[14 October 2012]
Worms games are nothing if not consistent. You always know what you’re getting into: a cute looking turn-based strategy game in which teams of four worms try to blow each other up with heavy munitions. Aside from the occasional 3D iteration, you know that the battlefield will be a 2D map with various hazards, probably surrounded by water. Developer Team 17 could have (and has) released the same game under a new name, and no one would think twice about it, but thankfully Worms: Revolution is not the same Worms game that you’ve played a dozen times before. It adds a couple new strategic elements that work wonders for this old formula.
For much of the series’s history, you’ve been able to customize your worms with cosmetic costumes, voices, and gravestones, but in Worms Revolution, there are practical customizations as well. Worms can be assigned to four unique classes: Soldier, Scientist, Scout, or Heavy. The Soldier is the default all-around warrior that you’ve used in past games. The Scientist is a weaker worm that takes more damage from attacks but heals your team slightly every time his turn arrives. The Scout is also weaker but can move faster and jump farther than any other worm. The Heavy is painfully slow and big, but all of his attacks hit harder than normal. You can mix and match these classes however you wish, but your team is always only four worms large.
In previous games you never needed to prepare for battle. Since everyone was using the same team of worms, no one had any inherent advantage or disadvantage. Random environments and random spawn points meant that you couldn’t even begin to strategize until the game began. The new classes in Worms: Revolution make preparation key to survival. Granted, you’re still at the mercy of random spawn points, but good preparation can mitigate an unlucky spawn or make a lucky spawn even better. Your worms always take their turns in the same order, and managing that order means thinking about some high-level strategy that’s never been present in a Worms game before.
Water hazards are new as well. Water has always been present in Worms, but only as a means of killing a worm that gets knocked out of the battlefield. Now the battlefield itself is littered with lakes and various water containers. If a worm gets caught in the water, its movement is slowed, and it loses heath each turn. In a smart move, the water is always blocked by a wall or cup at the start of a battle; the player must choose when to blow the dam. This turns the water into an offensive weapon rather than just a passive environmental hazard. Levels are designed with this in mind with lots of craters and slopes that can spell disaster for a team caught off guard. In Worms: Revolution, the environment matters more than ever before.
The humor is better than ever before as well. Not content to simply rest on the visual joke of worms with guns, each battle is preceded with a bit of narration by “disgraced wildlife documentary maker, Don Keystone” who loves a good animal deathmatch. His advice and disregard is a constant source of dry gallows humor, which fits the game perfectly.
Despite all the new features, Worms: Revolution is still lacking in some basics. There’s still no weapons training for bazookas and grenades (the only weapons that have infinite ammo)—something that used to be present in the games three console generations ago. These explosives can be particularly tricky to use since you can control the power of each shot and they’re affected by wind speed. The AI is a constant deadeye, able to pull off amazing trick shots that can obliterate your team quickly if you’re not careful. As a result, later levels feel artificially hard because the AI can shoot a rocket through a crack, and you can’t retaliate with the same precision. Training the player to be equally as good would just level the playing field.
The visual style is also a little unsettling at first. The game is 2D, but all the character models and environments are 3D, so the landscape always seems to curve into the background. This occasionally makes it hard to tell where an edge ends—what’s in the foreground and what’s in the background? You do get used to the style, and while it never significantly detracts from the game, I found myself missing the clear, sharp edges of a pure 2D world.
The new mechanics in Worms: Revolutions fit naturally into the Worms formula, and hopefully they become part of a new standard for the long running series.