Review: Worms Clan Wars
First off, I’m going to try not to compare this particular Worms game to Worms Armageddon too much. In just about every review for new worms games (Reloaded, Revolution, etc) there will be the sentence “The game is fun, but Worms Armageddon is the pinnacle of the series” at some point. Granted, it’s a fair argument. Worms Armageddon is older, is in many ways better than newer Worms titles, and people (including myself) are naturally going to make those comparisons. That said, Worms Clan Wars is not Worms Armageddon. It’s a different game that does different things, and this review will objectively rate Clan Wars based on its own merit. I will, however, compare the game to Worms Revolution, which was released less than a year before Clan Wars, and runs on the same engine.
Clan Wars, as soon as you fire it up, is a charming game. As with Worms Revolution, it is narrated just about all the way through, whether you be in menus, help screens, or in the story mode of the game. The wildlife documentary narrator from Revolution has been replaced by Tara Pinkleton (or Pinkle), a Tomb Raider parodying “Ruin Raider” who guides you through your journeys. Tara’s voiced by Katherine Parkinson (known foremost for her role in “The IT Crowd”), and the dialogue and story is written by BAFTA award winning writer Dean Wilkinson, so there’s some great British television talent behind the game.
I know the first question on everyone’s minds is “What’s new?” At its core, Clan Wars is the same game we all know and love. You still wriggle around, blowing holes in the terrain with bazookas, grenades, and a flimflam of assorted oddball weaponry, and it’s still a blast. Beyond that, dynamic water and physics items (both originally introduced in Worms Revolution) are still big parts of the game, and water has been tweaked from its previous incarnation to flow and splash and fit more snugly into the gameplay than before. Weapons like water guns and water bombs are still around and sloshing your enemies across the terrain to their watery graves is as satisfying as ever. A handful of new weapons and utilities have been introduced as well. Newcomers such as the Flying Monkey (who drops a physics item onto the field), Mega Mortar (a self-explanatory rain of hell on your opponents), and the Teleport Gun add some new flavor to gameplay.
The biggest new feature of Worms Clan Wars is… Clan Wars. Introduced as a much more in depth multiplayer system, players can make their own clans, recruit new members, compete in leagues, and generally build their clan up to dominate the leaderboards. The UI and overall setup is fairly basic, with some (sadly) limited logo options, basic clan management, league leaderboards, etc. Wormnet has returned as well, offering channels (or lobbies) suited to different game types. These would work great to meet fellow players, gauge each other’s skills, and find new buddies to band up with, but unfortunately they’re total ghost towns (as I’ll elaborate on in a bit).
Arguably the best “new feature” of Clan Wars is the physics engine. Worms Armageddon had an unbelievably smooth, virtually flawless physics engine. Explosions sent worms flying just right, movement and collision mapping (basically what’s solid and traversible and what’s not), small arms dynamics, and just about everything felt just right. There was no clumsiness to the physics, and controls never felt sticky. Since Armageddon, physics in Worms games have been very up and down, feeling very clunky and vastly inferior to the physics and cleanliness of Armageddon. I’m happy to say that the physics in Clan Wars hit a lot closer to the mark. They feel clean and responsive, and are a big improvement over Revolution. They aren’t perfect, but explosions feel like they have a nice amount of force, movement is generally clean and responsive, and the whole package is smooth and pleasing to this Worms Armageddon fan. It’s a nice change.
I’m happy to say that the physics in Clan Wars hit a lot closer to the mark. They feel clean and responsive, and are a big improvement over Revolution.
A returning feature from Revolution is the ability to customize your worms, dressing them up with an assortment of hats, mustaches, glasses, and other zany accessories to make your worms team unique on the battlefield–or to make them look completely ridiculous, if that’s what you’re going for. Something I found unfortunate about Revolution was that while more customization was offered, user made content wasn’t an option like it was in Armageddon and older titles (custom flags, graves, soundbanks…). That disappointment has been shot out of the water in Clan Wars, though, as it’s the first Worms game to have Steam Workshop compatibility. As new as the game is (a few days old at the time of this review), hopping on the workshop I can already see a number of awesome user creations, such as a military cadet’s hat, an Iron Man mask, and even Final Fantasy hair. The possibilities are limitless. While not every aspect is customizable yet (such as soundbanks, which were not yet available on the workshop at the time of this review), this feature is a godsend to the Worms community, and is a modder’s dream.
