Growing up in the 90’s there were a lot of games which everyone knew about and talked about. These were the likes of Final Fantasy, Crash Bandicoot and Soul Reaver. Another game that had us all talking was the Worms series, a simple yet lauded franchise where players controlled worms across a vast 2D arena as they pummelled each other with weapons of all kinds. However, as we played Worm: Battlegrounds, we are forced to concede this may well be the swan song on a series that has simply run out of steam.
The premise of the title is… well it is the same as it has been for almost every incarnation of the series. The player takes command of a small team of anthropomorphic worms, armed to the teeth with weapons both classic and unusual (exploding sheep anyone). Using said squadron of invertebrates they are tasked with taking down the enemy team in a turn based shoot out across various 2D arenas. It is a classic formula – one which has served the franchise well – and one which fans will slip into without any trouble.
The problem with this latest instalment in the franchise is simply that, it is the latest in a long line of similar titles meaning that all originality seems to have faded away. The formula of worm vs worm is one which has not changed at all in the last couple of decades leaving very little room for more since it doesn’t dare stretch beyond this theme. While we can appreciate the desire to keep the fans happy we cannot help but feel this lack of innovation makes the whole experience feel stagnant when held up against other new titles.
Graphically Worms: Battlegrounds feels a bit like a mixed bag. The game has some rather impressive packaging with a unique single player campaign to teach newcomers the controls and even vocals from the effervescent Katherine Parkinson of The IT Crowd fame. It also boasts an impressive visual quality with a rich colour palette and a some downright pretty imagery at times. That said, we are not convinced that this is worthy of being a next generation console release as the visuals simply do not measure up to other games on the same platforms. This does make the game feel like it flows more smoothly, but in 2014 we expect to be able to have our cake and eat it too, and by cake we mean graphics!
One thing we found rather unforgivable was the lack of playability when the player is set against the computer. The difficulty of the enemies is set by the computer but also seems woefully inconsistent. One moment the computer seems to give up, sending the enemy worm off to play with a jump rope, while other times they pull out an airstrike we didn’t see coming. This does occasionally make the game feel more challenging but not because of any inherent challenge but more because the computer just said uncle when it couldn’t calculate an appropriate move. This did improve slightly on multiplayer but not enough to leave us wowwed at the alter of Worms!
There are lots of series out there which have had more sequels than any other, FIFA, Call of Duty and Medal of Honour to name a few. However, the point of the franchise is to find a new twist on each classic to make each title feel unique, even if it only feels that way to the fans. Here however we feel that while there are a couple of new directions taken, there simply isn’t enough to bring Worms: Battlegrounds out of the shadows to be a contender in the next generation of gaming. If the franchise is to continue forward it needs to do so with the courage to be daring and interesting, not by repeating the same thing ad nauseum.
This is a game that is only for the most die-hard fans of the franchise.
You can get Worms: Battlegrounds for Playstation 4 and Xbox One on Amazon