The classic gaming series Worms is back. The last game to reach our hands was 2016’s Worms W.M.D and was arguably one of the best Worms games in years. So to see Team 17 make the bold move of changing to a real-time combat system from the turn-based system used by the game since inception is unusual.
Purists are almost certainly going to turn their backs on it, and it’s easy to see why. Less strategic multiplayer action, far bigger maps than traditionally expected from Worms, online-only gameplay (which a big departure from the traditions of Worms couch co-op feel) no fully destructible environments. All the ingredients are there for fans to simply forget it.
That said, while it’s not classic Worms, based on our time with the beta, Worms Rumble actually makes the transition smoothly, enough that it’s worth paying close attention to as it nears release, though not without a major reservation.
The premise is simple. You are a walking, wise-cracking worm with a thirst for wormly blood. You’re stuck in a massive arena with other wriggly terrors and the desire to be the last worm standing. Ensue 2D platform shooting action as you slither, hop, and roll your way around the map, holding whatever weapon you can find to be the best worm standing.
The beta allowed access to the Deathmatch mode only, but the full release will include others, such as Battle Royale. Matches in Deathmatch range from moments of rolling and diving around just to spot worms lurking in vents and opening up weapons and item chests, to going all kamikaze in the open spaces where 10 opponents are all trying to bazooka each other at once.
During the latter, the game is extremely intense and a lot of fun. You can’t only run at an opponent with your shotgun and banana bomb and expect to win. You must invoke the five D’s of dodgeball to triumph, weaving around projectiles while maintaining accurate counter-fire. Your worm has surprising agility if you can master both jump timings and rolling mechanics, so there’s definitely skill to the fight. It can be a little lonely with the large size of the map, but it was rare to see a full server during the beta because of current available testers, so this should remedy itself once the game releases.
Missile Mall, the map during the beta, also suits the action well. The departure of more open environments for winding corridors and vent shafts suits the faster-paced nature of the action, with dynamic events (such as the large missile in the middle of the map launching away) that keep players thinking on their tails as the map opens up. Platforming wires also help players zip around the map faster, and there are some minor destructible elements, though we’d hope that these are expanded on for future arenas.
The big question about Worms Rumble is whether the game has lasting appeal. Traditional turn-based Worms games have stood the test of time because the length of a match is less condensed than a real-time one. Worms Rumble has some strategy to it, but it requires a different skill set that demands fast fingers and map knowledge. Team 17 deserves plaudits for branching out of a comfort zone, but it’s unlikely that fans of the original format will jump on this because simply put, it’s not really a Worms game.
That’s no bad thing. In fact, Rumble has a lot to offer whilst maintaining the textbook Worms humor. The question, however, is that if traditionalists are not going to play it long-term, then who is?