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September 2018

Worms W.M.D.

Platform(s): Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Genre: Action
Publisher: Team 17
Release Date: Nov. 23, 2017


Switch Review - 'Worms WMD'

by Cody Medellin on Dec. 8, 2017 @ 12:00 a.m. PST

Worms W.M.D. features a fresh, brand new look 2D cartoon-inspired worm as well as gorgeous hand drawn landscapes.

Buy Worms WMD

Worms is one of the longest-running franchises in video game history, and it frequently spawns new sequels. Worms WMD is the 24th release in the main series in almost as many years. You probably have fond memories of huddling around a PC monitor in the late '90s with your friends and having fierce hot-seat battles.

The Worms series has been hit-and-miss in the past decade, with several attempts to reinvent the turn-based formula. The series returns to its former 2-D glory with Worms WMD, which tries to be a spiritual successor to Worms Armageddon, which many fans hold dear to their hearts. As it turns out, this was probably the best decision developer Team 17 could've made to get Worms back on track. Worms WMD is just as fun as Armageddon, but it's now portable on the Nintendo Switch.

Worms WMD was initially released on PC, PS4 and Xbox One in 2016. Since theen, the game has received a few free content updates and a DLC pack, all of which are included in the Switch version. There are some minor exclusive additions to this version, such as a new space theme, cosmetic items, and special forts.

For those who aren't familiar with Worms, it's a turn-based strategy game where two or more teams of wormlings fight to the death on a 2-D map. It sounds weird and nonsensical on paper — and it's exactly that. Worms is pure anarchy. Players take turns crawling across the map to blow up as many enemy units as possible. Every turn is limited by a timer and ends when you're out of time, your worm takes damage, or you've completed an attack.

Worms is known for its ridiculous arsenal of weapons, and WMD is no exception. There are known classics like the bazooka, the holy grenade, and exploding sheep, and there are new additions like the phone battery, which creates a chain of electrocution that takes out nearby enemies. Add to that the fair and accurate — but difficult to master — controls, and the result is a wonderfully chaotic battleground.

Going into the game, there are optional tutorial missions to learn the basic controls and the new gameplay mechanics. There are 30 campaign missions and several extra tasks and challenges. Most of them are fun and short-lived battles that require you to complete several objectives, which can range from weapon kills in a specific order to crafting and/or dismantling weapons.

The crafting aspect is one of the more substantial additions to the Worms gameplay. By opening special resource crates and dismantling weapons into spare parts, we can create new guns. Those can be reassembled to either standard weapons, more complex specialized weapons, or weapon variations with elemental effects. The crafting/dismantling process is not confined to our own turn, so we can perform those actions anytime. The only restriction is that both crafting and dismantling takes a turn to complete, and only one action can be taken at a time.

On top of crazy weaponry and basic crafting mechanics, there is the possibility of using vehicles and stationary weapons, such as turrets. While turrets consist of miniguns, sniper rifles or mortars, vehicles can range from tanks to helicopters. I was initially worried that vehicles would create an uneven battlefield, but they're a great addition that offers some risk/reward action on the battlefield. A vehicle does not add to a worm's health, and it's incredibly dangerous to maneuver through all the mines and explosives littered on the maps, but it delivers powerful attacks. Using vehicles can pay off due to the extra damage they inflict, but if the vehicle gets destroyed, it also damages the worm inside.

Another added gameplay element are functional buildings. While buildings were just fancy decorations in previous titles, they are now accessible in Worms WMD and have their own layout and tactical advantages. Buildings often hold a few extra crates to collect and provide shelter against attacks. The insides of a building are only visible if the player has a worm stationed inside, so buildings also serve as a good hiding place.

Even though there are a few additions to the original formula, the core gameplay remains largely intact, which may be positive or negative, depending on your personal preference. The chaotic battles are colorful and stupid fun, especially when played competitively, but there are still the usual flaws present. While the controls are largely skill-based, they can feel incredibly inaccurate at times, mostly when the environment interferes in unexpected ways. As the map is destructible, it creates edges all over the place that can be difficult to traverse. There's an almost invisible residue present that blocks your movement, like an invisible wall. The camera movement doesn't feel great at times, making it tough to get an overview of what's going on. The automatic tracking of events by the game camera occasionally doesn't function well.

While these inaccuracies can be the source of further fun in a friendly match with friends, they can also be a potential source of frustration. Your actions in Worms, no matter your skill level, often feel vulnerable to circumstance. Some may find that fun, but others may get needlessly frustrated over it. If you're willing to embrace it, this is probably the most fun on a 2-D plane you can have.

As mentioned earlier, the game works best when played competitively, and thankfully, Worms WMD delivers a comprehensive multiplayer package. This is where the portability and controller variety of the Switch significantly enhances the experience. Local and online matches can be played with up to six player-controlled teams. Offline, Worms WMD either supports the use of multiple controllers, one for each player, or a hot-seat option, where a single controller is passed around. Thankfully, the game also has single Joy-Con support in case your controller selection is slim.

WMD might be the first game where I feel tabletop mode with shared Joy-Cons is a viable option to take to a friend's house. The slow and turn-based pace, as well as the zoomable camera, make the game playable on the small portable screen, unlike many other titles that advertise the fact. Team 17 has also made excellent use of the HD Rumble functionality to deliver impactful and realistic rumble feedback, from explosions to the humming engine of the available vehicles. Worms is probably the least immersive game with one of the most immersive rumble features on the Switch.

On the technical side, WMD looks amazing. The hand-drawn graphics are clean, simple and fit the overall style of the franchise. It runs reasonably well, but we did run into a few frame rate issues when setting half of the map on fire due to a nasty oil barrel chain reaction. We also encountered a few crashes that forcefully ended the game for us, but fortunately, that never appeared in online match-ups.

Online multiplayer is included, and it offers either 1v1 ranked matches or unranked matches with varying player counts and rules. Unfortunately, shortly after launch, the servers weren't exactly crowded, and finding a match took us a while. Even when hosting our own game, we had to wait a while for potential opponents and we never got more than two other people to join. This may change over time, as the steep release price of $30 may be a deterrent, even though the Switch version is complete and adds a few extra things on top. Worms is a typical budget title for most people, so it'll probably sell more units when the price drops. The fact that the game is available for a significantly lower price on other platforms doesn't help the fact, either. It's sad to see that Team 17 wasn't able to implement cross-play between the PC, Switch and Xbox One to increase the online player base. Maybe this is fixable in the future.

Content-wise, this is one of the most complete Worms experiences I've played, especially considering that the series' content was never as popular as the core gameplay. Procedurally generated maps keep things fresh, while an incredible number of items and customization options can keep you entertained for hours on end. Add to that some cool cross-over gear from games like The Escapist and an interesting Fort mode, where two forts have to battle it out, and you get a fun Worms experience.

Worms WMD is resetting the series and delivers in all the important areas while adding some minor improvements. If you like Worms and specifically want a portable version of it, this a fun investment of your time. It doesn't reinvent the wheel, but it's probably the best version of the game currently available.

Score: 8.0/10

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