Worms: Battlegrounds is essentially a re-named port of last year’s Worms: Clan Wars – it has the same single-player campaign, the same multiplayer component and the same wacky weapons. Arguably, this is all the Worms series has done for the past two decades: rehashing the same ideas while bringing in the occasional new one, for better or for worse. But this doesn’t mean Battlegrounds isn’t a worthwhile purchase.
The single-player campaign comprises 25 missions through which you pursue the evil Mesmer, who has stolen the Stone Carrot. He’s used his powers to bring museum exhibits to life, and you’re tasked by the-not-at-all-Lara-Croft Tara Pinkerton to defeat all the historic worms that stand in your way, be they Incas, Vikings, Feudal Japanese or Victorians.
If you’ve ever played a Worms game, the first five missions will be a breeze, slow walking you through tutorial after tutorial – but they do pick up, and the humour running through Katherine Parkinson’s narration mostly hits, even if it is a little one track (we get that you’re a tomb raider that likes killing people, you don’t need to drop it into every conversation).
Luckily, the multiplayer shines. At the time of writing the servers weren’t up, but I’ve played the local play extensively. It’s the standard formula: up to four players or A.I. duke it out, with 65 weapons to choose from. Series classics such as the Holy Hand Grenade and Concrete Donkey return alongside the new additions for Clan Wars like the Gravedigger. As you’d expect, it all descends into chaos. Being able to build your own arenas (either via the randomiser pre-match or in detail in the customizer) and the varying rule-sets provide variety to each match.
You can also create your own Worm team, with dozens of possible costume combinations alongside an assortment of comedy voices, my favourite being “angry Scots”. All of this may be cosmetic, but it adds some colour to the battlefield.
Each team also has a personal fort, which you can pitch against another team’s fort in the imaginatively named Fort Mode. It’s a neat twist on the basic game: the two forts are set against each other with a narrow gap in-between, and the teams must annihilate each other. The idea, of course, is to craft a fort that suits your style of play.
There are four types of worm, which adds an extra dimension to proceedings. The Soldier is your standard grub and can explode grenades at will, the Scout moves a little faster and won’t set off mines, the Scientist heals his nearby teammates at the start of each turn, and the Heavy is slower but can take more punishment. In all honesty, while it tries to add a little more strategy to proceedings, it’s negated by the random spawns at the start of each match – you’re left to make the best of how you start.
Sadly, these attempts to add tactics are mostly pointless. With seconds to make your move, planning devolves into “who am I most likely to hit?” vs “which team is in the lead and can I hit them?”, with the middle-ground between the two the point to aim for. For all the tactically possibilities of a well-built fort, a Concrete Donkey will flatten it in seconds, while the Scientist’s healing aura is useful if your team are close together, but such proximity means they immediately become fodder for a well-placed cluster bomb or airstrike. The whole point of Worms is that a turn or two in, the environment is riddled with holes and it’s as chaotic as schoolyard football.
Luckily these environments are nice to look at, even if it becomes hard to discern between background and foreground at times (I’ve been killed more than once by a grenade that’s ricocheted off a hidden piece of screen furniture). That explosions can take a chunk out of the second layer in is a neat feature though, aiding the war-torn look.
My only major gripe is that organising controllers in local play is a pain. Logging in as another account on the same system allows for second controller play, but only with a generic team, while controller swapping allows team choice, including customised ones, but means passing a controller around. If I’ve got a second one, I like to use it, dammit.
VERDICT: Worms: Battlegrounds is a solid game. I’ve had great fun playing it with my friends, and it’s definitely one I’ll return to after reviewing, which doesn’t always happen. But it is a Worms game, which means that nothing much is new, and nothing in particular is worth shouting about. If you don’t like the series this won’t convert you, but if you do, well, you already know what you’re getting.
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.
Review code provided by publisher.