Worms Forts: Under Siege
Coming out at a time when beat ‘em ups and shoot ‘em ups were the main genres in vogue, Worms was originally something of a revelation. This was the game: dump a few teams of those little wriggly fellas on to a bumpy 2D landscape and get them to throw everything but the kitchen sink at each other (including banana bombs, explosive sheep and holy hand grenades amongst other things) in a mad frenzy of worm genocide, with the aim simply being to have the last worm standing when the dust settles. Brilliant I’m sure you’ll agree, if a little chaotic. Movement around the neatly drawn, randomly generated landscape was equally as chaotic, with gadgets like jet packs, parachutes and the famous ninja rope being readily available and commonly in use, but the real show stopper had to be the destructible landscapes. You were essentially never safe – a bit of bad aiming means a banana bomb could go sailing over your solitary worm’s head (accompanied by your cheers) only to blow a big chunk of the scenery away which was holding your worm up in the first place (to great comedy effect as cheers turn to boos). On other occasions, however, it was just as easy to be controlling the worm doing the throwing, make a pig’s ear of the throw and watch helplessly as that grenade bounces back off that rock and into your face. Such was Worms – simple to play, hard to master and very funny.
“Oh my God… I’m… NAKED!”
Worms Forts: Under Siege has sadly not been designed with those values in mind and it’s a great shame. Instead of sticking to a formula that is for all intense purposes simplistic genius, Team 17 have decided to go for a game with a remarkably unnecessary amount of complexity. You can instantly understand why though – they’re obviously trying to add extra elements to what they already have just to keep the franchise alive, and I’m sure that on paper Worms Forts does look like a great idea, but in reality it just doesn’t work. It’s too complicated, takes far too long to get going and crucially what’s been added has forced out some of the series’ most popular features.
You’d think with guns this big this game would be a blast to play…
Let’s look at the basics. The original Worms was a turn based affair where you controlled one of your worms for a set amount of time when it was your go. You moved the worm, pressed one button to select a weapon, aimed it and fired with the other button. And that was it – ‘move select aim shoot’. The move in to 3D (which we all knew it could do as we’d played Hogs of War on the PSone years before and that was great) was relatively painless. All the key features like groovy weapons, crazy ways to travel around the map, destructible landscapes and the vital ‘move select aim shoot’ functionality all made the transition in tact and as such that game was great too. You could still jet pack over there to the other side of the map then shoot a bazooka at that bit of destructible floor sending a whole gang of worms plummeting into the drink. Likewise you could accidentally blow yourself and half your team up with a single misplaced mortar. In short, everything was alright in the world.
“Knees up Mother Brown, knees up Mother Brown…”
Worms Forts has moved the goalposts considerably by removing the destructible scenery options so that now all that worms can damage are buildings and other worms. This feels like it was done to get the fort building system working smoothly (I can’t think of any other reason to remove it) but it essentially changes the whole game and strips the series of one of its defining features. This would be okay (or rather would have been just about acceptable) if this whole building construction business had been implemented well, but it hasn’t - it’s tedious. Having special weapons that can only be fired from certain buildings is a good idea, but that too is flawed as it changes the whole attack strategy of how you play the game. Gone are the days when tooled up worms could charge the enemy guns a-blazing - in Worms Forts most turns involve jumping down off your newly constructed fortress, scrambling over to that crate and getting back again before the time runs out. That’s a bit boring.
This guy’s name is Wild Damien. He looks wild, doesn’t he?
Surprisingly, once you start to notice one bad thing about this game, your eyes become open to a whole host of other faults which exist in the system, although the number one issue I have with the game is the speed, or rather the general lack of it. This game is sooo tediously slow in parts, it’s just painful. Worms move slowly, worms build slowly, worms aim slowly (especially the building emplacements which always spawn pointing the wrong way), cut scenes of weapons firing are slow, worms die slowly, crates fall from the sky slowly, buildings collapse slowly, scores tot up on screen slowly and the enemy worms move so slowly it’s ridiculous. I’ve watched enemy worms start their go next to a crate, sit there for 10 seconds, wriggle off one way for a bit, come back, collect the crate it started just next to and then – finally – shoot at something. Grrr. Games that should last 20 minutes or so now take hours and boy are those hours agonizing. It’s not helped by the change in victory conditions - now you can win by either killing off all of a team’s worms or by destroying their central fortress. At first sight that sounds like there are more avenues to finish games off more quickly, but in reality nothing could be further from the truth. If I tell you that a fortress can take five or six times as much damage as an average worm, can be repaired if necessary and you can now build hospitals to spawn more worms to replace those lost, you may just begin to appreciate the problem.
Player 4? Player 4? Hey, where’s Player 4 gone? He’s not left has he?
But in terms of options, they’ve mostly been carried over from the last game. You can still edit all manner of features in the team menus, although I’m sure there are fewer options than before for your team’s worm voice, and the loop of standard phrases is noticeably shorter. Similarly all the level design features are back but are less extensive, assumingly to pander to all that building construction business. In terms of play modes, there’s still quick play, campaign and multiplayer and they do exactly what they say on the tin - like last time - but with the God awful lack of pace to the proceedings, it all gets too tired too quickly. Some of the campaign mode missions are fun I admit since they can involve things like having to jet pack around the map collecting certain items in a given time, or such like, but they only serve as a break from the monotony of the main game. And that’s the point - why bother playing through all the bonus levels when the main game is so essentially flawed?
Look out, the hippo’s trying to make a break for it!
At the end of the day the point is that you won’t bother. I had to for this article’s sake, but you won’t and I don’t blame you. The old saying is true; if it ain’t broke don’t fix it. Team 17 had to do something to keep the franchise alive, but this wasn’t the answer, and I hope it doesn’t kill the franchise off instead. I guess only time will tell.
Five out of ten