What Happens When You Play Worms With Extreme Restrictions
Reducing the toolset leads to more competitive games
Worms, one of the longest-running and most successful indie game franchises spanning more than 25 years and more than a dozen platforms, includes many different weapons and movement utilities. Yet, my friend and I are playing it almost exclusively with one weapon and no moving. Allow me to explain.
Armageddon & W.M.D
Worms Armageddon is frequently listed by fans as their favorite game in the Worms franchise. It was a staple in many LAN parties growing up and we even managed to sneak a copy onto our school's server so we were able to play in free periods.
However, as time went on, Armageddon had problems with modern Windows versions as well as some multiplayer issues. So after some semi-successful attempts to create a 3D Worms game, Team 17 went back to its roots in 2016 and released Worms W.M.D. It was explicitly developed to resemble the gameplay of Armageddon and in fact, its source code is based on that of the original game.
The game was a critical hit and found great success with its fans. It still plays exactly like Armageddon, where most of the physics are identical and you can immediately use all of your skills from years of playing the classic game. Even though the graphics received major updates, it still looks like a classic Worms game due to the lovely hand-drawn cartoon-style graphics and animations.
Besides new weapons and weapon variations, Worms W.M.D introduced vehicles, stationary turrets, and buildings as well as a crafting system to get access to stronger weapons. While these bits can be seen as straying away from the Armageddon style of gameplay, most of the new mechanics are a lot of fun to play with.
However, one thing many of the new features have in common — and most of the old weapons too — is that they are extremely overpowered. Jump into a helicopter, fly to the other side of the map, obliterate an enemy from the sky, then land somewhere safe. Or just hit a worm with a bat into the stratosphere.
One weapon, no moving
Playing Worms W.M.D with the default weapon sets, many games ended up being one-sided and were over quickly. To introduce higher difficulty and more competitiveness, we came up with our own game mode:
An extremely limited weapon set and no movement.
Without movement, you cannot reposition a worm to get a better angle making many shots harder to hit. You are also forced to leave your worms exposed to enemy attacks or you need to hurt your own worm to knock it to a safer location.
The only unlimited weapon is the bazooka. Grenades were unlimited at first, but they are not affected by the wind, so with the correct angle on a maximum-strength shot you would hit every time. Now every player has 5 normal grenades and 5 cluster grenades, which adds tactical choice about when to use them. Besides that, every player gets one shotgun, one Uzi, one girder, and one teleport.
Random worm placement is enabled. While placing them manually would have more strategic choices, it gets a little bit tedious and over a larger sample size, the random placement benefits both players equally.
As a tribute to the most iconic weapons in the game, every player has a holy hand grenade and a sheep, but these are only used to blow up your last worm when you want to resign from the game. The holy hand grenade has one of the most iconic and memorable sound effects in all of video game history, so at least you are resigning with style.
Oh, and let’s not forget the ever-popular prod weapon. It always has to be enabled for the memes, and though it doesn’t come up often without movement allowed, there is nothing better than prodding a worm a few centimeters off a cliff into the water.
Hail Marys and fails
Playing without movement and with very limited weapons makes the game more difficult and generally results in closer matches until the end. Some strategic choices are removed, while others become more important. You need to weigh your options very carefully when you only have a few tools from which to choose. The teleport becomes especially important because it is the only major movement tool available. Originally introduced to free stuck worms, it’s often kept until the late game to get the high-ground advantage in sudden-death scenarios.
Speaking of sudden death, a lot more matches end this way because it’s a lot more difficult to close out a game. When the leading player faces a tough challenge to convert the win, it opens up more ways for the trailing player to launch a comeback, making the end game more exciting.
And exciting and suspenseful games are what players ultimately want, or at least we do. Using a jetpack to fly to a worm, then knocking it into the water, is very effective, but not very exciting. When you manage to curve a bazooka shot with the wind through a small hole to hit a worm half a map away, now that’s exciting. It’s similar to big plays like a hail-mary in football or buzzer-beaters in basketball.
The only thing more exciting than the hail mary is the fail, which tends to happen quite frequently in our game mode. To curve bazooka shots you often have to take the risk of miscalculating the wind and the bazooka shot may come back to yourself or hit another one of your own worms.
Because we are both nerds for stats, I created a small website to keep track of our games and see who is winning overall. Nothing is riding on it, except for bragging rights among friends, although that may be the most valuable reward of them all. And embarrassingly, I have to admit that I am trailing by 8 games at the moment…
Worms Armageddon is a video game classic and many fans of the franchise list it as their favorite. However, it has become slightly outdated since its release in 1999, so fans are lucky to have 2016's Worms W.M.D, which Team 17 based on the source code of Armageddon. It still feels and plays like the original game and retains all of its great features, while adding some new and fun mechanics. Some of these features added a bit too much power, so we created our own game mode to increase the difficulty and lengthen the matches.
This is an excellent advertisement for revisiting much-loved older titles that have been thoroughly investigated or newer games that could use a tweak to maximize your enjoyment. Think of playing Horizon Zero Dawn with just the weapons you are given at the beginning, or any of the Hitman games where you kill with nothing but the garotte. You’ll find that many games can be played in different and more challenging ways, perhaps giving an older title a new lease on life.
If you are a fan of the Worms franchise, you should check out Worms W.M.D and try it with different weapon sets and game rules. You may be surprised how much fun it is to play with a very limited set of tools.
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