Worms is a long running game series, spanning 19 years of existence with over 20 titles to its name, finding it’s home on a plethora of different consoles and devices, generating plenty of spin-offs and imitations throughout it’s run. Being around for so long has gained Team17 a solid fan-base and has allowed them to really perfect the genre and delve into new and innovative ways of destroying small wiggly creatures on a battlefield. However, with each passing title, it does seem as though some of the spark that made the franchise such a hit, has fizzled away and has begun to swing towards tedium. With Worms Battlegrounds, while this sentiment holds true, there’s still plenty here to keep it entertaining.
For those who haven’t played a Worms title, Battlegrounds is the latest iteration in the turn based tactical/strategy genre, whereby you attempt to annihilate up to 4 teams of enemy worms with an enormous arsenal of explosive weaponry at your disposal.
Worms games aren’t known for their story and quite frankly, don’t exactly jive with their overall destructive nature. Despite this, Team 17 has crafted a very oddball campaign involving an evil worm trying to steal an artifact, and using it to enhance his powers to possess the minds of everyone and rule the world. This means it’s up to you to stop his evil plan and save the day, with the help of Tara Pinkle, a crypt robbing adventurer, voiced by the wonderful Katherine Parkinson, who played the brilliantly funny Jen on “The I.T. Crowd.”
The story is absurd and nonsensical, and while it’s not the most enthralling tale, filled with plenty of clichés and unvaried tasks (usually watered down to reach here, blow up this group) it’s the sense of humour and the comedic delivery from the lovely Mrs. Parkinson that help to elevate the joy of it all. The jokes written won’t have you bursting out, but it’ll easily give you plenty of giggles in what’s already a generally funny game. Not only that, but along with the secondary single player mode, “Worm-Ops,” it actually serves to be suitably helpful tutorial to help get acquainted with any of the added nuances that have been introduced, or to simply allow a newcomer to educate themselves on the formula of the gameplay.
Presentation is delightfully top notch and endearing, with just a few hindrances here and there. Graphics are beautifully vivid, colourful and cartoony in style, fitting perfectly with it’s outlandish violence and chaotically comedic nature. Even the randomly generated environments are bursting with character, capturing the theme dictated by several time periods, such as the Stone age or Viking era. This is also reflected by the Worms themselves, as Battlegrounds offers a huge amount of customization. From their appearance, to their enormously charming voices, which spurt out from the PS4 controller with one liners, jokes, puns, and quotes, in a splendid manor of parody, even level editors and match schemes, there’s a robust amount of creative control to allow everyone to create their own adventure.
Musically, it does a superb job of fitting the specified theme, while still maintaining a pleasing and catchy nature to each tune, really adding to the atmosphere and being satisfying to listen to between turns. The sounds of your weapons are destructive, giving a gratifying explosive boom upon impact, whilst the tools at your disposal are filled with whirs and zaps, making the huge artillery an added treat to the senses. The presentation only really falters when noticeable stutter occurs with huge amounts objects on screen, slowing down the action somewhat. Load screens are also unusually long, especially for a next gen title.
Gameplay is quite the mixed bag, in the sense that not a whole lot has changed. While several new additions, such as added weapons, very fun water physics adding a new layer of depth to the action and the class system being reintroduced allowing for some new types of strategies, the core gameplay itself really remains unchanged. That being said, it is without a doubt the best the Worms series has ever been.
It’s strategic action always offers up an exhilarating rush not found in many other titles, allowing you to carefully execute a meticulously thought out plan of stealth and tactics, or go all out with guns blazing, eradicating anything in you path in order to obtain victory. While the A.I. can go from reasonably challenging, it also tends to spike up exponential, with enemies being able to fire a grenade from halfway across the map to your exact location. But it also fumbles miserably, like doing absolutely nothing for a full turn or their aim being completely moronic, causing them to shot themselves. It never seems to strike a balance.
However, this doesn’t derail from the experience at all, as the real fun is in the multiplayer. Whether it be local play or online matches, including the new Battlegrounds mode that allows you to create and join different clans in online battles, it dominates in regards to competitive play. There’s something innately rewarding about facing another human player, either beside you or across the world and watching as their troops drop one by one, dominating every battle you enter. Planning and always trying to stay one step ahead is always refreshing, tasking you with changing your next step on the fly, and using everything in your arsenal to crush the opponent. It never ceases to thrill.
In spite of all this, it doesn’t change my one main problem with the game, it really isn’t new. Long time fans of the Worms franchise really don’t have anything here to be excited about. It is still the basic chaos filled battlefield it was 19 years ago, with several new coats of paint and minor additions. This will be definitely be draw back, especially with a digital price of €25 and retail price of €50, I would recommend you hold off on purchasing it until the price drops to make it worth your money. For everyone else though, if you haven’t played Worms in years, or are new to the series as a whole, Worms Battlegrounds offers a huge amount of entertainment to relish in. The franchise’s first next gen outing is in top form.