Worms Clan Wars – Preview

Title   Worms Clan Wars
Developer  Team17
Publisher  Team17
Platform  PC
Genre  Turn-based shooter
Release Date  Q3 2013

Worms is one of my long-abiding gaming memories, and one of the very few that is not simply limited to more than a decade ago. Instead, it is one that has stayed with me from my earliest gaming days, when I played Worms 2 with my dad, to more recent times, when I played Worms Open Warfare with my siblings.  As much as I love the series, it has been tough to escape the creeping realisation that with every game the series was getting weaker, as the formula that once made Worms 2 so staggeringly good grew older and staler with every new iteration. Worms Revolution was a turning point, mixing up the formula with classes and slight gameplay changes while retaining that undeniably Worms feel. Clan Wars has the unenviable task of following up the first game in years that made it exciting to play Worms again, but the early signs suggest that it is going to do so very well.

Set in a museum, Clan Wars takes the framework laid by Revolution and builds on it, polishing many of the more unfocused or problematic sections of the last game while adding a bunch of new content to ensure that it feels fresh and enjoyable.  Polish aplenty is apparent in the graphical quality of the game. It looks absolutely fantastic, with the cartoony hallmark of modern day Worms polished to perfection and several new features added to make it truly come alive. Most notable of these is the day/night cycle, which brings a new tone to the graphics. The difference between environments in day or night belies the seemingly small change and creates a completely different feel depending on the lighting. The change also highlights how fantastic certain aspects of each stage look, with the water looking particularly good.

The museum setting is also important, as it gives grounding to the environments you are warring in, as well as giving the improbable settings a plausible explanation. Not that it really matters, as nobody really cares why they are fighting in a map based on Feudal Japan after their last match was based on the Vikings (there are also Prehistoric, Incan and Industrial Revolution settings). Still, it provides a base for the stages to go from, and they take advantage of that.

Another improvement in the quest to make the game feel a bit more alive is the way that the worms look and feel. When they are waiting for you to decide a move they are not static, instead, moving about and interacting with other worms if they are nearby.  In previous titles the worms were never truly static, but the system has been expanded and improved. It’s a little thing, but shows off the attention to detail that has gone into making Clan Wars the best that it can be.

Perhaps the most important bit of spit and polish that has been added is to the class system that made its debut in Revolution. With only one game under its belt, the system was likely going to be tweaked and refined in this instalment, and that has proved to be the case, with the main goal being more differentiation between the classes. The net result of this can be seen in the changes made to the soldier and heavy in particular, which sees the soldier gain the ability to detonate grenades at will (that’s right, no waiting for that fuse to countdown) and the heavy getting the somewhat passive ability to explode upon death. The scout has also been changed to allow it to move a bit faster, along with adding the ability to completely ignore landmines, instantly making it far more useful than it was in Revolution. The scientist will remain very familiar, though it has been balanced and tweaked to ensure that you’re unlikely to come across many all scientist teams. All these features are still to be tested in the beta, but Team17 are confident that they won’t be going anywhere.

That museum setting also influences the single player story mode, which has been reworked to ensure that it is just as enjoyable as the multiplayer modes can be. The AI has been looked at and improved so that it is not quite as unreasonable as it used to be. That’s not to say that it can’t pull out that pixel perfect shot into the wind on occasion, but it does mean that the AI occasionally makes stupid mistakes, just like the rest of us.  That alone makes single player a little more enjoyable – you don’t have to be at the top of your game consistently – and the emphasis on story and more objective focused gameplay bodes well.

The story sounds pretty fun as well, telling the tale of a thief that has recruited a band of worms to help her in her heist of the museum. All the right things are being said, and the little I did experience did bolster that, so all that remains to see is whether Team17 can deliver – at the moment there is plenty of reason to be optimistic.  That’s on the strength of the single player alone. When you factor in the multiplayer, things look even rosier. The driving force behind the multiplayer of Clan Wars is the addition of – you guessed it – clans. To be honest, when I heard about the addition of clans I was not particularly excited – it was certainly a case of pssh, whatever – however, I’m far more impressed by the implementation of the idea than the idea itself.

This is not simply a matter of throwing in a clan feature. In order to make it work Team17 have had to build a mainframe that supports the feature, and once they had that they kept thinking about how to make it interesting and meaningful. To that end, they have also introduced leagues that will take place regularly, victory in which will allow you to improve and level up your clan. If you do so and gain some acclaim, you’ll probably want to be able to show off your mad skills and Team17 has you covered there as well. They have created a companion app for iOS and Android and a webportal for the PC that show off your stats and figures, as well as reviving WormNET, an in-game lobby and chat system.  Furthermore, Steamworks support has been added, allowing players to create their own items to kit out their Clans with, along with other items, like gravestones, to make themselves stand out even further from the crowd. This is a huge step, and will hopefully be well supported after launch. Tools to assist in those creations have already been promised.

The main focus for Team17 with Clan War’s multiplayer is the community. Their aim is to create a strong, social community within their game. They have said all the right things and have even taken the tough decision to make the game PC exclusive in order to make this game the best they can. Clan Wars moves into beta soon, and with that the moment of truth will arrive. I truly hope that the community comes, and that it embraces Clan Wars as the continuation of a resurgence that I am particularly enjoying.  I say this because my few matches of Clan Wars were so much damn fun. I had a great time playing against the AI, and in my one match against a human opponent I was on the edge of my seat all the way through. That match swung on a single turn, and proved to me that this game could be every bit as good as the Worms games in the glory days of my youth.

It proved to me that like those games you can never rest on your laurels, and that a single move can still define a match. It also reminded me that the best Worms games have a heavy helping of insanity, and that Clan Wars is no different, because that move was to drop an explosive metal donkey on my opponent’s head. So when Clan Wars comes out sometime this year (and I curse the fact there is no set date) you can be sure I’ll be standing right at the front of the virtual line.

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