When I first heard of Worms Rumble, a real-time, battle royale-esque entry into the seemingly immortal Worms franchise, I had my doubts. After all, previous departures from the tried and trusted 2D, turn-based, side-scrolling titles on which Worms made its name were not generally well received. However, after giving its recent open beta a go, I now think that Team17 might be on to a winner.
For those of you who are somehow not already aware, Worms games are (usually) turn-based tactical games. You’re in command of a plucky squad of belligerent wrigglers, who are armed to the teeth with comically over-the-top weaponry. Your aim is to eliminate the enemy team(s) before they get you. They are generally excellent party games, and if you’ve never played one, then I would implore you to give it a go.
Worms Rumble has a different focus. While the goal is still to put enemy worms in the ground (in a mean way), you’re now only controlling a single worm. Turn-based tactics are replaced by fast-paced mayhem. There are three game modes: Deathmatch, Last Squad Standing and Last Worm Standing.
Deathmatch is a complete free-for-all, accommodating up to 32 players. Respawns are unlimited, and the winner is simply whoever has the most kills at the end of the eight-minute round. As such, there’s a heavy emphasis on playing aggressively before darting out to recover health. It’s gleefully chaotic.
The other two modes play more like a traditional battle royale. Last Squad Standing groups players into teams of three. Parts of the map are steadily made uninhabitable with an encroaching storm, until only one team remains. You can probably guess how Last Worm Standing works…
Worms Rumble being the kind of game it is, it should be no surprise to hear that there are lots of customisation options too. There are cosmetics and emotes for your worm, weapon skins, profile flair and voice packs. In the beta, these are all unlocked as rewards or via in-game currency. The developer has confirmed [post #12] that these coins can only be earned in game, although there will be paid DLC cosmetic packs available later.
Only one level was available in the beta, a power station/office block called Transforming Towers. There’s a lot of distinct areas and plenty of options for traversal, both horizontally and vertically. Players can move around in air ducts and through containers, out of view of players outside of them. This allows both for ambush options or a place to recover between shoot-outs. The level looked great too, with a bright, colourful art-style and lots of background detail.
One important thing to note is that Worms Rumble allows for crossplay between PC and PlayStation. I’m always curious as to whether PC players get an advantage in such situations, especially in games requiring quick reactions. In this case, the majority of players were on console (the leaderboard indicates which players are on Steam). While PS players were definitely able to compete and win against PC players, I found that PC players generally fared better on average. For example, I didn’t see a PC player end in the bottom five in any of the rounds I played. Although perhaps that’s inevitable to a certain extent.
Despite all the differences to the standard formula, Worms Rumble felt remarkably like a Worms game. It’s a very different experience to, say, Worms Armageddon or Worms W.M.D, but that core identity is still there. The weapons include series favourites like the Bazooka, Banana Bombs and the Sheep Launcher – although the Ninja Rope has been renamed the Grapple Gun for some reason – and the overall presentation is unmistakably Worms. You’re still able to detonate a Holy Hand Grenade in your own face. Its spirit is true to the other games in the franchise.
I’m sure there will be some purists who will say that this is the end of Worms as we know it. Well, to those people I say “ppfffllffff”. It’s been over four years since the last Worms game came out – the longest break in the series’ 25 year history – and it’s great to see the invertebrates back in any shape or form. I certainly hope Team17 don’t abandon the standard formula altogether, but Worms Rumble is fun! Blasting around with a jet pack and firing off bazooka rounds in the general direction of enemies is always a good time. I enjoyed it a lot, and I look forward to seeing what the full release looks like come December 1st.