Save the planet from destruction one mod at a time
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.
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.