Worms WMD (Switch) Review
Worms has been around since the 90s. First as little pixel sticks of death, to the more commonly seen cartoony worms that adorn every new game. I remember playing the original on the PC, playing way too much of the Worms 2 demo with friends. Every few years there would be a new game released looking to shake up the franchise; full 3D battlefields, forts, different classes of worms and interactive environments. At some point they even played golf. After many years trying to find itself, Worms WMD is a return to what made Worms such an enduring series.
If you haven’t encountered a Worms game before, it’s a turn-based shooter on a 2D plane. Your wisecracking team of Worms go up against another (either PvP, the AI or both), using a wide variety of weapons to fire across the battlefield, sending your opponent to the grave. It might sound simple, but throw in fully destructible terrain, wind direction which impacts how your shots carry across the field, figuring out how much power to put behind that grenade throw, and working out how some of the wackier weapons work without turning yourself into a crater in the ground.
One of the fun parts of any Worms game is making your team, which has always provided plenty of customisation options well beyond just naming your scrappy team of soldiers. You can choose their outfit (the only way you’ll be playing as Yooka or Laylee on the Switch in 2017), voices, victory dances and music, headstones and forts. A lot of this content is accessible upfront which is great if you’re looking to jump right into battles with your specially picked team of worm warriors. It is still too much fun listening to all the different worm voices they have, I found it hard to choose between the Bob Ross inspired Artist voice and the old newsreel voice, amongst a handful of others.
Multiplayer matches are where most hours of this game are usually spent, whether it’s sharing the same screen (you can use split joy cons) wirelessly across Switches, or online. There is a decent amount of customisation options for making a level suitable for the number of worms you want on the map and the number of teams playing. If you want to make it interesting, you can also choose a showdown against forts like a pirate ship. There are a variety of presets from previous games for round and turn timers and health counts, if there’s a setting that you prefer. The multiplayer is as good as it’s ever been, and best enjoyed against a human opponent. Not that the AI can’t be good fun as long, as they’re not blasting themselves to pieces with some bad decisions.
The main draw to the Worms games are the multiplayer matches, but if you’re looking for a break or a chance to sharpen your skills of annelid annihilation, there are weapon tutorials and 30 campaign levels. There are a few extra levels tucked away also. There isn’t any story to be found, but if you want to set yourself a challenge there are enough side objectives per level to try for. You also gain points towards ranking up your user level, which helps unlock the few customisation options that aren’t available straight away. The tutorial levels are great for helping you get acquainted with the game, and if you’re a Worms veteran it doesn’t hurt to try out the new mounted weapons and vehicles. The only complaint I could direct at the single player content is that the tutorials don’t cover all the weapons. You’re left finding out what they do when you accidentally shuffle yourself off this mortal coil.
Over the last two decades, Team 17 has introduced a lot into their Worms games. Worms WMD feels like it strips back a lot of the additions made over the years, almost like a return to the early days, although it does have some new additions of its own. Turret weapons and vehicles are dotted across the battleground and can really do some damage if you can get your hands on them. They are all quite powerful and most give you several shots. It never ceases being fun bombarding a group of enemies. Although thankfully they aren’t overpowered enough that a well-placed shot can’t knock you clear of the turret while blowing it up at the same time. There’s a few vehicles like the Mech, the tank, a copter and the drillboat. Like the turrets, they can do some big damage or really get you across the screen. With the drillboats you can finally move about on the water instead of drowning with a sad plop. The tank and copter are great for getting around and doing damage to multiple targets. The mech only really works if you’re close to an enemy, and lacks the range of destruction the others rain down regularly, as it can only slam down on the ground with its fists. Like the turrets, the vehicles aren’t unstoppable and all it takes is another worm coming up and kicking you out and giving you a taste of your own medicine. Vehicles also make you a much larger target to hit.
The other two changes that WMD brings are structures and crafting. Structures are often buildings that can be entered. They provide a great place for cover, and any worms are hidden away unless you’re also inside the building. They can be a bit hit or miss, it’s not always clear what is a structure that can be entered, and it can make for a frustrating match if the building is tucked away somewhere hard to get to while the enemy has their team hidden there. The crafting is also new to the series. You collect air drops that contain spare parts, or you can dismantle weapons you have to help you craft a weapon you might really need. It can be kind of forgettable when you’re not coming across any airdrops, but it is useful when you’re stuck in a part of the map where the basic set of weapons won’t do. Even better with crafting is that you can craft items in your enemies turn and have a new weapon to surprise them with. To obtain some of the wackier weapons you’ll have to build them.
One of the big bullet points to the Worms series has been its weapons. There’s loads of them, a lot of them unconventional and some downright overpowered (Concrete Donkey I’m looking at you). In WMD there are 80 weapons and tools. Most are for tearing up the map and your foes. There’s also a handful great for escaping out of a pinch, or getting your worm to a more advantageous position. There are the mainstays like the bazooka, grenades, firepunch, air strikes and Holy hand grenades. The news new additions include the Dodgy phone battery and the O.M.G L.O.L Strike, which easily fit in with the rest. Not all 80 weapons can be accessed all at once, some need to be crafted, although they are mainly variations on a weapon you do have access to so ultimately you should never feel there aren’t enough weapons.
After forays into 3D and 2.5D with regular returns to 2D, WMD is very much a 2D game. The hand drawn art for the different landscapes looks great and make for some really fun maps. The worms themselves have also had a redesign which I am not quite as fond of. It could be that I grew up with the cartoony look the worms have had for most of the time, with the odd tweak here or there. The new worms for the most part look fine, it’s just the monstrous mouth they have now. I think it’s meant to be clenching their teeth, it’s truly unsettling. But in game you won’t have to see it much, so I can let it slide.
WMD looks best on the big screen. There can be a lot going on and the TV helps with that. It’s great to play in handheld mode, if you can get used to a fair amount of zooming in and out on the map. The only real ding on this game would be the camera. Most of the time it is fine to follow what’s happening, but every now and then it just gets wanderlust and takes you away from important moments like following the path of a missile or airstrike.
Online Update (27/11): With Worms WMD available for purchase, I was able to get into the online portion of the game and check out the Ranked and Unranked matches. Setting up an unranked game is similar to setting up an offline multiplayer match. If you are looking to make an online game with friends, unfortunately, there are no private matches. You can only set up public matches. When trying to join the public games I found it could be the sheer chance if the game went ahead, or if the host boots you from the lobby, seemingly because you weren’t meant to join their game. It’s a shame that you can’t host a private game for friends, it can be worked around but it seems like an option that should’ve been there.
With Ranked matches, it’s a one on one player match where you and your opponent take turns placing four worms on the map and then it’s on. Winning ranked of course goes towards building up your ranking, and along the way, you unlock new backgrounds and flashy effects on your lifebar. The effects are nice and are a great way to show off. In both modes, the online connection seemed to work well. With a stable internet connection, it should run as smoothly as an offline game. However, you will notice if someone else has a bad connection, but that’s to be expected – in any game it happens. Overall, the online portion runs smoothly, and the Ranked mode offers a real challenge with cosmetic bonuses you can only achieve by earning them.
Worms W.M.D feels like a celebration of over two decades of Worms, if you’ve been a fan of the series at any point it’s worth checking back in. If you’re new to Worms and after a good multiplayer game, there’s a lot to like in this game. Turn-based worm warfare finds the perfect home on the Switch.
Rating: 4 / 5
A great Worms game
No Private Online matches