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Worms Forts: Under Siege

The Worms brand must be among the most valuable in the industry. Since the first game ten years ago, the plucky invertebrates have appeared on almost every gaming platform available, from the Amiga and DOS to PS2 and Xbox, becoming one of the most recognisable and loved series to date. The brilliantly simple idea behind the original was this: two teams of four worms take it in turns to throw and fire weapons at each other across a 2D map, with the last worm standing winning. Throw in heaps of humour, a prevailing wind and a host of surprises and you had a game which couldn’t really fail. Yet as the years have gone past, there’s obviously been pressure to change the game and create various spin-off games, and Worms Forts: Under Siege is a product of this. It’s certainly got the potential to sell by the ton, but whether it plays well is another question entirely.

Worms Forts takes the classic gameplay that has run through the franchise since its beginning and adds a whole new layer of complexity to it. It all sounds great on paper, but the sad result is a game that is too complicated, takes far too long to get going and removes some of the crucial ingredients that made earlier games so great. Essentially, Forts is based around building various structures which then gives you access to weapons. Certain structures give the worms standing on or near it upgrades and new powers, with extra buildings becoming available when you reach a certain stage of development. You’re restricted to only firing from these castles and towers, but the same ultimate goal of wiping out the opposition remains in place.

One major alteration to the formula is the removal of destructible terrain. That’s right, Worms without a deformable landscape. Doesn’t quite make sense, does it? The only objects that are affected by explosions and gunfire in Forts are opposing worms and their buildings. This change not only removes the fun of blowing up the scenery, but stops you from tunneling through the ground to surprise your opponents. It may make the forts system work more smoothly, but it leads to the removal of the series’ defining features. It’s like having Halo without guns or Tony Hawk’s without skateboards.

This concession would have been acceptable if the forts building mechanic wasn’t so tedious. Instead of being able to storm in guns blazing, you have to construct a whole set of fortifications before you can even use the cooler weapons. This slows the pace of the gameplay right down and just makes Worms a little bit boring. On top of this, the game is generally fairly sluggish and unresponsive, even on an N-Gage, which is designed for games of much higher calibre.

To its credit though, Forts does look reasonable graphically, with the cute little worms being well drawn and animated. There’s also a selection of four colourful themed landscapes to fight in; Egyptian, Greco-Roman, Medieval and Oriental. The audio is also worth a quick mention, being predictably simple considering the hardware, but it at least shows effort on the part of the developer.

Worms Forts has both single player and multiplayer to offer, but ultimately it’s a game which you’ll become tired of far too quickly. The simple fact of it is that the new elements that have been introduced slow the gameplay right down, whilst also forcing the removal of some of the series key features. I’m sure the mobile version of the original game is great fun, but as for the Forts spin-off, it’s really a case of ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’.

5 out of 10

The author of this fine article

is the Editor at Thunderbolt, having joined in November 2000. Get in touch on Twitter @PhilipMorton.

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