Worms: Clan Wars Review (PC)

Worms: Clan Wars has quite a simple sounding mission, to deliver the best possible Worms experience, exclusively and specifically tailored to the PC. In this instance, that means taking the solid groundwork of Worms: Revolution and refining it even further, whilst opening up the game up to a whole new level of community support.

The name says it all really, with one of the marquee features being the clan support both in and out of the game. It’s actually almost treated like a whole separate game, in and of itself, with a clean divide in the menu system taking you to a dedicated clan section, away from the local multiplayer options and regular online play.

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Here you can play clan matches, engage in leagues, and chat to fellow clan members. It also ties in with a broader level of interaction, enabled via their companion website and upcoming mobile apps, which sees the game strive towards the levels of ever-present connectivity which we see so many next-gen title also targeting. The tools as they stand at launch feel a little bare, but are certainly going to be improved and expanded upon.

Beyond that, as a Steam-based game, Team17 have been able to hook into the Steam Workshop for the game’s future. Over time, they will be adding the ability to create your own story missions within the landscape editor and your own speech banks, as well as new hats and props for your worms. All of it is then shareable via Steam’s infrastructure.

It’s quite an ambitious level of customisability, but the heart of the game will always be with the turn-based combat, and here the game delivers a quintessential experience.

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It’s all about the core combat, which takes what worked well in Revolution and polishes the experience further.

The class system has returned from Revolution, but has been tweaked to make each one feel more unique. The Scout and Heavy in particular manage to look and perform very differently, with the small and nimble scout able to move past mines without triggering them, and perform much larger jumps. He does do noticeably less damage to enemies, which can make all the difference, and sits in stark contrast to the Heavy, where everything is ramped up to the max. His explosions are bigger, his damage output is greater, and when he dies he will cause damage in a wider area. The trade off is that he’s slow as molasses and as such is tricky to move to the ideal place without using items.

A gentleman’s agreement will have to be reached if you want to play with teams consisting of just the ordinary soldiers, as there is no default option to play using classic Worms settings. Yet at the same time, the classes really do offer something extra to the pre-Revolution formula, and are rather nicely balanced.

There’s some nice new weaponry, which joins the regular armoury, both plain and wacky. Of particular note is the Aqua Pack, which is like a jet pack, but it spews out water which can wash away enemies. Then there is the Teleport Raygun, which helps to get you zipping around the level; give these to the Heavy and his mobility is vastly improved!

There is an argument that some of these are overpowered, so as with previous games, these more powerful items are locked away and generally very limited. The Aqua Pack is maybe a little bit too easy to use for send enemies into the drink, and trapping a worm in a pool of water means they take damage each turn, whilst the Mega Mortar sends out quite a long series of rather high damage mortar shells which can more than easily kill a worm or three in one go, whilst simultaneous chewing through a lot of the landscape.

The 2D gameplay is once more married to the 3D engine from Revolution, and is looking really lovely in Clan Wars. The stylised level backgrounds are very easy on the eye, sat behind the a dual layered battleground which gives a lot of flexibility to how a level might look.

It bears a striking similarity to the kinds of material manipulation you see in LittleBigPlanet. As you deform the landscape when waging war, explosions will blow holes through the second layer, and not just affect the front layer which you can walk on. I would say that there are occasional issues with knowing what is foreground and background, but you’ll get used to it quite quickly.

Raising hell with your online clan and engaging in pitched Deathmatch battles against humans and AI is one thing, but there’s also quite a fun single player campaign, which takes the gameplay in some interesting directions.

The story follows Ms. Tara Pinkle and her merry band of Worms, as they try and retrieve the sacred Stone Carrot from the evil hypnotist Crowley-Mesmer. It’s absolute nonsense, of course, with Tara Pinkle painted as a kind of Lara Croft parody; a stinking rich manor-born lady, who stomps across the globe and wipes out everything she sees on her way to stealing some artifact or other.

It’s a fantastic little injection of humour, and Kathernie Parkinson’s voice acting – The IT Crowd’s Jen – is pitched perfectly, running into all manner of stereotypically posh and British colloquialisms along the way. It had me chuckling on more than a few occasions.

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The single player spices things up with a wonderfully funny script and some inventive puzzle-based twists to the missions.

The campaign itself manages to take a step away from the usual Deathmatches, and uses a variety of techniques to provide a very different experience. At times you’ll be controlling just a single worm, or trying to solve a particular environmental puzzle, crafted using the new contraptions. These introduce some simple logic and movable objects, so that there could be a swinging platform or series of doors in a level, and add a little spice to missions when put to uses other than blasting worms in the face with rockets – though that is still the main aim.

It almost pulls it off, and certainly succeeds in keeping the 25 single player missions quite varied and tense. For several missions you’ll be without the signature Bazooka, relying on grenades and punches to get things done, and it really ramps up the pressure when you’re handed a turn limit through rising water levels or the need to rescue another worm.

Unfortunately, things can get frustrating and tedious when you have to restart a whole level because you’ve landed in an irredeemable situation. It could be the amount of level deformation you caused preventing you reach somewhere, or maybe you’ve already used up the one rope which you had getting stuck on some scenery. There are checkpoints, but these quite annoyingly end your turn with a particular worm, and you might have triggered it at a particularly poor moment, meaning you need to restart the whole level.

Compounding this, you will then have to sit through the AI’s oft protracted deliberations, which feel like they should be calculated much quicker. On a handful of occasions an AI worm would sit there for 30-odd seconds before skipping their turn or doing something incredibly stupid, and this really robbed some of the already tricky missions of their pacing.

What’s Good:

  • The best and most refined Worms gameplay yet.
  • Lovely 3D engine with delightfully stylised visuals.
  • Deeply integrated community, clan and upcoming creation features will add a lot of longevity for fans.
  • The single player’s ambitious diversity and excellent script.

What’s Bad:

  • Can’t bring the same level of changes and improvements as Worms: Revolution, even if this has been lavished with more polish.
  • Single player levels can frustrate and leave you needing to restart.
  • The AI shouldn’t need to think for anywhere near as long as they do.
  • It will take time for the various customisation and clan tools to be made available and develop.

When it boils down to it, this is still the best Worms game which you can buy right now. The core gameplay is just as good as ever, whilst the polished additions to the formula are rather successful, even if a few fun-sapping issues remain.

With the community-focussed tools covering almost every aspect of Clan Wars, this feels like a game which will hold the Worms community for a long time. As Team17 step away from the franchise, this is a kind of swan song – a game dedicated to their fans.

Score: 7/10

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