Despite seeming like a complete inevitability, it wasn't until last year that Team17's adorably violent strategy series entered the third dimension with Worms 3D. It wasn't a seamless transition by any stretch, but it was about as good as one could expect. Rather than try to tighten up the foundation laid by Worms 3D, Team17 has gone off in a different direction with Worms Forts: Under Siege!, incorporating light base-building mechanics and eschewing much of the up-close-and-personal combat. The result is a game that, while not inherently bad, moves even more methodically than Worms 3D, and feels even less like the classic Worms that fans of the series have come to crave.
Most of the core mechanics that have defined Worms in the past are here in Forts. Multiple teams of worms take turns pummeling each other with weapons both practical (bazookas, grenades, shotguns) and fantastic (exploding sheep, banana bombs, Street Fighter II-style dragon punches) until only one team remains. But now, instead of just concerning yourself with the survival of your own annelids, you have a base that you'll need to build up and protect. In each game you start off with a stronghold, the very heart of your base, and if it's destroyed, you're out of the game. The game doesn't offer much in terms of defense, so your best bet is to either kill all the enemy worms or destroy their stronghold before they get to yours.
You can fortify your position with towers, keeps, castles, and citadels, each of which works as a platform for your worms to launch long-range attacks against opposing teams. There are literally dozens of weapons that you can only access when positioned on top of one of these buildings, which is really the primary incentive in building up your base. There are also supplemental buildings you can construct that will give you a bit of an edge. For instance, the hospital allows you to revive a downed worm, and the weapons factory causes several weapon crates to fall at the beginning of your turn. The actual base-building system is fairly streamlined, as the game gives you only a few options as to the types of buildings you can construct and where you can build them.
Since your worms need to be nearby in order to add new pieces to your base, the base-building system encourages the use of lots of long-range attacks, and in turn, discourages any kind of up-close confrontation. Since the game takes the launch angle and velocity (as well as wind speed) quite seriously, it can be a real challenge to hit your opponents. As a result, your games have a tendency to become exceedingly long and drawn out. And though your buildings are destructible, the rest of the map is not, which all but eliminates the previously viable and extremely satisfying tactic of destroying the ground under your opponents' feet.
There's a single-player campaign mode, which often focuses on activities that are peripheral to the actual fighting, as well as the trials mode, which puts you one-on-one against a series of computer-controlled teams. Even if you're all on your own, the multiplayer game is the best bet, especially since it's highly customizable. Up to four teams can go at it, and you can mix in computer-controlled opponents if you don't have the full four players on hand. You can tweak a number of variables, from the length of the turns to the starting health of the worms to the weapon loadouts. The multiplayer mode is the best fun to be had in Worms Forts, but it could've been better. Unfortunately, neither of the console versions of Worms Forts: Under Siege! can be taken online, something that would have vastly increased the game's overall appeal.
Despite the tinkering that Forts does with the Worms formula, it still recycles quite shamelessly in the audiovisual department, lifting pretty much everything from Worms 3D. The worms themselves are identical to those found in Worms 3D, and the different historical themes are all kind of uninspired and by the numbers. The environments also aren't particularly big, nor do they contain a great amount of detail. Camera control can be rather fussy, moving either too slowly or too quickly, and it's often difficult to simply get your bearings and figure out where the hell your enemies are. The most significant difference between the PlayStation 2 and Xbox versions of Forts lies in the frame rate, with the Xbox version running smoother than the PS2 version. In addition, the PlayStation 2 version suffers from more slowdown, with lighting and particle effects proving to be especially taxing. Squeaky, silly voices and loud explosions have always been of paramount importance to the feel of the Worms series, and for better or for worse, Forts seems content to continue reusing the same old sound effects.
You get the feeling from playing Worms Forts: Under Siege! that over the past 10 years Team17 has simply grown tired of developing Worms games. That it tries to shake things up with the new base-building mechanic is admirable, but new mechanics aren't what the Worms series needs. The most glaring omission in Worms Forts: Under Siege! is some genuine enthusiasm.