Worms Battlegrounds is essentially the console version of the PC exclusive title Worms Clan Wars, which itself was a direct sequel to Worms Revolution (2012). It exists as the latest in the long-running series, which dates back all the way to 1995. Yes, Worms is nearing its twentieth anniversary, and if you clearly remember the original game, you probably feel as old as I do right now.
For those unfamiliar with the series, Worms is a turn-based strategy game where players control a small team of wormy soldiers, and use a large assortment of wacky weaponry in an attempt to be the last surviving team. The game features a mixture of skill and strategy, but you can still be successful if you tend to gravitate towards one more than the other.
Battlegrounds allows friendly competition between yourself and up to three friends, either online or through local play. You can also test your skills with a number of “Worm-Ops” single player timed missions, or take on the fairly detailed story mode, which surprised me with its quality. It’s a nice introduction to the game, and does a good job of teaching you how to play. Furthermore, it feels a little like an extended tutorial of sorts, which is good because recent Worms games have become a bit more complex than the earlier titles. The presentation is also strong, and includes a good amount of voice work from British actress Katherine Parkinson, who is probably best known for her work on The IT Crowd.
Speaking of which, if you haven’t seen The IT Crowd, you really should think about changing that fact. If you happen to have Netflix, you can currently stream the entire series, and being familiar with her work will likely help you appreciate her appearance in Battlegrounds even more.
But enough of that. Back to Worms.
While not as entertaining as the multiplayer, the campaign isn’t a waste of time. It holds your hand a bit in the beginning, but offers some fun puzzles after things get going. And while the writing never made me laugh out loud, it still added some whimsy and charm to the proceedings.
Visually, the PlayStation 4 version of Worms Battlegrounds looks much better than Worms Revolution, which used the same game engine and was the last Worms title to appear on the PS3 and Xbox 360. That game seemed to struggle to keep up with its dynamic physics, but you’ll find no such issue here. The PS4 easily handled the dynamic water, deformable terrain, and anything else thrown at it. The fire effects were also quite nice. Not that Worms is a graphical showpiece or anything, but what’s here works and works well.
Easily the worst aspect of the visual presentation is that there isn’t very much of it. While levels are randomly generated for a seemingly endless amount of gameplay variety, there are only five visual themes included here, which seems a bit limited when compared to some of the older retail titles. Perhaps the level-specific physics objects are one reason for the limited amount of themes, but I would have been happy to have seen some of them reused in order to include a bit more variety.
One area of the game that isn’t lacking in variety, however, is team customization. Players can name their clan, their team, and the individual worms that form their team. Then, after doing so, they can also outfit their team with various accessories, select from an assortment of speech samples, and design a clan emblem using a simple three-layered system. It all adds up to a substantial level of personalization that makes losing your wormy team members all the more tragic, and victory that much sweeter.
There’s also an impressive amount of variety when it comes to weaponry and settings, allowing players a plethora of options to explore. You can select which weapons are always available, which are limited to a number of uses, and which only become available after a set number of turns. Additionally, you can also select supply drop chances, whether mines or oil drums will appear on the playing field, if destructible terrain will exist, and more.
It’s a great set of options, but I was sorry to see that some previously-utilized settings were missing, especially the ability to choose which weapons appear in weapon creates, and how likely it is that each weapon will appear. Customizing a weapon’s strength is another option that has appeared in past games, but is sadly missing here. As such, if you want to make a super powerful shotgun that has an extremely rare chance of appearing in a crate, you’re out of luck. And while those settings were likely not included to make the game less complex, that brings me to another minor complaint.
While the reworked class system does a good job of updating an old series, it also adds more complexity, and it doesn’t do so optionally. While it’s a fun twist to have a heavy worm that does more damage, a light worm that can jump high, and a scientist worm that can heal other worms, it’s still a shame that there’s no way to play a game without the new classes. Using nothing but the solider class comes closest, but it still has abilities that standard worms never used to possess.
Since I reviewed the PS4 version of Worms Battlegrounds, I was happy to see that the developer paid some attention to the system’s unique controller, but much like a Worm Charm, the execution is a mixture of good and bad. It’s nice that you can hear the voices of your worm team members coming through the DualShock 4 controller, but there’s unfortunately no way to turn them off. Furthermore, while it’s also nice that the developers allow you to use the touchpad to navigate through menus, it’s a shame that you can’t also use it to select a weapon. Personally, I would have also appreciated a way to have used some sort of multi-button hot key system for quick swapping weapons, but that doesn’t exist here either.
Online play was generally good, although the game does lag from time to time during your opponent’s turns. Thankfully, this issue never got in the way of gameplay, but local play is still the way to go if you have that option. After all, seeing that Worms is a turn-based game, it gives you the option to simply pass around a single controller when playing multiplayer. As it’s early in the lifespans of both the PS4 and Xbox One, not having to run out and buy $180 worth of extra controllers so that your friends can play makes this an ideal party game.
It’s a good thing you’ll be saving that money, too, because the title itself is priced at an arguably excessive $25. Then again, if you do enjoy this type of game, Worms Battlegrounds does offer a lot of replayability. It’s just a shame that the cost is going to be a deal-breaker for some, seeing as a healthy online community is always helpful when it comes to games like this.
For years now, I’ve been able to sum up every new Worms game by saying that, “It’s still not as good as Worms Armageddon was,” because every game that has followed that masterpiece has been missing so much of what made it the series’ pinnacle. However, it’s getting harder to say that at this point. Worms Battlegrounds is not really a worse game than Worms Armageddon, it’s just different. It might be missing some cool features that were available in previous games–and the roping still isn’t anywhere near as fun as it could be in Armageddon–but Battlegrounds adds enough to the gameplay and gives players enough options to make up for its shortcomings. Still, I hope to one day be able to say that a new Worms game isn’t just “different” than the best game in the series. Worms Battlegrounds isn’t that, but it is a very good game, and exists as the best console iteration thus far.
This review is based on the PlayStation 4 version of the game, which we were provided with for review purposes.
As long as you have friends to play with, or the online play remains populated, Worms Battlegrounds will provide you with a sizeable amount of longevity to justify its high cost of admission.