Worms Forts: Under Siege! Preview

We battle with a work-in-progress Xbox version of Team 17's latest annelid wargame.

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We recently had the opportunity to spend some time with an early work-in-progress build of Worms Forts: Under Siege! for the Xbox. The game is currently scheduled for release this fall, but--to give you some idea of how early our Xbox version is--it contains references to both the space bar and the PlayStation 2's shoulder buttons. Nevertheless, we've managed to play through the game's tutorials as well as a handful of single-player levels and are pleased to report that the new direction that the Worms series is taking with Forts: Under Siege! is intriguing, to say the least.

Worms Forts: Under Siege! revisits Team 17's wacky battlin' annelids once again.
Worms Forts: Under Siege! revisits Team 17's wacky battlin' annelids once again.

As its title suggests, Worms Forts: Under Siege! introduces the popular real-time strategy conventions of base-building and defense to Team 17's tried-and-tested annelid warfare. The bases in the game start out as relatively small stronghold structures, but, at the start of every turn, you have the option to expand your base before you get on with the serious business of attacking the enemy. Every structure you build is automatically placed onto a square on an invisible grid that covers the entire map, and it will be connected to the rest of your base by one or more walls. Any structure that becomes detached from your stronghold will be destroyed, so when the terrain forces you to expand in such a way that the destruction of a single building could wipe out a significant portion of your base, you'll want to use the more powerful (and rarer) ones. Or, at the very least, you'll want to try to shield that structure from enemy attacks by constructing girders above it.

In addition to the stronghold, buildings that we've encountered in Worms Forts: Under Siege! to date include towers, keeps, castles, citadels, weapons factories, hospitals, science labs, and wonders. Each structure in the game performs a different function, and, with the exception of the standard towers that can generally be built in great numbers, you'll have a limited supply of each. Since the only way to defend your ever-expanding base is to attack your enemy before he can destroy one of your edifices, there are times when expansion can seem like a really bad idea. However, you don't really have a choice, since it's through expansion that you gain access to better buildings and, as a direct result, more-powerful weapons. Most of the weapons in the game can only be fired from mountings that appear atop certain edifices, this time around, so the more of them that you erect, the more options you give yourself when it comes to deciding where you want to launch your assaults from. Scattered across the map, you'll also see a small number of gold stars hovering above the ground. These "victory locations" are important places to build, because they unlock additional buildings for you and furnish you with the resources necessary to erect them.

If you've ever played a Worms game before, you'll have a pretty good idea of the kind of weapons that will make up your arsenal in Worms Forts: Under Siege! Weapons such as the manually controlled "super hippo," the "old woman" launched via a chairlift, and the "monkey troop" are undoubtedly some of the wackiest offerings to appear in the series to date. In general, the weapons in the game are a lot less varied than their names and visuals suggest. A number of old favorites, such as the bazooka, grenades, air strikes, fire punches, and the homing pigeon, are still present, but there are also plenty of favorites that are conspicuous in their absences--like the baseball bat, the shotgun, the machine gun, and the banana bomb, for example. Also missing from Under Siege! are most of the gadgets. So while you can still use a jetpack to fly around or a parachute to fall safely from a great height, you're no longer able to employ bungee cords, ninja ropes, blowtorches, or teleporters as you navigate the quite sizable island maps.

The gameplay has changed somewhat, but the trademark Worms action is still here.
The gameplay has changed somewhat, but the trademark Worms action is still here.

Even in its unfinished state, Worms Forts: Under Siege! is an entertaining game that's unlike anything we've played before. Whether or not it will appeal to fans of the Worms series, though, remains to be seen. The new base mechanics certainly make for some lengthy and strategic battles, but it's unfortunate that their inclusion appears to have come at the cost of so many of the series' trademark features. A Worms game without destructible scenery? We never thought we'd see the day.

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