One of the biggest changes in Clan Wars is the story mode, which is a complete departure from past campaign modes in the Worms series. Instead of the typical deathmatch style missions that have heavily populated recent Worms games, missions in Clan Wars’ story are focused on platforming and puzzle mechanics. Guided by Tara Pinkle’s narration, the story leads you through a museum in pursuit of the evil “Lord Mesmer”. Mesmer has stolen the Stone Carrot, an artifact of unimaginable power that could allow him to control the minds of all wormkind. It’s up to you to tromp through the museum, fighting through his mind-controlled bodyguard worms, as you hunt for the “Golden Worm”, who is said to have telekinetic powers that will shield his mind from Mesmer’s control. You don’t need me to tell you that the entire thing is pretty silly, but the wacky tale along with Ms. Pinkle’s ever present commentary is good for a laugh and keeps things amusing as you progress through the story. If you’ve been a Worms fan since the old games like me, you’ll appreciate the silliness. If you’re a new Worms fan, you’ll probably still appreciate the silliness. Despite the negative points I’ll bring out in this review (yes, they’re coming), the story mode is a very fun, solid experience, despite its pitfalls.
As you make your way through the museum, you’ll quickly learn that the roles of the four worm types (originally introduced in Revolution) have gotten some tweaks. In general, the same rules apply, with the soldier class being your classic well rounded type, the heavy dishing out of higher damage and bigger explosions as a payoff for his slow movement, the scout being extremely mobile and small enough to fit in tight spaces, and the scientist healing your entire team by 5HP each time his turn comes around and having a bit more potent utilities in exchange for lower power similar to the scout. In Clan Wars, however, soldiers have been given the ability to detonate their timed explosives at any time, which can come in quite handy, especially when you’re faced with tricky grenade throws. Heavies now create a much larger explosion upon death, comparable to a stick of dynamite (which is an impressive blast). Scouts have been arguably overpowered, as they now have even more mobility and can move past mines without triggering them. The scientist hasn’t gotten any changes, besides seeming to have a bit less mobility due to his small size.
So now that you have a good understanding of Clan Wars and its highlights, how about the shadows? First and foremost, and a complaint that’s ringing out amongst fans and haters alike, is that the game is extremely similar to Worms Revolution. In many ways, it’s a copy of Worms Revolution with a handful of extra features thrown in. The physics are clearly better in Clan Wars, giving it a big leg up on Revolution, but speaking honestly, the physics should have been a given in the first place. The additions to the game are nice, but they’re minor when you look at the $25 price tag on Clan Wars, while Revolution has been quite cheap on sale and offers the same general experience.
The graphics in Clan Wars aren’t bad by any means, and they fit the game just fine, but they’re still nothing to write home about. The only anti-aliasing option has issues on some graphics cards, and even when it’s enabled the edges are noticeably choppy, making you have to force AA through your graphics card’s settings manually for the game. I also still experienced screen tearing even with v-sync enabled, so again, you’ll likely have to resort to other means to take care of that unless you don’t mind playing the game windowed. Beyond the graphics options, the game can have performance issues regardless of your system’s power. Running the game with a very strong graphics card at a steady 60 frames per second, moving the camera often makes the game “chug” and slow down, even though the framer rate doesn’t change. All animations are rendered in 30 frames per second as well, and are quite annoying considering Clan Wars is a PC exclusive, and PCs don’t run at 30 frames per second.
