For 17 years now, Team17 has been pitting worms against one another in deadly warfare. Oh sure, the presentation has always been colourful, and the tone comedic, but make no mistake, victory on this battlefield requires skill and tactical nous. Worms has always been something of a sandbox experience at its core, you see. Two or more teams of worms are randomly positioned on a map, each with the same toolbox of weapons and items. The gameplay is turn-based, with each player having a short amount of time to move one or more of their forces and attempt to take out the opposition. Making the most of each move is easier said than done.
So that’s the boring, clinical way of putting it. A more evocatively-minded reviewer would no doubt describe a series of gameplay snapshots: worms in jetpacks dropping sticks of dynamite on enemy heads; hand grenades setting off chain reactions of explosive barrels which then rain napalm down onto survivors; super-weapons destroying huge chunks of the environment; rockets arcing across the map; near-dead worms teleporting to safety or retreating into the earth; worms ninja roping across caverns; uzis spraying; shotguns blasting; old ladies, erm, exploding; concrete donkeys… doing massive damage.
Shame I’m not more evocatively-minded. And yes, you did read that right – ninja ropes.
In short, there’s a reason Worms has been such an enduring part of the gaming landscape. It’s a fantastic series. There’s also a reason that it settled back into 2D
Worms Revolution. These battlefields must be readable at a glance; they need to be presented cleanly, so that players can focus on how best to use the environment and their remaining cache of weapons and abilities. When things go horribly, comically wrong – as they regularly do – the chain of events has to be clear.
So what does Revolution bring to the table? A fair bit, actually. First up, battlefields now feature physics objects, like zippo lighters, glass flasks etc. These can be moved around with certain abilities (such as telekinesis) and after its flirtation with 3D gameplay. These battlefields must be readable at a glance; they need to be presented cleanly, so that players can focus on how best to use the environment and their remaining cache of weapons and abilities. When things go horribly, comically wrong – as they regularly do – the chain of events has to be clear.
So what does Revolution bring to the table? A fair bit, actually. First up, battlefields now feature physics objects, like zippo lighters, glass flasks etc. These can be moved around with certain abilities (such as telekinesis) and after taking enough damage will either explode or release noxious gas/water, or both. Repositioning them is generally more trouble than it’s worth, however, while damage they’ve taken isn’t as clearly communicated as it could be. It’s also frustrating that, say, a tin of lighter fluid or a glass flask can absorb a direct hit from a bazooka. Greater fragility might have made these objects more fun.
Dynamic water has also been introduced to battlefields, letting players do things like blasting a hole in a pocket of water to send it cascading into the map, hopefully washing away some enemy worms in the process. Worms that are underwater take damage every turn, but can use new utilities like the plug hole to drain the liquid. It’s a fun idea, but weapons like the water pistol, water bomb and water strike are harder to use effectively than more traditional weapons, and just don’t have the same oomph.
The biggest change to the series, however, is the introduction of classes. The basic worm is now known as the Soldier, and he’s joined by the Scout, Scientist and Heavy. The differences are immediately noticeable. Scouts are far more agile than any other class, for instance, moving faster and jumping further. They’re also more responsive to control when jetpacking, can fall greater distances without taking damage and even have other perks like longer reach with their ninja ropes. On the flipside, they do the least damage with their attacks and are lighter, so are knocked around a whole lot more.“
As you’d imagine, the heavies are the flipside to that – these guys are tanks. They move slowly and can’t jump to save their lives, but can deal and absorb more damage. The scientists are the support class. Each time it’s a scientist’s turn, everyone on the team gets an additional five points of health, and defensive weapons like sentry guns and electromagnets are more powerful if created by a scientist.
Including classes obviously gives Revolution additional tactical variety that previous titles didn’t have, and this definitely comes into play during the single player missions, where the player’s resources are fixed. These missions – particularly later in the campaign – pit the player against large numbers of enemy worms, and sometimes having the extra agility of the scout in your formation can make all the difference. Run out of ninja ropes and jetpacks? Scouts can often make the jumps that other worms can’t, and get into a good position to do damage.
That said, every new class has significant weaknesses, so I only really found it worthwhile varying my squad up when a level was giving me particular trouble. I’m also not a huge fan of the heavies. Deft movement and careful positioning of your worms is key in this series, and these guys are just too sluggish to bother moving over anything but flat ground. And even then it’s achingly slow. Of course, if you’re teleporting your worms in at the start of a multiplayer round, they can be hugely valuable, but otherwise bad positioning can effectively damn the heavy, given how important mobility is.
Not the most creative of names, but hey, at least you won't get the classes confused.
Even so, I do think the classes are a good inclusion, particularly as you can take them or leave them. They’re a bonus atop traditional Worms awesomeness. And as alluded to, they can really shake up multiplayer. Scout versus scout battles are a blast, as these guys just feel fantastic to move about, resulting in a more dynamic battlefield.
Before we talk more about multiplayer, however, I’ll just touch on the single player component. It’s nice and meaty for the price, with 32 campaign levels and 20 puzzle levels, spread across four settings. Worms veterans will breeze through at least the first half of both, but there’s some serious challenge on the home stretch. For my money the later campaign levels are a little too punitive, as players must make the most of very scarce resources, but are still subject to the whims of the (occasionally preternaturally gifted) A.I. and chance. These games give players less room for individual style, and thus feel a lot less like a sandbox. Coin crate drops – so players can buy additional weapons/utilities - would have been a good compromise to open these levels up a little.
Even so, the single player component is solid, and the narration by Matt Berry (of Mighty Boosh, IT Crowd and Snuff Box fame) is priceless. He really should do every video game voiceover. Whisky!
It’s in multiplayer that Worms – as a franchise - comes into its own. As in previous titles, the worm customisation options let players edit names, choose soundboards, set accoutrements and so on, but it’s really all about the game settings. Players can go in and tweak every aspect of the arsenal. Want one of everything? You can do that. Want infinite ninja ropes and Holy Hand Grenades? No problem. Want to set how many turns players have to wait before something is available? Yup, got it.
In addition to that, players can specify round times, turn times, starting health, retreat time and how sudden death works. They can turn fall damage on or off, they can specify how many swings worms can take on the ninja rope and whether worms teleport in at the start of a round. Percentage drop rates can be set for weapon, utility, health and coin crates, as can mine density in a level, as well as how long the fuse will be and whether dud mines are on or off. On top of that there’s a great deal of control over the physical layout of the maps themselves.
It’s a fantastic set of options, even if the modes themselves aren’t too out of the ordinary, with classic, deathmatch and fort to choose from. The differences? Deathmatch incorporates all the new elements like classes, water and physics objects that aren’t in classic, while fort separates the teams across two island forts.
Should you get Worms Revolution? Well, if you’re a lapsed Worms player like myself, then absolutely. It’s the same classic Worms gameplay with (optional) gameplay tweaks and a lovely new coat of paint. If you’re a die-hard fan, then the classes add a new element to multiplayer competition, and make the customisation options even more robust. All told, this is a great game for a great price.