What number are we on now? 17? 18? That is a lot of Worms considering that, in my opinion, the formula was perfected way back at number 3, Worms: Armageddon. Since then, it seems that Team17 have been needlessly tinkering with it, trying to update it and keep it fresh, and while some new ideas have worked, the majority have been just plain bad – particularly that awful transition into 3D. Thankfully, Worms: Clan Wars has dropped back half a dimension and, save for a few issues, is a worthy addition to the series.
Although never really its strong point, Clan Wars makes a valiant effort to provide a worthwhile single player experience, helped in no small part by the game’s narrator, and former treasure seeker, Tara Pinkleton. Voiced by BAFTA winner Katherine Parkinson, and scripted by another BAFTA winner, Dean Wilkinson, Tara guides you through the game in a hilariously snooty fashion. Comedy can be more miss than hit in videogames, so much so that it’s avoided completely by many, but Clan Wars nails it. In fact, it’s so good at times that you almost can forgive some of the annoyances. The quest to obtain the Stone Carrot, that controls the Concrete Donkey (of course), spans 25 missions across 5 themed worlds of museum exhibits. There’s not much to it but there are some fun scenarios outside of the standard Worms deathmatches to keep you interested.
There have been some complaints about the difficulty of the single player in previous Worms games, and Clan Wars is no different, but it’s always been a characteristic of the series – anyone remember the Eiffel Tower mission in Worms: Armageddon? Intentional difficulty I can deal with, but difficulty arising from buggy physics is a whole different story and unfortunately, Clan Wars suffers from this occasionally. To give an example, in an early mission, a door to a friendly worm is supposed to open after dispatching the surrounding enemies. This door is on a rope, attached to a pulley and governed by the in-game physics engine. The problem I repeatedly faced was it getting stuck on the scenery as it was being raised up, essentially breaking the level. So after a barrage of bazooka fire and grenades failed to dislodge it I was about to give up, but not before trying to baseball bat the thing into submission. And, low and behold, it worked. Now I’m not sure if this was intentional or not but, either way, it was not fun.
As well as the story mode, players can also try their hand at 10 time attack missions in Worm Ops. Weapons and utilities are severely limited, and missions range from taking out multiple enemies with just a bazooka and a jetpack to assassinating one soldier using a baseball bat. Relatively easy and sometimes quite brief, the only real reason for completion is getting your name on the online leaderboards, but they do offer a handy way of familiarizing yourself with some of the weapons sets. Those who are familiar with the previous title in the series, Worms: Revolution, won’t see any major differences in gameplay.
The four classes of worm introduced in Revolution are back, along with their unique attributes. The Soldier can detonate grenades at will, the Scout moves faster, doesn’t trigger mines and can see into crates, the Heavy does more damage and causes a larger explosion on death, and the Scientist heals worms at the beginning of a turn. While it does add another layer of tactical play, it’s not all that important and the choice of worm seldom comes into play except in very specific circumstances.
New additions to the arsenal are a little weak in comparison to previous outings. The Mega Mortar is a nice addition, as is the Teleport Gun that transports your worm to wherever the beam touches. It also allows consecutive shots provided you don’t touch the ground so it can be used as a high tech replacement for the ninja rope (which itself has been altered almost to the point of being unusable for this purpose). Some less than useful new armaments include the Whoopie Cushion, a bouncing, poison filled bomb with a terrible range and weak damage, and the Winged Monkey that can grab objects and drop them about the map. Pretty pointless really. A lot of the old favourites are back, such as the Concrete Donkey, Holy Hand Grenades and the Old Lady, but others are missing, most notably the Minigun and my favourite, The Salvation Army.
Physics objects from Revolutions are back but are expanded further into puzzles. Doors operate on pulleys (or they’re supposed to), bone platforms move up and down like elevators, and certain objects embedded in the scenery can be dislodged or teleported away. It adds another dynamic aside from the standard destructible environments but can be a little buggy at times. A new day and night cycle has also been implemented but it’s almost unnoticeable and doesn’t serve any real purpose, unless the developers really wanted the game to skip for half a second as the lighting changes.
WormNet returns in Clan Wars bolstered by new content and game modes, customization and clan support (obviously). After customizing your worms in a variety of ways including outfits, names and sound-banks, you can join or create your own clan and take it online to battle others from around the world in either a straight deathmatch or Forts. Although I didn’t get a chance to test this in practice, it seems to be a full-featured multiplayer both on and offline. This edition is also the first to feature Steam’s Workshop support so expect plenty of new community-made content in the future.
Not much has changed in the looks department, as Team17 have thankfully kept the 2.5D colourful, cartoony graphical stylings of Revolution. With only 5 themes to choose from, the environments become repetitive but as they get blown to hell almost straight away it doesn’t really matter. The weapon sounds and explosions are very satisfying, particularly the shotgun and bazooka, and the worm speech sound-banks are excellent, even though it would have been nice to see a larger selection. No sign of the classic “Tykes” sound-bank but “Cheese” makes a pretty hilarious substitute.
VERDICT: Worms: Clan Wars is a fine game and, aside from the odd physics bugs here and there, it puts the series back on track after some unfortunate deviations. But it’s essentially the same game from circa 1999, with a moderate graphical overall and a few new weapons. It took Team17 12 years and a few mis-steps to see they had it right way back then. With an engaging single-player experience and a seemingly strong and in-depth multiplayer component, there is plenty to keep us occupied for a while. The trouble Team17 will have is the same one they have had all along, and that is how to keep the series from going stale by adding fresh ideas without ruining it completely. But it’s safe to say that, this time, they got it right.
GOOD. A game that scores 7/10 is worthy of note, but unworthy of fanfare. It does many things well, but only a few of them incredibly well and, despite a handful of good qualities, fresh ideas and solid mechanics, it fails to overwhelm.