OH NOOOO! I have got worms again! I can only say this time it was not due to eating an egg salad sandwich from a gas station restroom vending machine.
Developer: Team17 Digital
Publisher: Team17 Digital
Release Date: 1 Dec, 2020
Actually I have been playing the worms series since Worm 2 was released. I also have pretty much every Worms game going (other than Worms W.M.D. which I still do plan to pick up!). I have even played pretty much all of the spin-off titles such as Worms Crazy Golf. Worms is a series I have enjoyed alone and with friends for years although it has been kind of hard to find good matches these days. I have been looking forward to Worms Rumble for a while.
This game does have almost all the hallmarks of a Worms game. There are the titular worms of course which is naturally a good first step. There is a plethora of weapons some of which are smile worthy and wacky such as the sheep launcher and the holy hand grenade. There are attention grabbing costumes and humorous dialogue delivered in a variety of voices. It pretty much checks most of the boxes you would expect for a Worms game. Interestingly enough there are a few departures from previous games, but it can be quite refreshing for a long running series to try new things. For example, Worms Rumble is not turn based like you would have come to expect from the franchise, instead it is now real time. You also now control only one worm rather than a small team of them and instead of just being a few players duking it out, there are now a decently high number of them going at it. When you put it all together it still makes for an interesting new take on the franchise. There is just one difference between Worms Rumble and the previous Worms games that makes total sense why it had to be that way although it takes away one of the most fun and more unique gameplay elements in the franchise to date. Entirely destructible environments are gone. In previous games the land was generated, and the worms were randomly placed upon it. Virtually any attack you did would cause damage to the environment. Sometimes this would allow you access to your victim or would release a pocket of water on them. Sometimes the land around you was so destroyed that one shimmy in either direction could cause you to fall to your untimely death so you better hope you had a ninja rope (also know as a grappling hook) or jetpack handy. It was very disappointing that my first holy hand grenade did not leave a massive smoldering crater where it landed. It felt somehow wrong for it just to be a glorious hallelujah and bright flash that quickly vanished and left no trace that it ever existed. The same went for the sheep launcher and banana bombs, those wacky bouncing destructive grenades that just fizzle away after exploding. Oh well, the march of progress moves steady onward. It is good that Team 17 tried something different. I guess I can be happy with just smashing objects and breaking open vents.
There are currently only a few modes in Worms Rumble however The Lab seems like it might keep the game interesting. Deathmatch is the basic game mode that pits you against all the other players. You can respawn if you die when you want to, otherwise you can spectate for a while. You will be moving around in real time with no break from the action. There are also a couple of variants of Last Worm Standing one of which is team based, the other is a free for all. Unlike in Deathmatch though, when you die you are done. The last mode worth mentioning is The Lab which promises to be something different each week. The Lab mixes things up a bit by introducing new variations to the game. The first Lab gave a Last Worm Standing variant that equipped you with only a bat and a pistol which only had one shot in it. That one shot will kill anything it hits though (unlike the normal pistol which feels like a peashooter in comparison). Also unlike in Deathmatch, in Last Worm Standing the map steadily gets smaller with the various zones filling with gas that will kill any worm that dares enter it.
Speaking of killing worms, there are still plenty of weapons to choose from in Worms Rumble although a lot of the familiar favourites are not here. The game has room to grow though so it is possible they might find there way back in at some point. Until then we will just have to be satisfied with what did return. You can have two ranged weapons, one grenade type, a consumable, a mobility booster, and your trusty melee/bat at any given time. I have to say giving me a rocket launcher will have two results in the game: I will find a place and snipe with rockets and I will end up blowing myself up more often than I manage to snipe. Actually, the blowing myself up actually goes with the holy hand grenade, sheep launcher, banana bomb… and pretty much anything else I get my wormy hands on that has any kind of explosive capability… but I digress. Besides shimmying around the place, you can wall jump and you can also roll into a ball and quickly move. Rolling also allows you to jump further and I can tell you that these worms already jump rather well for worms. The map that is being played on is really quite large, so the speed and ease of movement is definitely good.
Since everything is real time you do not actually have a chance to think about your next action too much. There is a map that shows nearby worms on it so you can feel somewhat safe to stop and rest if you do not see any red dots around you but for the most part you are best to keep moving. Keeping yourself out of the line of fire does have the advantage that you will begin to heal over time, but sitting still makes you an easy target. Elevators and ziplines can be useful to make a quick escape, with the zipline being a little more dangerous as you can still be shot at as you speed away on it. I do have to admit I did have a fair amount of fun exploiting the elevator and a near by ventilation shaft for quick escapes when enemies had me at a disadvantage. With the combat being real time rather than turn-based, the gameplay is definitely faster paced than Worms fans are likely familiar with. You need to be constantly in motion as you try to dodge your enemy’s attacks all while trying to take them out. Being able to aim is a bit of a luxury at times but completely failing to aim will more than likely lead to you being the dead worm.
