When you've played a series for 10 years and never felt the same joy as the first time you played it but just can't pin down why, you develop a strange relationship with the franchise. Quite a few gamers feel this way about the Worms series; whether it's the strangeness of the 3-D entries or the Open Warfare offshoot not feeling like it has the "heart" of the series, Worms hasn't clicked for quite some time.
Well, enough is enough.
Worms Reloaded has a combination of the right price point, the right updates and the right touches to bring the joy of exploding sheep back to the computer screen.
For those not familiar with Worms, the gameplay is a fairly twisted turn-based strategy. Each player has a team of four worms who get turns individually (the turn always switches players, even if it's four-on-one). During its turn, each worm gets X seconds to walk, jump, ninja rope, and occasionally jetpack their way around the 2-D map until they finally pull out a weapon and open fire. Well, "fire" is a relative term when you use weapons like exploding sheep. Not only do the weapons do damage, but they also have significant knockback and deform the map, thereby reducing the amount of surface that worms can walk on. This often results in them dropping into the water, which means instant death for any worm. Even dead worms can be weapons because they self-destruct, not only leaving behind a gravestone but also causing another explosion.
The gameplay is relatively simple and often imitated. Those who have gamed in the '90s may recall the rather similar PC game, Scorched Earth, and free-to-play game fans may find Gunbound to be very similar. However, no one has duplicated Worms' most important elements: hilariously expressive characters, surprisingly quick pace for a game with one-minute turns, the wide array of weapons, and the turn-on-a-dime strategies that assure that a smart player can come from behind to win.
In recent years, Worms has allowed players to customize their gameplay experience by naming teams, changing the team's color, gravestone, hat, victory dance and voices. These customizations, while seemingly superficial, have been key to reviving the game's personality in recent years. The amount of options and unlockable extras in Reloaded is staggering, allowing you to create a distinct-feeling team rather quickly. This customization has also extended to a gameplay purpose: You can select your team's fort type, which will occasionally influence matches. The forts tend to be very esoteric and odd in their design, which is both stylistic and tactical.
Worms Reloaded has also evolved to integrate a few elements that specific to the current gaming generation. The online multiplayer is fully integrated with Steamworks, so finding other owners of the game is surprisingly easy. Furthermore, the online component makes it very easy to get into ladder-ranked matches, with play carefully accounting for inevitable lag issues. (This shouldn't be a problem in a turn-based game, and fortunately, Team17 keeps it that way.) The game also provides a full tutorial, increasingly difficult campaign with some interesting maps, and plenty of unlockable items and weapons.
The game's graphics are essentially the same as they've always been, but they're now at a higher resolution than before. Explosions are simple, with comic book-style text ("Boom!", "Pif!", etc.) leaving a shadow on the ground. The biggest visible change is in the graphics, which are now smoothly rendered instead of sprite-animated. Worms move perfectly smoothly, hands popping out of their tiny bodies to fire a weapon (or emote). The results make the cartoonish effect even more otherworldly and hilarious, particularly when the worms pull out a jump rope when you skip their turn. Sound effects are also essentially the same as always, with simple explosion noises and plenty of voice clips to bring personality to the situation — along with the best faux "Baaaa!" I've ever heard.
Worms Reloaded finally seems to get something that's been missing from the Worms series for a long, long time. It modernizes it just the right way to deliver the old magic. Worms is back, and it's bringing hilarious, strategic, turn-based strategy mayhem with it. For only $20, it's strongly recommended for most strategy gamers or people who are looking for something different. With that said, be forewarned that the system requirements are quite high and can cripple non-gaming machines.
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