The Worms series has been around for over 20 years now, and yet its core gameplay has largely remained the same. Sure there have been attempts at changing the formula, such as the shift to 3D in the Mayhem spin off series, but overall the main concept has remained unchanged. This is true once again in Worms W.M.D, but Team17 has dug into this formula and found places where changes could be made without disrupting what players love the series for in the first place. The result is a refined and enjoyable sequel, though one that won’t win over any new fans for the series.
Worms W.M.D, like the other games in the series, doesn’t really have any sort of storyline. There are teams of worms, and they are constantly at war with one another. Why? Over what? Who cares, this game and series is all about the turn-based battle gameplay. You control a team of worms, one at a time, alternating turns between your opponents. You have a plethora of weapons at your disposal, some of which unlock later, others can be picked up on the map via random drops. Worms W.M.D doesn’t try to change this, getting players right into the action with a quick and optional tutorial, followed by a campaign that is pretty much just a set of multiplayer matches with specific objectives, and the usual suite of multiplayer options.
The tutorial does a good job of teaching players how this whole thing works, with the campaign helping to slidify your skills. Worms is a bit famous for its brick wall of a learning curve, especially when it comes to controls. Some adjustments have been made here, bringing the control options into the somewhat modern era, but things are still rather confusing if you haven’t already become accustomed to Worms’ odd mechanics. Even with the tutorial, breaking through the wall can be tough, and even once you do you’ll probably still hit the wrong button every once in a while, or make a very odd jump that results in your worm’s death. Luckily these moments are usually more fun than they are frustrating, but some might become tired of them if they are new to the series.
Along with teaching players the basics of Worms, the tutorials and campaign also serve to introduce longtime fans to the new things being added for Worms W.M.D. There are some small additions, like new weapons and indoor environments, but the headliners are the vehicles and the crafting system.
These vehicles include a pretty awesome new mechsuit, a helicopter, and various weapon stations scattered around the map. Compared to the usual Worms tactics, these are a pretty big shift in the gameplay, and offer new strategic opportunities for players to try out. In practice they don’t seem to have as large of an impact as one might expect though. They seem to get destroyed pretty easily, and after a few hours of play I found myself avoiding them more often than not, just because of the unpredictability of what might happen between turns.
Crafting, on the other hand, was the exact opposite. Early on it felt like a bit of a tacked on feature, but once you dive into its intricacies it becomes integral to your possible victory. By dismantling weapons in your inventory, or picking up gear from around the map, players can stock up on various parts that can be used to create newer, often more powerful weapons. The dismantling and crafting of weapons can even be done on other players’ turns, which really helps give players something to do, other than watch as blue team shoots their favorite worm off into the water.
The weapons that you will be using and crafting are largely the same as what you’ve seen in previous Worms titles. There are the tough to use, but powerful thrown weapons, the surefire hits, and a couple of super weapons that yield devastating power. Some new ones have been added, including the astonishing OMG Strike, and the quite useful Dodgy Phone Battery. Figuring out how to work these into your usual Worms strategy should be easy, and a whole lot of fun as they are a pleasure to test out.
On top of all these changes comes a new art style that is a major upgrade. Shifting to a total 2D aesthetic, the game no longer tries to work in 3D models. Instead there is a beautiful 2D art style that appears hand drawn. For a series like this it makes a lot of sense to make this change, and the added detail to the world really sets the stage in a much nicer way.
Fans of Worms might look at W.M.D and wonder if it is worth the upgrade. The games have been going for a long time, and each new entry has made its own mark on the franchise. Does Worms W.M.D stack up to the previous greats? It feels like it does, as it takes a deft hand in making its changes. This doesn’t come close to feeling like a totally new experience, but that’s not really what you want in the 20th or so entry in a franchise. You want a refinement on what works, and enough new stuff to keep you interested. W.M.D hits these goals quite well. Could more be added? Sure, but then you might feel like too much was being done to the winning formula all at once.
Worms W.M.D offers a lot of big changes for this 20 year old series, but nothing that totally alters the landscape of what has made it so endearing over the years. New mechanics, weapons, vehicles, and a stunning art style all add to the series without changing what has worked so well for so long. Longtime fans will find a lot to love, and newcomers should find this much more accessible thanks to the new control schemes. It’s still not the most easy to pick up game in the world, but once you get past the wall it’s a whole lot of fun.