I love our postmodern world. That’s why I enjoy some aspects of Worms Forts: Under Siege!. It is, in many ways, a postmodern game. Worms Forts is full of non-sequiturs as well as absurd and quirky sounds and objects that grant it character.
When you first create your worms, you get to pick their speech from a variety of creative options, from a London Cabbie to an American Suicidal Businessman, all of which are self-aware and full of parody. The bubbly cartoon graphics complement the ?Don’t take me seriously, I’m just a game’ aesthetic Worms Forts tries to create. The game, like its predecessors, shuns the idea of immersion and, in doing so, allows the gamer to accept its absurdity and enjoy the comedic spin.
The creative weaponry is the most endearing element of Worms Forts. I had a great time watching grandma explode, and what appeared to be ferrets or skunks erupt out of a catapulted Frigidaire. There’s also a huge variety of weapons to choose from, ranging from a giant chick to a jet-packed hippo.
At a certain point, however, the sound of your worm hollering “Oy” every time he jumps starts to grate, the unique weapons are clunky and difficult to maneuver, and most of them, after their initial graphic prowess, result in the same type of damage anyway.
Underneath all of this, Worms Forts: Under Siege! is a strategy game with an omnipotent, godlike worm handing out power to mortal worms who use that power to erect buildings and fire weaponry. (Simone deBeauvoir and Freud would both have something to say about this.) You have four worms on your team, and each has sixty seconds to complete its turn, which can consist of building, picking up weapons, health and other packs, and attacking. By collecting victory points, you have the chance to erect specialty buildings, such as hospitals that resurrect a worm if it dies. The point of the game is to destroy the other worms’ base or kill all four of them before they do the same to you. This is a fun, frenetic concept. Team 17’s implementation of it, however, suffers somewhat in execution.
The first, most glaring issue with Worms Forts is the camera. It’s awkward, and moves either too slowly or too quickly. There is nothing similar to a ?chase camera’ setting, so it’s difficult to keep your worm in perspective. You can ?reset’ the camera to center on your worm with the pressing of a key, but it doesn’t stay that way. Once you begin moving, the camera decentralizes again. However, this is simply a trivial annoyance compared with some of the game’s more serious design problems.
Worms Forts is easy to learn and yet difficult to play. Games shouldn’t be easy to beat, but the problem here isn’t that the strategy itself is actually difficult. The problem is that the design of the interface and controls make it difficult for the player to interact with the main content of the game, which is the turn-based strategy base building and combat.
It’s difficult to move your worms around on the map. At times, they get stuck in corners and in building crevices. You have the default double back flip your worms can perform that will help them to travel long distances and land on the roofs of buildings. It takes a few minutes to grow accustomed to the double back flip, because you have to remember to turn your worm around before you jump onto that building behind you. This would be no problem if it weren’t such a pain to center the camera at just the right angle so that you can then center your worm to jump correctly. Because your worms only have sixty seconds to build a fort, pick up various packs, jump onto a building at just the right angle, chose a weapon, aim, and shoot, you don’t have time to make any mistakes.
Once you do get your Chile Con Carnage readied, you realize you have no idea where you’re firing. Worms Forts provides what appears to be a mini map, but it offers minimum help since, at times, it doesn’t even show the position of your enemies. There is no zoom command either, so you can’t get any perspective on your position in relationship to that of your opponent. This is when the 3D landscape and buildings begin to pose a problem. Contrary to what should be the case, the 3D graphics prevent you from gaining an accurate depth perception, so it’s difficult to aim any weapons you might choose. There is an overhead view you can go into when using air raids that might come in handy when trying to figure out where in hell you are on the map. Even then, it’s difficult, because the map doesn’t give you any idea of which way your worm is facing and you can’t move while in overhead view. This and the camera movement make it difficult to aim correctly, so you don’t really get to take full advantage of the various weapons available.
The developers might have anticipated some difficulty with the controls, so they’ve provided Worms Forts with a thorough tutorial; but a tutorial isn’t going to correct an inherent design problem. I have to wonder whether, without the control and interface difficulties, the strategy would be challenging or fun at all. If these problems were corrected, what would be left? The game doesn’t allow for much strategic optioning during each turn, which creates rather a monotonous pace. You build. You jump. You fire. You do have to take into account the wind, where to build to gain more victory points and the scorched earth areas that you can’t build on for a few turns. You also have to consider which weapon to use for certain situations, terrains, and positions, but the challenge lies not in the strategy so much as in trying to master the controls in order to accomplish what you need to in the time allowed. Without the unfortunate and infuriating challenge provided through the poor control system and interface, would there actually be one? It’s difficult to know, especially since our access to the content is obstructed.
To add to the frustration, missions take way too long. You have the pleasure of watching every A.I. action as it occurs, with playful speech acts and graphics that (sadly) don’t make up for the fact that a forty-five minute mission takes at least a third longer. Why? Because of all the delay you have to endure while waiting for the Supreme Being to perform acts of greatness, the turns to change, and any other interruptions the A.I. would like to impose.
It’s not all doom and gloom, though; there are some unique and entertaining elements to Worms Forts: Under Siege!. The graphic realizations of the weapons are amusing to the point of laughter, the maps are a visual pleasure, and the worms are always cute and likeable (it’s especially enjoyable watching them perform double back flips all over the place). But, despite these plus points, Worms Forts suffers the pains incurred through fundamental flaws that impact the gameplay quality and the overall experience a gamer can have. Team 17 clearly possesses the talent to develop an exciting, fulfilling, and novel game, but Worms Forts has a long way to go to provide us with such an experience.