I used to really enjoy playing the Worms games when I was younger, but I feel that the franchise has become somewhat stale in recent years. Last year they brought out a new instalment: Worms Revolution, that finally tried out some new ideas, but it didn’t quite manage to renew my enthusiasm. I thought I would look back the series and see what it was that I liked and didn’t like, and perhaps suggest where there series could go from here…
If you’re not familiar with the series, the Worms game are about worms (shockingly) fighting it out over various colourful and destructive landscapes, with weapons ranging from Bazookas and Shotguns to Super Sheep, Holy Hand Grenades and Concrete Donkeys. The games are full of hilarious moments and are particularly great to play in hot-seat local multi-player games with your friends.
The Early Games
The games were at their peak, in my opinion, in the early days. Worms, Worms 2 and Worms Armageddon steadily improved upon the 2D gameplay, adding new features, achievements and weapons and improving the graphics. Armageddon is still my personal favourite. I didn’t mind the changes in art style, or the tweaks to the gameplay, as they made the experience more satisfying and entertaining.
They never quite managed to crack Worms in 3D, but they had a decent try with Worms 3D, Worms 4 and Worms Mayhem. I still enjoyed some of these games, but I’m not sure Worms gameplay truly works in 3D. It’s even harder to judge where weapons will land, especially taking the wind into account, and more difficult to judge where a jump will end up too. The gameplay also didn’t seem as destructive or entertaining as before and it was more prone to bugs and things not quite behaving as you might expect. Team17 now seem to have abandoned the idea, which I think is for the best.
My biggest problem with the series, however, is that they just seem to keep remaking the same game. World Party was just Armageddon with no notable extra features and, in fact, a lot of good stuff removed. Most of the rest of the games are also remakes, put in different outfits and paraded on different platforms. Worms Reloaded is a prime example of this, as it is basically Armageddon in different packaging. Oh, but they have added hats!
The latest game, Revolution, had a lot of potential. They combined 3D graphics with the classic 2D gameplay and added new features, such as dynamic water and different worm classes, which promised to add some new depth to the game. It was great to see that someone at Team 17 was capable of coming up with new ideas, but it wasn’t as great as I had hoped (not helped by an annoying and terribly un-funny narrator). Once again, it lacked the hilarity, destructive force and entertainment value of the early titles.
Forgetting its Roots
One big problem I have is that Team 17 seem to forget how many of the long-term fans played the games on the PC and still do to this day. All of the recent games made it to the PC as ports from various consoles/mobile devices and they have made no effort to make the gameplay and interfaces work with a keyboard and mouse, making us settle for dodgy ports. These dodgy controls are awful compared to the old ones that were designed for Keyboard and Mouse, and are cumbersome and slow (bearing in mind the player has only limited time to make their move, this is a big problem!). Steam is probably their best chance of making money and, while it is OK to support controllers, they really should make the effort for PC gamers too.
What I would Like to See
I don’t mind the 3D graphics, 2D gameplay choice that they made in Worms Revolution. One thing I would like to see is more customisation options. And, to be clear, this doesn’t mean ‘more hats’, but more variation within a team. For example, if they could distinguish between worms of different sexes, ranks or just characters. The whole team might wear the same helmet, but one of them could have long blonde hair while another has a moustache. You could still identify the team, but there would be more variety.
I would also like to see more fun in the games again. The attempt to inject humour with the annoying voice over in Revolution was not the way to go. I miss the little details, like the fanfare that gets played when you Baseball Bat a worm into the water, or the quirky things the worms used to say to each other during the action and the utter chaos and destruction caused by releasing ridiculous and super powerful weapons…
I think there is the potential for more great games in the Worms franchise, but they need to get out of this rut of just remaking the old games again and again. They need to listen to the fans and find out what they actually want in a new worms game and to try out some new ideas (and revive some of the old ones) that will enable the franchise to update itself and to move on, without losing what it was that made the games great.