It is very important to note something here, there is no single player content outside of the tutorial (at least at this time but who knows what the future might hold!). Right now, you are at the mercy of the matchmaking system or having enough friends to create your own match. At the time of writing, the wait times between hitting the join button and having control of your character is usually not more than a few minutes at most. Down the road this may either improve if the game becomes popular or it may become problematic if the player base dwindles. Since there are no AI characters (at this time anyway) you need to wait until a full match is available which means you need around thirty-two people all wanting to play when you do. If the game mode you are playing is Last Worm Standing (team or solo) then the game might end for you in less time than it took to start until you get skilled at it (or at least lucky) which means you are best to stick to Deathmatch and respect the level restrictions on those other game modes.
Levels and Cosmetics
The game tracks your statistics and shares them with other players. Each game you play gives you a little more experience which will unlock new outfits for you to wear. You will also earn experience using the various weapons you equip so if you happen to favour certain weapons or get more kills using them you will likely unlock a lot of their skins first before your lesser used ones. Cosmetics can be earned through level progression, completing tasks, bought in game using in game currency or through downloadable content. This leads to being able to personalize your worms considerably.
For a two-dimensional game featuring worms as the player character, it looks great. It has a really good modern take on the classic Worms design. The Worms themselves are their same stylized self they have been since the start of the franchise although they definitely use more pixels now. Their 2.5D view on the menu and customization screens look wonderful and their smaller profile in game feels very nostalgic. Some of the weapons look a little samey so if you are like me you might get your basic gun weapons confused a bit but luckily skins can really help set them apart.
The levels that are available have quite a lot going on both in the foreground and background which keeps things interesting. Being able to sneak through a vent or swing and jumping from chandeliers as you cross the level helped keep it interesting. Everything is quite colourful but at the same time not too distracting. It is very easy to spot discarded weapons or crates for you to collect even among all the environment elements (some of which are breakable…but it just is not the same!)
The soundtrack to the game is upbeat and really helps support the action of the gameplay. The selectable voices for the worms and the announcer really help keep things interesting. The sound effects from the weapons are all pretty standard for a Worms game. I would have been highly disappointed had the holy hand grenade not had its hallelujah but it was there and just as glorious as always.
Controls and User Interface
Everything is laid out in a very logical fashion. I played with a keyboard and mouse and everything felt natural. The mouse controlling weapon related things and the keyboard for movement related things. Sure, early on I sometimes had trouble remembering the hotkey to use to trigger my items (sometimes forgetting I even had them despite the fact they were clearly shown on the screen with their hotkey labeled) but given enough time it should become second nature. The character customization menu is probably the most complicated element in the user interface and even it is straightforward and easy to use. Everything is broken down into sub-menus, so you are easily able to pinpoint the exact spot you need to go to tailor your character or weapons exactly how you want them.
So, should you pick up Worms Rumble? This is where the job of reviewer gets challenging and I can not give you a definitive yes or no myself so hopefully I have given you enough to form your own opinion. As a Worms franchise game? Maybe not, if you come into this expecting it to be “just another Worms game” you will be disappointed by the lack of destructible environment and the removal of strategic play that allows for, and then there is the disappearance of bunch items normally found in a Worms franchise game. The gameplay being in real time is a drastic departure from the regular Worms games as well and there is no single player campaign (or versus AI) option so you can not go it alone. With all that said though, if you do not try to see it as a regular Worms game and just as a real time 2D arena shooter that is thematically a Worms franchise game, then maybe you will enjoy it enough to warrant picking it up. It was an interesting move by Team 17 and I am glad they did it because had it been “just another Worms game” it would likely have felt like a rehash instead of something new. I am sure a lot of time and effort went into each and every Worms game thus far, but there is only so much you can do with the format before they start feeling the same. Worms Rumble offering up a new gameplay style which allows for games with over thirty players at the same time certainly makes it more interesting, it is just a shame it came at the expense of core gameplay features. Despite being released and not carrying the Early Access tag the game feels like it is still in active development. At the time of writing this there is already a new map announced as coming out next week which is great because it can get a bit tiresome always playing on the same couple of maps even if they are quite large. It is a game I will Save for Later and come back to at a later date when the Worm has turned…