Can Wiggly Woo wriggle its way into our hearts, or fester unchecked in the bowels of despair? Find out in our alarmingly graphic review of Worms Clan Wars.
Published on Aug 29, 2013
For such odd and innocuous creatures, worms are a curious cornerstone of modern culture. You can't move for worm idioms and turns of phrase, be it worms turning, wriggling out of things or being snatched by robins at dawn.
Fitting it is that one of the stalwart mainstays of the nineties is back with the most comprehensive and sprawling game yet, Worms Clan Wars.
Dean Wilkinson returns to scribe the word bits, and like Revolution, Clan Wars is also fronted by another basement-dwelling inhabitant of The IT Crowd, in Katherine Parkinson.
Pure co-incidence we're assured, so don't go hoping for Richard Ayoade or Chris Morris to spring up in Worms 19. Parkinson plays one Tara Pinkle, a devilish send-up of Lara Croft, baying about butlers and dead dogs with a ticklish candour. She suits Wilkinson's words rather well, helping the single-player story – in the loosest sense of the word – no longer feel like a glorified, if fairly comprehensive tutorial.
Instead it takes on a more puzzley focus, in equal parts intelligent and finnicky, forcing the turn timer even when totally unnecessary. It's certainly the most cohesive single-player yet, even if its sense of purpose is vague at best.
Revolution first introduced worm classes, but much like some of its other revolutions, it felt faintly tacked-on, jagged and unpolished, but Clan Wars has spit on a hanky given it a good, hard scrub.
Classes are more balanced, for example the scientist now has an area of affect for its health buff and the heavy now devastates a far greater area with its explosive belly, upon death. Each class still has that distinct silhouette and movement, slowly edging towards A Bug's Life, making for the first Worms game we'd call truly adorable, in its own special way.
This delightfully plump chunkiness also applies to the environments, now each with a tangible and genuine sense of depth. Physics objects take this one step further, some slight modifications to the new-fangled water mechanics are more viciously efficient than ever, and its droplet appearance make it endearingly canon.
There's also the introduction of day and night cycles, so not only are maps the biggest they've ever been, but also the most dynamic, even when firey smoke trails make the frame-rate stop and start like the west coast main line.
As subtly implied by its name, the focus of Clan Wars is steeped in its online, and probably the only Worms game with any real ambitions in that direction. Clans can be formed beginning with eight members, rising to 120 with progression and patience, but the strange thing about it is the misguided sense of camaraderie.
Ranked games involve the classic four versus four worms battle, yet only two clan members can battle on each side. Multiple clan matches can be fought simultaneously, but this approach runs counter to the very point and purpose of co-operative, competitive online gaming.
The league system allows for progression either upwards or downwards, not hampered by infrequent or non-obsessive gaming, but its interface is confusing and fragmented, carelessly dispersing information into separate channel and hub areas. There aren't any eSports aspirations here, so maybe this approach is more about fostering community within community, bolstered by the introduction of Steam Workshop.
Worms Clan Wars doesn't quite feel stale, but it's getting there. You'd probably use it as toast without hesitation, but any future slices in this laboured analogy might be less palatable.
Emphasising a single-player story and multiplayer competition is all well and good, but the removal of AI difficulty levels in quickplay seems a needless oversight.
Version Tested: PC
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Whilst another sturdy entry in the series, and Clan Wars will be the quintessential Worms game for the near future, we're thankful for Team 17 taking a break from the series.