaay back on the Amiga, then my teenage years spending long summers nuking my friends and dropping concrete donkeys on them in Worms 2 and Armageddon, which for many, myself included, is seen as the pinnacle of the series 20 odd years in existence.
Despite numerous attempts to innovate, including going fully 3D for a time (it was cool but it felt like something was missing), trying it’s hand at golf (I still dont understand the thought process behind this one) before trying (and succeeding for the best part) to reinvent the series once again in 2012’s Worms Revolution that added classes and fancy water physics. Not to rag on Revolution or it’s follow up Clan Wars, they were both great games, but the additions and swish 2.5D graphics, in the end felt like innovation for innovations sake. The thing that has always, and continues to make the series so compelling is its core of ridiculously over the top and utterly anarchic game play.
This is what Worms W.M.D, focuses on wholesale; taking the game back to it’s roots. It’s clear that making Armageddon 2.0 was their aim. Team 17 have nixed the classes, fancy water physics, and 3D models, instead reverting back to beautifully hand drawn sprites and environments, creating a game that looks and feels like classic Worms, before they over complicated things.
Despite using a brand new engine, jumping, ninja roping, and flinging grenades all worked just as I remembered. The series’ tradmark silly sense of humor is still ever present as well, the voices available in the preview build are as cheeky as ever too, taking pot shots at the likes of Bear Grylls, Bob Ross and Wallace of Wallace and Gromit.
Though Worms: W.M.D does play a lot more like the Worms of yesteryear, it seems Team17 can’t help but try and shake up the formula, introducing a handful of new mechanics, that fom the preview build I played at least, feel like a mixed bag. The best new additon is buildings – these are areas of the map that on first inspection look solid, but once appraoched worms can venture inside for additonal cover and to ambush other worms. When one of your worms enters a building, the facade disappears to reveal the inside, which is, well, just normal terrain. What is important though is that once your worm is successfully hidden in a building the opposing team can no longer see them, with both their health bar and name obscured from view. This adds an interesting twist to gameplay as you now need to remember where your opponents are, as well as find the best way to get the buggers out of the building (concrete donkeys remain incredibly helpful),
Though vehicles sound like an awesome addtion (I have thought tanks would be ace for years) they feel more like a means of levelling the field against players that are adept with a ninja rope than an exciting new tactical option. The preview build included attack-helicopters and tanks for your worms to jump aboard scattered around the map; the attack helicopter in particular seems like an odd addition as it allows you to reach pretty much any part of the map and rain fire down on anyone below you. As such, you feel like a bit of a cheat, as if you’re lucky you can simply hop in a chopper or tank and take out whoever you want. Though your opponents can knock the things out the air, or carpet bomb tanks back into the stone age, the significant boost in power that they provide can enable a team to completely dominate a match once they’ve got their hands on them.
Finally, (since every game seems to have it lately) Worms W.M.D features it’s own crafting system. This is accessed via a second tab in the weapon select screen, that allows you to construct most of the weapons in the game, including, upgraded variants such as a flame-launching bazooka or a mine that acts like a Holy Hand Grenade. Crafting materials drop in special weapons crates in the same way as other supply drops such as health and weapons.
Crafting is a pretty nifty way to let players adjust their arsenal to suit their needs mid-match. If your opponent is taking shelter in some buildings, you can knock up some bunker busters. If they’re out in the open you can quickly concoct some napalm or make an air strike. During online play you are free to open the crafting menu and tinker to your hearts content while you are waiting during an opponent’s turn. Annoyingly though, the same can’t be done during local play. which means you end up having to waste part of your turn making more weapons, when you could be launching gas belching Super Sheep at your opponents.
From the little I’ve played of Worms W.M.D it feels like we might finally get the worthy successor to Amageddon that we’ve been waiting all these years for. The crafting and vehicles may be a little hit and miss. But that said it feels like an evolution of the best parts of the series with the fat trimmed away. In the limited preview I played I wasn’t able to change the rulesets of matches, but it’s likely that you’ll be able to turn the extras off if they don’t float your boat, when Worms W.M.D launches on August 23rd for PC, Playstation 4, and Xbox One.