Every year or so, Team 17 seems to release another version of its longstanding Worms franchise. Worms is a turn-based battle game that pits your team of four worms against enemy teams in a battle to the death. Each version has, for better or worse, been very similar over the past 20 years, but each game has added a few tweaks to the overarching formula. Worms 3D, released in 2003, made the first leap from 2D to 3D, which I loved, but ultimately had mixed reactions from fans. Worms: Crazy Golf even attempted to make Worms into a “sports” game, although it was mostly forgettable. This summer’s release of Worms Battlegrounds does a great job of incorporating all the great features of the Worms franchise and although it doesn’t have much in terms of new ideas it’s easily the best all around Worms package to date.
Battlegrounds takes us back to the 2D Worms of yesteryear and, first and foremost, focuses on solid combat and precise platforming. Battlegrounds is ultimately a console port of last year’s release Worms: Clan Wars. Clan Wars’ addition to the Worms formula was that of a more succinct online community, featuring clan creation and a centralized chat lobby; these additions carry over into Battlegrounds as well. Every Worms game features a single-player mode, Battlegrounds included, but like most Worms games, this mode hardly matters. You will be spending most of your time in the multiplayer modes, blasting bazookas and giving holy hand grenades to your friends/soon-to-be worst enemies.
If you haven’t played a Worms game in a couple years, you might notice a difference in the size and shape of the worms on your team thanks to the addition of a class system. Classes were introduced in Worms: Revolution in 2012 and gave more depth and variation to the already great team customization options. Instead of one single type of worm to make up your team, you can now choose between a lightweight, middleweight, heavyweight and “scientistweight.” These options harken back to the original Ice Hockey on NES and feature similar pros and cons for each weight. I personally stick with the standard, middleweight worms, so the class system really has no interest to me, but I have seen some advanced tactics featuring varied-weight teams that have made me second guess my more traditional approach.
No Worms discussion would be complete without talking about the wacky and downright hilarious weapons this series is known for. You’ll be happy to know that Battlegrounds features every weapon ever introduced to the Worms universe and brings the grand total now up over 60 weapons and tools. If you haven’t played the most recent games in the series, like myself, you might stumble across a couple new and intriguing weapons you don’t recognize. But have no fear, because Battlegrounds has a great information page that describes what each item does and how to manage them. You can also play through the entire single-player mode, which is basically an elongated weapon and tool tutorial.
Worms is a game made to play locally with others, because seeing the look on your BFF’s face when you prod him off the edge of a cliff and into a watery grave is priceless. But now, reaching the tried-and-true age of 30, it is harder for me to find time to play games locally with friends, so I was excited to delve into the online community features in Battlegrounds. Battlegrounds’ online has smooth, solid game-play, quick matchmaking and in-game voice chat to boot. There is stat-tracking for weapons and leaderboards to keep track of where you rank amongst others. Occasionally there is a bit of lag while playing online, but it always takes place between turns and has never affected my actual turn or match outcome. Worms may be considered a bit of a cult game nowadays and doesn’t necessarily have the same online community as some modern-day franchises, but with Battlegrounds I have never had a problem finding plenty of people online with whom to exchange Banana Bombs and Super Sheep.
Worms has always been a series that I hold close to my heart. I grew up playing Tank Wars in the early 90’s on a DOS PC and the series has basically become a more refined version of that. There is something special about the slower, turn-based combat of Worms that seems a bit more strategic and refined than the twitch-based shooters of today. Some have grown tired of the Worms formula and its tongue-in-cheek humor, but I myself have not. I will be playing it for years to come, and although I may not buy every iteration released, Battlegrounds is as good as Worms can get. It features everything you could want from a 2D Worms title and provides great re-playability with it’s online community and the fact that no two rounds of Worms will ever play out the same. I will always find comfort in Worms’ ant farm styled stages and strategic, yet hilarious combat and I think you will too with Worms Battlegrounds. Go ahead early birds, grab a hold of this worm!