Friday, August 24, 2018.
by Adam Dileva

MOTHERGUNSHIP Box art I love bullet hell shooters. You know the kind, where you need near god-like dexterity and reaction time to avoid an onslaught of bullets and enemies. Most games like this aren’t usually in first person view, like a standard FPS, so MOTHERGUSHIP was something completely new to me. Essentially a bullet hell FPS, MOTHERGUNSHIP adds some interesting ideas that makes it unique and fun to play, such as randomly generated stages and a crafting system where you actually build the guns you want to use. Yes, you build your guns to suit your playstyle; not simply customization either, actual crafting.

You are a member of the resistance, fighting back against an enemy robotic invasion, come to destroy earth in the search for information and data. Sure, it’s a trope we’ve seen a thousand times before, but the story really takes a backdrop to the gameplay. You’ll need to shoot and fire your way through thousands of killer robots to make your way to the MOTHERGUNSHIP and save Earth, but doing so won’t be so easy, so prepare for a fight with your own creations of weaponry. Characters speak over comms, and although interacting with them would have been favorable, they are written and acted quite well, and there are even some moments of hilarity and witty jokes.

While the core premise is simple, destroying everything on your path as you make your way each step closer to the final confrontation, how you do so with the guns you craft will be where most of your entertainment lies. Each level is procedurally generated, so the experience stays relatively fresh throughout. Gameplay is very quick paced, maybe not to the twitch levels of Quake, but certain stages and boss fights will require you to be very nimble with the shooting and dodging.

You begin with being able to triple jump, not only to allow you to reach ledges and heights, but to avoid the near endless projectiles constantly coming your way. Enemies will drop health, coins and pickups, such as extra jumps that last that series of stages, and with enough, you can seemingly almost fly at certain points.

MOTHERGUNSHIP’s real bread and butter though is its crafting mechanic for its weaponry. Using three different categories of parts, connectors, barrels and caps, you can create a weapon that you’ve always wanted to utilize in a shooter before. Personalization and customization is much more than a simple paint scheme and an attachment or two. Have you ever wanted to shoot saw blades with a gatling gun? Or a 10 barrel shotgun that also launches spiked balls? The choice is yours when you craft your weapons, given the parts that you have on hand anyways.

You have two hands, so you’re able to create two weapons for dual firepower. A barrel is basically the type of standard weapon, such as rocket launcher, shotgun, pistol, etc., and can be equipped on its own if you wish. Attach it to a connector though, and that’s where things start to become interesting. A '3-connector' for example allows you to place 3 separate barrels, or caps, to each of its sockets. So, if you want one weapon to shoot rockets and shotgun shells at the same time, so be it.

There is a catch though, or else everyone would simply place the most powerful barrels on a single gun and one-shot everything. The more powerful weapons, like a rocket launcher for example, takes more energy per shot, whereas typical weapon types use less. Also, the barrels must physically fit on the connectors if you want to attach multiples. So yes, you can make completely crazy weapons, but the more powerful they are, the more energy it takes to shoot. Do you want a triple rocket launcher that can kill nearly anything in one hit but takes forever to reload, or something that constantly fires, albeit weaker shots? This is where part of your playstyle comes into play, and once you get a hang of which enemies are more annoying than others, you’ll probably cater your weaponry choices accordingly.

Caps are small little attachments that essentially act as mods. These can increase a weapon’s stats, giving it more damage, faster rate of fire, bouncing ammo and more. Again, these caps need to physically fit on the connectors with the barrels, so it becomes a metagame of making everything fit just right if you want to use larger pieces. Eventually you’ll start to earn higher tier parts as well, something that, I found, became even more addictive. Simple grey parts are what you’ll begin with, eventually working towards the most powerful purple and yellow pieces to craft with.

It will take you a few hours to really learn the ins and outs of each barrel type, mods, and what works best together. Given that you’re restricted to a certain amount of parts you can bring with you into a ship, it’ll simply take time to 'trial and error' what works best for you. Sometimes things go your way and you find a combination that works great, and other times you’re lobbing bouncing spiked balls at a ton of flying enemies, which isn’t so efficient. Since the levels are procedurally generated, you’ll never really know what you’ll be up against either.