As much as I praised the story mode, it clearly isn’t without its flaws. Worms campaigns have always been quite linear until Revolution, which gave you more of an option on which missions you wanted to take in your own order. Unfortunately Clan Wars takes linearity to a new level. Not only do you travel through missions one after another (besides in a few cases where you choose between 2-3 missions that all have to be completed to move on), the missions themselves have a terrible habit of holding your hand as you travel along a set path. Many missions are made up of “go here”, “kill that worm with this weapon”, “stand on that button”, and at times like these the only enjoyment is Tara’s commentary. While there are some tricky, inventive puzzles and occasional small scale deathmatches between your worms and a group of enemy worms that you must defeat to progress, these events still tend to be roadblocks along very linear levels. Combined with the fact that checkpoints (a new feature) are sometimes few and far between, and the confusing mechanic of them ending your turn once you reach them, you’ll undoubtedly find yourself having to completely restart fairly lengthy missions. I also ran across a few bugged platforming objects that forced me to restart the mission from the beginning.
But story mode woes aside, Worms has always been a multiplayer game primarily, yes? The game is called Worms Clan Wars for a reason, and the online clan combat aspect is a strong selling point for the game. A few days after release, however, online functionality is no stranger to dropped battles and general connection issues. Hoping to take part in some clan warfare myself, I was disappointed to find that multiplayer is an utter ghost town, as I mentioned earlier. The game is new, and perhaps players are taking some time to get acquainted with the game before hopping into the fray, but what I’ve seen so far hasn’t been very encouraging, especially since the game is so heavily focused on multiplayer clan activities. A bit funny when Worms Armageddon’s Wormnet is still quite active.
The last complaint that I absolutely must point out is the obscure enemy “wait” behavior that surfaced in Revolution. Say the enemy worm has 60 seconds in his turn. The first 10-30 seconds of that turn will often be spent with the AI worm simply… sitting there… thinking. Sometimes the wait time is short, while other times it’s laughably ridiculous. Playing a quick match against the AI with 45 second turns, the enemy once did nothing for about 22 seconds, then decided to descend a cliff with a parachute. At this point, he went back to sitting there, thinking for another 15 seconds or so, until his turn ran out. I could list quite a few funny instances like this, which are humorous sometimes, but can be maddeningly annoying. This is especially true in story missions, where you’re trying to achieve something, and are forced to sit there, waiting as the AI “thinks” for a silly amount of time, and oftentimes does something extremely basic, or simply skips his turn. I’m not sure what this is all about, why the game was made this way, or if it’s a glitch or not. All I know is that it reared its ugly head in Revolution, has been thoroughly complained about by players, and still exists in Clan Wars.
As a diehard old Worms fan, I could go on and on for quite a bit longer, but I’ll sum things up here by saying that Worms Clan Wars… is another Worms game. Some might interpret that as a negative comment, but the connotations aren’t all bad when I say that. Team17 has put out another solid game, and was sure to put a new spin on things and add a handful of new features. On the flipside, that’s all they’ve done. They’ve taken the Revolution engine, updated some things (most notably the physics), added a few more small features, and slapped a $25 price tag on the game. It certainly isn’t a “new” Call of Duty game for $60, but in ways it feels similar, considering the close proximity of release dates and similarity to the last game.
While that may rub some fans the wrong way, a new, better Worms game is a new, better Worms game, and it’s nice to see Team17 continuing the legacy. Personally, I’m still waiting for that perfect Worms game that will take Armageddon’s virtual perfection, wrap it up in a devilishly dapper package full of British wit, and deliver it to us old time fans on a silver platter. In the meantime though, Clan Wars definitely hits the spot.
Why it may be helpful for people with anxiety
- Lighthearted humor and atmosphere make playing a very enjoyable experience.
- Easy to learn gameplay allows you to build your skills at your own pace.
Why it may be unhelpful for people with anxiety
- Lengthy and obscure AI “wait” times are extremely frustrating. Read a book while you play.
- Multiplayer servers are virtually empty, so unless you have friends with the game you’ll being playing this one by yourself.
This review was based on the PC version that was provided by the developer.
August 15th, 2013
Highly improved physics, excellent voiceovers and hilarious writing, a richer multiplayer system, added Steam Workshop compatibility, and a whole new story mode that changes things up.
Some graphics and performance issues, far too similar to Worms Revolution, linear story missions and an odd checkpoint system, and a sparse multiplayer community with connectivity issues.