With the Worms franchise celebrating its 25th anniversary in 2020, Team17 has decided to shake up the series with its boldest change in direction since 2003's Worms 3D. Worms Rumble strips away the series' turn-based roots and hops on the popular battle royale trend, featuring large scale 32-player battles. It's quite a change, that's for sure, but it's not just some lifeless genre copycat, as it maintains the series' trademark charm and sense of humour. Worms Rumble isn't out until December 1, but fortunately, I was able to sink some time into its open beta over the weekend to provide you with my initial impressions.
As I mentioned previously, you shouldn't go into Rumble expecting a typical Worms outing. Players no longer have to strategically plan their actions in a turn-based fashion, the environments aren't destructible, and players just control one worm at a time rather than an entire squad. To accommodate this shift to real-time action, the combat and inventory system has been completely revamped, but I found these changes to be intuitive. On PC, players can aim by moving the mouse, left-clicking is used to fire, and the scroll button is used to alternate your primary weapon. It's a much more elegant solution than having to select weapons from an onscreen inventory during the heat of battle, that's for sure.
The weapon selection here, just like in previous Worms entries, is excellent. As you move across the arena you'll find weapons stashed within crates, and you can also loot player's entire inventories after gunning them down. It brought a smile to my face to see classics such as the Holy Hand Grenade, Banana Bomb, and Sheep Launcher in action and there were a few new toys too like the Plasma Rifle. I liked how players can also find and wield gadgets to help them traverse the environment and escape the path of bullets. Gadgets like the Jetpack and Grappling Hook proved to be a lifesaver in some instances.
There was only one stage present within the open beta, but fortunately, it was a pretty good one. Transforming Towers is stitched together with many different locales and its traversal was fun, as it had ventilation shafts to squeeze through, ziplines to swing across, and escalators to ride on. The visual variety was great, as one minute I found myself battling in the food court of a shopping mall, then next minute besides a swimming pool on the building's roof. The size of the map was staggeringly large, but it felt appropriate for the number of players, as when I was playing Deathmatch, I always felt like another player was around the corner.
Within the open beta, I had access to three different online modes and these were Deathmatch, Last Worm Standing, and Last Squad Standing. All of these modes unite the community with cross-play between players on PC, PS4, and PS5. Deathmatch is the recommended mode for beginners and sees players battle it out to rack up the most kills before the clock stops ticking. Last Worm Standing is your typical battle royale affair, as the map will begin to shrink over time, and once you've been killed then you have to sit out. Last Squad Standing, as you'd expect, is more of a team-focused variant of Last Worm Standing. I had a great time playing through all these modes, but I gravitated to Deathmatch the most, as I wasn't the most skilled player and didn't fancy spectating for almost an entire match.
Similar to Fall Guys, Worms Rumble features a progression system that is tied to a whole treasure trove of fun cosmetics. Players can earn XP and in-game cash for participating in matches and completing daily quests, and this currency can be spent on silly new outfits, new banners, and even hilarious voices for your worms. Something unique about Rumble's approach is that weapon skins can only be unlocked by racking up kills with a specific weapon. I liked this, as it incentivises you to mix up your arsenal to be able to proudly rock some of the coolest looking skins out there. The best part about all of it though is that there aren't any microtransactions present, and all cosmetics can be earnt simply through progression.
My thoughts towards Rumble were pretty positive, but I did experience two minor annoyances. For some unexplained reason, my worm would occasionally just glitch a couple of steps ahead, which would completely throw me off guard. This was an open beta though, so hopefully, it's just a technical issue that can be smoothed out before the full release. I also disliked how your opening loadout is randomised after respawning in Deathmatch. Both the shotgun and the assault rifle seem so much more powerful than the hand cannon, so it feels like you've been punished by chance when that's what you have been dealt with.
I'll admit, the thought of a Worms battle royale game had me feeling a little uneasy at first, but after playing a few hours of Rumble, I can see the concept has been handled with care and actually feels like a natural fit. I found the action to be fast-paced and addictive, and fortunately, it managed to keep the series' beloved sense of humour intact. This is only, however, a small slice of what Rumble has to offer, and you should check back for our full thoughts when Worms Rumble launches on PS4, PS5, and PC on December 1, 2020.