Each level is an alien ship you are invading, clearing room to room until you usually face some sort of boss or simply make it to the end and hit the destruct button. Not only will you have to face off against dozens of enemies in the levels, but also a ton of environmental hazards and turrets that can’t be destroyed, almost acting as a deadly wall to avoid. Some rooms are very basic and minimalistic, whereas others are much more vertical and have more jump pads to navigate around.

Before you enter one of the doorways to clear the next room, you’ll notice its threat level. This is basically the difficulty of that room, with each subsequent room becoming more challenging as you progress. Rooms can only be exited once every enemy is killed, and while some have a single exit doorway, others may have multiple exits, or a quick pit stop where you can purchase and craft your guns once again. Some rooms are designated as challenge rooms, earning you a bonus if you can survive X amount of seconds, kill X amount of enemies in a certain time, don’t use your left weapon and more mini objectives. These earn you a bonus and makes you try and play a different way for a short period.

Enemies randomly drop coins, and when you reach a safe upgrade room after it’s all clear, you’ll be given a random set of parts and health that you can spend these coins on. Happy with the weapons you’ve made this time around? Then save them for when they are needed. If you only have enough parts to craft one weapon, then spend those coins and make a second, or buy a better part to swap out the piece you’re unhappy with. It’s an interesting way to change up the shooting gameplay mid stage, allowing you to improve or purchase some much needed health replenishment.

The real excitement comes in the end of a final room marked with a red skull, indicating a boss fight is next. These bosses are easily the highlight of the gunplay and design. Not simply a large enemy with some powerful guns, these bosses fill the whole room and will require a lot of firepower to take down. I won’t spoil any of these experiences, but they are why I kept on playing and wanting to progress, even more so than earning new gun parts.

You’ll earn experience throughout your bullet blasting adventure as well, which can be used to upgrade your suit that you fight within. You can improve a myriad of stats, like health, jumps and more. These upgrades end up costing more and more, but are a good way to supplement your play style and preference, even if it is a bit basic and feels tacked on.

Given that you’re fighting a robotic horde in their ships, the tonality is very metallic and inorganic. Gameplay is fast and frantic, and while it all looks decent, there’s nothing that will ‘wow’ you, maybe aside from the cool bosses. There I some minor hiccups now and then when things get really chaotic, and there’s a weird lag when each room door is loading before it allows you in. As for the audio, it is also on par, with weapons sounding powerful and booming and the characters voiced very well. The musical score fits the style of gameplay but is unmemorable in the long run.

At first MOTHERGUNSHIP wasn’t really doing much for me. I enjoyed the gun crafting and seeing what absurd weapons I could come up with, but the gameplay is the same mini treadmill repeated over and over of clearing room after room of enemies. That being said, it grew on me after a handful of hours, but it felt like a lonely experience. Luckily the developers have addressed this with the newest patch to include cooperative gameplay with a friend. Now two friends can take on the MOTHERGUNSHIP together, adding more chaos and fun. The best part? When one of you die, you turn into a turret on the other player's shoulder, so no waiting around for them to hopefully finish the level to respawn. This co-op patch has added a ton of additional excitement to the title, though I wish there was a lobby system to join random players, as it's only your friend list currently that can be invited.

MOTHERGUNSHIP is a crazy frantic bullet hell FPS, a first of its kind experience for me. Crafting weapons and seeing how they perform is fun, even if it’s trial and error. I wish that there was more upgrades in relation to leveling up, but even so, I enjoyed my time with it. Boss fights are what kept me going from ship to ship and the humorous writing along the way helped balance the experience. It may be a little shallow aside from its shooting mechanics, but sometimes you just need to turn your brain off and shoot an onslaught of robots to relax.

Overall: 7.5 / 10
Gameplay: 7.5 / 10
Visuals: 7.0 / 10
Sound: 7.0 / 10


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