Save the planet from destruc­tion one mod at a time

XBox: The Official Magazine (US) - - CONTENTS -

Never mind delv­ing deep into a sprawl­ing nar­ra­tive or spend­ing hun­dreds of hours ex­plor­ing new worlds. Some­times you just want to shoot things and blow stuff up. When you come across a game that does this well and you have a blast play­ing it, you won­der if there’s any point in play­ing any­thing else. That may be a slight overex­ag­ger­a­tion, be­cause Mothergunship cer­tainly isn’t per­fect, but it has a lot go­ing it for it.

There is a story nes­tled away some­where in this bul­let-hell first­per­son shooter in which an alien race of sen­tient ma­chines, called the Archivists, sur­round Planet Earth with a fleet of space­ships tak­ing it hostage, and it’s up to you and your free­dom-fight­ing friends to save it, but that’s far from the main fo­cus of the game. It’s main fo­cus is in its game­play, which is ev­i­dent at the be­gin­ning of the game when you’re thrust straight into the ac­tion.

This is where you’re in­tro­duced to the heart and soul of this game: The weapon cus­tomiza­tion. In

Mothergunship, you cre­ate your own weapons from a mul­ti­tude of dif­fer­ent parts, which you can pur­chase with coins picked up from en­e­mies. You can be as elab­o­rate as you can pos­si­bly think to be, provided that ev­ery­thing fits to­gether. These mods fall into three cat­e­gories: Con­nec­tors, bar­rels, and caps. The con­nec­tors es­sen­tially form the frame of your weapon and con­tain slots for you to add bar­rels, caps, or even other con­nec­tors. Bar­rels are just dif­fer­ent weapon types that you’ll fire, such as rock­ets, lasers, or chain guns. Lastly, the caps will mod­ify your weapons even fur­ther by adding things like ric­o­chet mods or anti-grav­ity mods. There’s al­most an un­lim­ited va­ri­ety of weapon com­bi­na­tions, and it’s ex­cit­ing when you come up with some­thing that seems like it shouldn’t work, but does. Us­ing your new toys, your mis­sion is to de­stroy the leader of the fleet, the Mothergunship, once and for all. What fol­lows then is a se­ries of pro­ce­du­rally gen­er­ated lev­els filled with dozens of en­e­mies and hun­dreds of bul­lets fly­ing in your di­rec­tion. It can be dif­fi­cult to dis­cern ex­actly what’s go­ing on at any mo­ment, so you just end up shoot­ing madly around the room hop­ing for the best. It’s hec­tic, but it’s one hell of a ride.

Hav­ing a blast

The lev­els are pro­ce­du­rally gen­er­ated to a point. Mean­ing that the place­ment of en­e­mies within them is al­most al­ways unique, but the level maps ap­pear to cy­cle ran­domly within a set tem­plate. So you may find your­self in a fa­mil­iar room where the en­e­mies are dif­fer­ent.

As well as the main cam­paign there are side mis­sions, too. These re­ward you with weapons mods, coins, or ex­pe­ri­ence. There’s even an End­less mis­sion mode which un­locks af­ter com­plet­ing the first few mis­sions and is for those who want to fight against in­creas­ingly dif­fi­cult en­e­mies and sur­vive as long as pos­si­ble.

Al­though fun to play, every mis­sion in the game has al­most ex­actly the same setup. You bat­tle through a va­ri­ety of dif­fer­ent rooms to reach the end of the level, where you ei­ther fight a boss or press a big red self-de­struct but­ton to de­stroy the alien ship. Even the bosses them­selves aren’t that in­ter­est­ing or re­ally any dif­fer­ent from the stan­dard en­e­mies you come across. They’re just larger and big­ger bul­let sponges.

No progress

One ma­jor frus­tra­tion is the com­plete ab­sence of check­points dur­ing mis­sions. This only serves to dis­cour­age rather than make the player feel any sense of risk dur­ing lev­els. It’s not so bad early on in the game, but as you progress the lev­els get in­creas­ingly harder, and you’ll fre­quently find your­self start­ing from the be­gin­ning of the level re­gard­less of the progress you’ve made. This is com­pounded by the fact that any mods you take with you at the start of the mis­sion or earned dur­ing your run are lost should you die. This in turn has a fol­low-on ef­fect on your abil­ity to ac­tu­ally com­plete the level, by los­ing your pow­er­ful gear and mak­ing it even harder to progress.

As you gain ex­pe­ri­ence, you level up and ob­tain points which you can spend on your ar­mor to get cer­tain per­ma­nent stat bonuses that you can be­gin each level with. Things like move­ment speed, ad­di­tional jumps, en­ergy recharge rate, and ex­tra pro­tec­tion for en­vi­ron­men­tal haz­ards. Thank­fully, you’re not stuck with how you choose to dis­trib­ute the points, as you can al­ways re­dis­tribute them else­where in be­tween mis­sions at no cost. This is par­tic­u­larly handy when you’ve been strug­gling with a par­tic­u­lar mis­sion and you’ve lost too many mods, thereby re­duc­ing your chances of com­plet­ing the mis­sion.

It’s not per­fect, no, but the great thing about Mothergunship is that it knows how ridicu­lous it is. Whether it’s through the game­play or the di­a­logue be­tween char­ac­ters, it doesn’t shy from it. It’s be­cause of this that it man­ages to get away with some of the more ques­tion­able game de­sign choices and makes it en­dear­ing, one which we’ll keep re­turn­ing to.

“Al­though fun, every mis­sion in the game has al­most ex­actly the same setup”

Left Take out the glow­ing pil­lars first. They heal all en­e­mies around it.

right The ma­jor­ity of mis­sions will give you a re­ward upon com­plet­ing them.

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