A few hours into MOTHERGUNSHIP I suffered a string of devastating losses that left me deprived of some of my best crafting parts. It was frustrating, annoying even, yet I still dived back in, taking comfort in the fact that the promise of once again assembling a gun with 6 Rocket, 4 Mini-gun and 2 Railgun barrels was just within reach. I may shed a tear just thinking about it, not only because of how awesome it looked, but also because in hindsight I should have balanced my guns out more.
You see, crafting your own guns is the central attraction of MOTHERGUNSHIP, and how creative and effective you are at doing so determines how well you will do in the game. And you can spend a lot of time doing just that, getting lost in the details of how to assemble the perfect combination of weapon parts to create your own personalized death machines.
And the rules of gun crafting are fairly simple. There are three different parts that players have access to: Connectors, Barrels and Caps. Connectors increase the number of sockets available on your guns, Barrels are the weapon heads that actually deal the damage and Caps add different effects to your weapons such as increased damage or rate of fire.
Each gun is originally comprised of a single socket, so the more Connectors you attach to it, the more sockets you have at your disposal, and the more Barrels and Caps you can attach as a result. Barrels can only face forward when attached to a socket, because that’s the direction you’ll be firing. Connectors and Caps however don’t have a specific direction they have to face, although optimally you do need your sockets to face forward. And finally, you can’t attach a part to your gun in such a way that they intrude upon the space of another part. Once you understand these rules, you are free to build whatever type of gun your mind can come up with, provided of course that you have the necessary parts.
But balancing your builds is also necessary to some extent in the game. You can build massive, firepower intensive guns, but what would be the point of them if you can only fire them once in a while. You see, each of your guns has their own respective energy meters that determine how you can fire them. So If your gun has less Barrels, you can use it more often and it consumes less energy, but if it has more, then the result is the exact opposite.
The game also forces you to experiment often and try out Barrels you normally wouldn’t, because the number of parts that you can bring with you at the beginning of each mission vary greatly. Some allow you to bring four or five, but there are also those that only allow for one. New parts are purchased from the various different shops found throughout each of the game’s missions, and often times you will find that they are in short supply of what you are looking for due to their limited and randomized inventory.
So often times you need to improvise and constantly keep adapting your guns to the situation, which means knowing both when to add and to remove parts from them. You either adapt your play-style with new parts that you purchase throughout the levels, or you die. And when you die, you permanently lose all of the parts you have on you at the time. It’s a high risk game.
The robotic Archivist that serve as your enemies in the game are also unrelenting in their pursuit of you, and come in a number of different shapes and sizes. There are turrets that fire missiles and bullets, small drones that constantly emit multi-directional lasers, smaller robot attack dogs and so much more. And when a large number of them crowd up in one area, the atmosphere can quickly get very intense, forcing you to stay on your toes and in constant motion. There can literally be hundreds of projectiles flying around the screen at one time, and all of them are aimed at you.
The bosses in the game also look really impressive and are a lot of fun to fight, but I honestly feel that some of them had a lot of wasted potential. They’re not bad fights, it’s just that I often felt that the build up to them provided more of a challenge then the actual bosses.
The levels themselves are also a mixed bag. They vary greatly in size and often times come equipped with a number of traps, from indestructible turrets that continuously spew bullets to spikes and hazardous pools of lava and acid that provide an additional layer of challenge on top of the large number of enemies.
Also worth mentioning is that levels are not continuous affairs. They are comprised of a number of different randomly generated rooms that are separated by small hallways that act as loading screens, and the developers cleverly use them as points during main campaign missions when details about the story are provided to the players while they wait 10-15 seconds for the next room. Problem is, at least on the Xbox One, that you’re more likely to be distracted by the frame-rate dropping to below 10 FPS during these moments then you are to actually pay attention to the story. This isn’t a deal breaker though, and you’ll be glad that this occurs during these periods than during actual gameplay.
You’ll also return to your base after each mission, at which point you can make use of the different facilities that are unlocked after the first few main story missions. Here you can test out gun builds, buy new parts and most importantly upgrade your character with the XP that you earn playing the game. During missions you do gain upgrades such as extra jumps and health upgrades, but these are only temporary, and the only way to gain them permanently is to use this accumulated XP at the Armory.
And speaking of the story, let’s just say that you probably aren’t going to play MOTHERGUNSHIP for the engrossing narrative. I chuckled a couple of times, but that’s about it. It’s simply there to provide context as to why stuff that’s happening is happening, and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. It’s definitely not the game’s strongest aspect, and trust me, all you’ll care about in the end is the crafting and the combat.
Graphics-wise, I can’t say anything particularly flattering about the game. It looks good, but the animation and effects leave much to be desired, especially in light of some of the more recent games we’ve seen over the past few years, even by indie standards.
I enjoyed this game a whole lot more than I ever expected to, seeing as how I’m not a big fan of the bullet-hell genre in general. I am however a sucker for any game that gives me to the ability to customize my experience, even if only in how the weapons behave.
And as much as I enjoyed MOTHERGUNSHIP, I can’t say that the game didn’t get repetitive towards the end a bit. When you’re always this fast and hectic, the enthusiasm wears off after a while. It’s a great game, and one that I’m sure I’ll come back to in the future, it’s just not going to be anytime soon.
MOTHERGUNSHIP is set for release on the Xbox One, PlayStation 4 and the PC on 17th July 2018. It is developed by Grip Digital and Terrible Posture Games and published by Grip Digital. This review covers the Xbox One version of the game. The review copy was provided by the publisher.
MOTHERGUNSHIP is fast, frantic and absolutely unforgiving. The crafting is fantastic and expect to lose hours customizing your guns, You don’t necessarily have to be a fan of the bullet-hell genre to enjoy the game, but it will definitely instill a new appreciation of the genre in you.