When Sony announced the initial lineup of their brand new Playstation Indies initiative — a program geared towards highlighting the work of smaller developers in order to promote originality and prevent creative stagnation in an industry increasingly reluctant to bet on new ideas — there were a few head-turners that had gamers double-taking. Chief among them, Worms Rumble.
Two and a half decades after the first Worms game made its debut in glorious MS/DOS, the franchise is making an effort to reinvent itself. To the shock of longtime fans and casual observers alike, Team 17 confirmed that Worms Rumble will be leaving behind the trademark turn-based artillery-style gameplay and destructible terrain that shaped the franchise’s 20+ games.
No longer will battles be taking place in time-limited turns, hinging on strategy and foresight as players eat up circular chunks of their environment and try to outwit their opponent’s in an explosive game of chess-like war between teams of annelids armed like terrorists.
Instead, Worms Rumble will be looking to propel itself into the new decade with a seismic shift to real-time, online PvP combat featuring two game modes: a traditional Deathmatch mode and a 32 player Battle Royale mode — a clear attempt to keep with the times and cater to the growing appetite for gaming’s newest genres.
This, however, has not gone over well with the Worms fanbase. Here are some Reddit comments and tweets that give you an idea of how upset some (many?) fans are.
No turn based strategy
All Worms staples…
No thanks. I was hoping for a new Worms game, not 2D CoD
— Twiggy (@GasPoweredTwig) July 1, 2020
I have loved worms since the first one. It’s a fun turn based strategy game you can play with your friends. This however is dogshit. It is legit Fortnite worms. Whoever thought this was a good idea should be fired, I could make a better worms #dogshit #dogshit #dogshit
— Tyler (@TbulakTyler) July 1, 2020
And the hate goes on. Indeed, it would seem that by trying to keep up with evolving tastes, that Worms Rumble has decidedly pissed off a large portion of the Worms fanbase. And the source of their frustration, which is not entirely Team 17’s fault, is completely understandable. We have an industry replete with PUBG and Fortnite rip-offs, and players as sick of new Battle Royales as theater-goers are of the neverending slew of unwanted, unmerited sequels.
Why Worms Rumble Needed Real-Time Combat
Here is why think the bold move by Team 17 makes sense.
A Worms Battle Royale simply had to happen
But what gamers are truly angry at, perhaps unknowingly, isn’t Team 17 and their decision to do away with their classic gameplay format, it’s fashion; the winds of change are a blowin’, and it’s not Team 17’s fault.
Despite all the vitriol the Worms Rumble announcement has garnered, a Worms real-time game was inevitable. The franchise is in its mid-twenties, and each iteration of Worms has essentially been the same exact game. This is what people loved about it.
But stagnation kills, especially in an industry evolving faster than starter Pokemon.
Team 17 has something valuable. A beloved franchise. And with Fortnite, CoD and Overwatch, swallowing up massive swaths of an all-too-willing gaming populace, it would be foolish of them not to hold their finger to the wind and try to get it blowing at their backs in their quest to keep it alive and relevant.
The Old Staples are Incompatible with the New Format
If you are going to do a battle royale, you certainly can’t do it with dozens of players waiting to take turns. Even scaled down to 32 players, and even if they only gave each player a 15-second turn timer, it would take up to 8 minutes between a player’s turns.
That fact alone would simply make a Worms Rumble Last Worm/Squad Standing match an hours-long endeavor. Nobody’s signing up for that. Part of what makes the Battle Royale genre special is its frantic pace, and if you have enough time to rewatch a few episodes of GoT during your match, it’s probably not heart pounding.
And the impracticalities of a turn-based system aside, imagine 32 players on a map with fully destructible weapons. This isn’t a 3D, a 360-degree world like Fornite or Pubg. Worms Rumble is a 2.5 game set in a Super Smash Bros style platformer map. 32 players blasting at each other in real-time in a fully destructible environment is like playing dodgeball on a liferaft– except with chainsaws. Players miss. And while it was always fun to blow up the whole map in Worms with your friends back in the day, in an online PvP setting that thrives on replay value, you can’t have the whole map getting annihilated every single match.
Not to mention the fact that in Worms Rumble, it seems that instead of a shrinking gas/radiation field driving players to an increasingly small safe zone, rising water levels will be pushing players upward. So a completely destructible map is simply out of the question from a structural standpoint.
Besides, This is Probably Just a Spin-Off
We gamers are an emotional group. Anyone who’s seen a Twitch meltdown or thrown their own controller across the room in a fit of nerd rage will attest to that. And we’re also a picky lot. Thus it’s no surprise that many are, quite vocally, bemoaning the “death” of a beloved franchise.
The reality is that this is most likely just Team 17 dipping their toes in the water.
Nobody was mad when Mario Kart came out back in the day and Mario suddenly found himself in a racing game. Or when Warcraft came out with a card game. Or when Bethesda came out with an idle game set in the Fallout universe. Heck, even Dota has an auto-battler.
The mechanics of an IP aren’t set in stone, and developers should experiment. Playstation Indies was created in the spirit of creative freedom, and thus in some ways, it makes sense for Worms Rumble to experiment with new ideas, especially if those ideas are as mega-popular as they are (though the reverse could also be argued).
What went wrong for Team 17 is likely the fact that gamers were a) caught completely off-guard by the new Worms installment and b) unlike other franchises, whose spin-offs came pretty soon after initial success, Worms has a longstanding history where a complete lack of innovation was a feature rather than a bug.
What do you think? Is Worms Rumble a desperate cash-grab wearing the face of a beloved franchise like a soulless Hannibal Lecter, or does it look like a natural progression of a longstanding franchise doing its best to evolve?