Over the last few years, Fortnite copycats’ best marketing strategy has been to plainly sell players on the adrenaline rush of simply staying alive, conveying a so-far-gone level of seriousness that results in soul-leaching boredom. Although greatly lacking in content, Worms Rumble has its developer, Team17, to thank for its dedication to longtime fans and the series’s originality. Due to this, the franchise spin-off dodges almost all overdone battle royale tropes and makes for one hell of a bombastic and magnetizing shooter.
After its initial reveal, diehard Worms fans weren’t too pleased with the newest installment in the franchise not being the status quo turn-based game so many were used to – and honestly, I can’t say I didn’t agree. From its Xbox Live Arcade remake of Worms to even 2016’s Worms W.M.D, the series has upheld a long streak of enjoyably original strategy titles, and changing the core gameplay was a valid cause for concern. However, now I see that it is not the genre that has continued its high reputation, but Team17’s gratifyingly creative world lore and designs.
Slippery smooth chaos
To make sense of Worms Rumble’s existence, it is practically a battle royale with a side mode that will allow you to partake in a wild Free For All. Aside from that, there is Last Squad Standing and Last Worm Standing, the team-based and solo portions of its royale nature. In each of these, you’ll be thrown into one of just three massive and overly-detailed maps, all of which will be filled with 34 other devious online worms.
Even with the turn-based structure thrown out the window, there’s still a bombardment of familiar guns, grenades, and other helpful tools to collect for mass destruction. These can be found in various chests, all using specific colors to signal the possible rarity of the weapons inside. Having not played a Worms title in four years, it was a treat to discover the rarest and most powerful guns were the most outrageous, like the Sheep Launcher – I think the name speaks for itself there.
Aiming and moving is still very much the same, but now you’ll need to do both at once, with real-time being a major factor. Imagine trying to swiftly figure out the right trajectory for your next launchable sheep as you’re hopping around as an armless worm, dodging charged swings from enemy baseball bats. It is utter terror that cannot be found anywhere else. To make for a quick getaway, there is a rolling mechanic that proves handy, but I rarely used it because I always loved having the chaotic gunfights test the skill of my Bazooka-bearing, squeaky-voiced invertebrate.
It must be said that I don’t know if Worms Rumble would be as successful if it weren’t for its delightful maps. Each has an absurd amount of floors with about 10 unique areas to venture into. You can tell this was a real passion project when every room has backgrounds and prop designs not seen anywhere else. For instance, one map centers around an office building location, but beyond that, users can explore its roof, parking garage, nearby shops, and so much more. Sometimes, I just wanted to go into training mode and flop around in peace.
The title does fall short in one major feature required from its sort of genre: progression. There are definitely a lot of items to unlock through its simplistic leveling system, but the catalog of gear seems disproportionate. For one, there are only four Worm skins and nine full-body outfits currently available, even though there are 78 different hat options. With this in-depth customization of your worm intended to be a driving force to keep you entertained, the overcrowding of less interesting items is a big head scratcher.
Furthermore, if you’ve finally mastered the slippery movements of your worm and have become champion, you’ll notice there’s not one single cosmetic item that is given for your shining achievement. Sure, it will be shown on a stat page only you can see, but not even the Apex-inspired Banner card offers a win counter for others to revere.
Gameplay-wise, Worms Rumble has that battle royale “it” factor so many shovelware developers are desperately searching for. Maybe it is the joyousness of bouncing from wall-to-wall or hearing enemy worms squeal when finally knowing the wrath of my explosive sheep. Either way, the title has an extremely heightened sense of identity – something very rare to come by these days.
However, many players may get lost inside this multiplayer madness for probably a good 10 to 15 hours until wondering what it’s all for. Only a finite amount of well-established titles can go unscathed without a thorough progression system, and Worms Rumble is not one of them. The care and effort put into cosmetics designs doesn’t seem as strong as the map designs, and there aren’t many unlockables that scream “must-have” anyway.
No matter, its gameplay still delivers such a stupidly fun blast of a time. The characters, maps, and weapons stay true to previous franchise lore, despite it being a radically different game. Although raw and undersized, Team17 manages to inch away with one outrageously smart spin-off in Worms Rumble.
7 / 10
|+||Lore remains intact and better than ever.|
|+||Real-time multiplayer is simple, yet enticing.|
|+||Ambitiously detailed map layout|
|–||Progression system is barren and demotivating.|
|–||Winning matches mostly goes unrecognized.|