Worms WMD finally gets Worms back to its 2D roots

People still remember 1999's Worms Armageddon fondly, and in some ways developer Team17 has fought against that nostalgia as it continues to develop the series. As a lifelong Worms fiend, it’s been hard for me to enjoy the most recent Worms games on PC—Worms Revolution in 2012 and Worms Clan Wars in 2013—because they just seem so different. They are both good games, but Worms with varying stats and the cheesy 3D graphics kept it at arm’s length from the Worms experience I remember. 

But the next installment, Worms WMD, is a love letter to Armageddon. It’s a homecoming for a series that may have strayed a little too far down the path of modernizing for the sake of modernizing. Team17 has stripped out the different worm stats and fancy water physics, and returned to 2D art that looks the way you (incorrectly) remember Armageddon looking. Digitally painted environments and characters that are downright gorgeous, especially compared to the 3D models of the games that came before it. The whole game looks stunning for its simplicity, and it feels like Worms. 

Despite being made on a brand new engine, jumping, ninja roping, and carefully firing bazookas into the wind all worked just as I’d hoped. And the cheeky sense of humor present through all the games is still there, now updated with even more references. The voices available in the preview build I played included one that sounded like Bear Grylls, a cheese-obsessed character that sounded like Wallace of Wallace and Gromit, and (I imagine a recent addition) a worm clearly meant to be Bob Ross who would tell me “there are no mistakes, just happy accidents” every time I whiffed a shot. 

An unentered building on the left, and then what it looks like inside on the right.

Despite its reverence for classic Worms, WMD does introduce a handful of new mechanics to shake up the formula. The best of these new additions are buildings—areas of the map that look solid, but are actually mostly hollow. When one of your worms enters a building, the facade disappears to reveal the area inside. It’s pretty much just normal terrain, but the health bars and names of worms in a building don’t show up unless it’s your turn, and even then only if you are controlling a worm in that building. It’s a unique moment in a game of Worms where all the information isn’t clearly laid out in front of you, and remembering who's indoors is key.

The helicopter is an incredibly strong tool on flat maps like this.

Unfortunately the addition of vehicles doesn’t add nearly as much to the game as buildings do. The preview build I played had pilotable tanks and attack-helicopters scattered around the map, and they felt like a weird sidestep for the series. When jetpacks have such limited fuel and expert ninja rope skills can get you to otherwise unreachable locations, it seems wholly out of place to be able to spawn right next to an infinitely flying helicopter, entirely undermining both of those items. Additionally, each vehicle only has one mode of fire, which makes them a predictable set piece in a game that’s otherwise about variety. 

Something I'm still undecided on is how the addition of crafting fits into Worms. A second tab in the weapon select screen reveals the crafting menu, where you can construct most of the weapons in the game. You can even make special upgraded variants of weapons, like a flame-launching bazooka or a proximity mine version of the iconic Holy Hand Grenade. Crafting requires crafting materials which drop from the sky in specially marked crates, similar to health packs and other supply drops.

Because what the Concrete Donkey really needed was a craftable variant with fire.

It’s actually a pretty cool way of letting players tailor their arsenal to their needs mid-match. If you see the enemy is turtling up, craft more (or better) bunker busters. If they’re exposed, craft napalm air strikes and homing missiles. You can open and use the crafting menu while you are waiting during an opponent's turn in an online match, but I worry the feature was created entirely with online play in mind. In local games—the best ways to play Worms—you can only craft on your own turn, and those who can’t craft quickly will be at a pretty big disadvantage, especially considering turn time is usually of the essence for inexperienced players.

But even with these new changes, playing Worms WMD felt like familiar in all the right ways. I wasn’t able to play around with customizing my team or changing the ruleset of a match at all, so we’ll have to wait until the game launches on August 23rd to see if you can do things like turn off vehicles or alter crafting options, but WMD is a whole lot of fun. It brings back the Armageddon experience while still feeling like a fresh take for the series.   

Tom Marks
Tom is PC Gamer’s Associate Editor. He enjoys platformers, puzzles and puzzle-platformers. He also enjoys talking about PC games, which he now no longer does alone. Tune in every Wednesday at 1pm Pacific on Twitch.tv/pcgamer to see Tom host The PC Gamer Show.