Release Date: July 17th, 2018
Platform: Windows, PS4, Xbox One (Played on Windows)
Developer: Terrible Posture Games, Grip Digital
Publisher: Grip Digital
Copy Provided by Publisher

A combination of bullet-hell and rogue-like insanity, MOTHERGUNSHIP is the follow-up to Terrible Posture Games’ Tower of Guns, co-developed with Grip Digital. Players are tasked with blasting through a variety of robots as they weave through a flurry of bullets on their quest to save Earth. To do this, players invade alien ships while they amass a collection of modular gun parts to mix and match creating their weapons. Moving through a series of progressively challenging rooms, the ship’s core will be discovered allowing it, along with the ship to be destroyed. Will you rise to the challenge and defeat the impending invasion?

The modular gun crafting system allows for some creative weapon assembly, and is my favourite aspect of MOTHERGUNSHIP. Throughout missions, players collect parts that are used to create guns with a few constraints: barrels must face forward, and pieces must not overlap. Each gun manages to feel like your own unique invention due to this, which prevents weapons from feeling stale after repeated runs. This system also allows for weapons to adapt to a variety of situations. For instance, if you’re having trouble with melee enemies, adding weapons with a lot of bullet spread can be advantageous. Allowing players to craft their equipment makes it satisfying to learn how to overcome MOTHERGUNSHIP’s challenges.

The modular system for building weapons also meshes well with roguelike mechanics. Throughout a run destroying enemies has a chance to drop a coin, which can be used to buy new gun parts within shops found throughout a level. In this way a player’s weapons can be entirely unique each subsequent time they play through a mission. Endless mode highlights this best by having players build entirely new weapons with only what is available, as opposed to standard stages where you’re able to bring some of your own equipment in to start. The weapon building mechanic is utilized in such a way that it combats the repetition that procedural generation can lead to.

On the topic of the weapons, each of the guns is animated extremely well. Despite the ridiculous size and scope that can be achieved by stacking many parts together, each of the barrels have weighty animation. A quick kick back animation, as well as some additional visual flair, accompany every shot fired from a weapon. These small details help to give appropriate visual weight to every bullet that is fired, which prevents the guns from feeling flimsy.

While MOTHERGUNSHIP does, in parts, make positive use of randomness through its weapon crafting system, it still falls prey to repetition in other areas. Players are going to see a lot of the same rooms and enemy types throughout sessions. There are only about a dozen different baddies, and rooms have predetermined enemies so as not to be wildly unbalanced. This can lead to a nagging feeling of tedium, especially after you start to notice patterns. The higher difficulty content found in the end-game does have more variety in room designs, introducing an entire selection of larger rooms, but players will spend much of their time shooting through areas they’ve already seen.

The randomness in MOTHERGUNSHIP also makes crafting new weapons unnecessarily difficult at times. While the game starts off reasonably generous by providing a higher drop rate on coins, I found many of my late and post-game runs to be entirely devoid of both coins and shops. Part of the blame here falls on the procedural nature of MOTHERGUNSHIP, but the drop rate of coins in higher difficulties feels incredibly stingy. I have gone through several missions unable to alter my weapon due to a lack of resources. Given how fun it is to customize your equipment, it feels like a huge misstep to limit resources to the point where players aren’t always able to augment them mid-run.

I also ran into a few bugs which completely killed a run. One such bug prevented an enemy from despawning after I dispatched it. While you usually aren’t required to destroy everything to move on, I happened to be in a challenge room with a stipulation to defeat everything before I could move on. Bugs like this occurred infrequently, but are exceptionally frustrating especially because defeat is punished with the loss of all the equipment presently on your character.

Finally, I’d like to mention progression. MOTHERGUNSHIP features progression in two forms: player upgrades, and weapons. As you complete levels you will accumulate experience, which can be used to upgrade your mech in marginal ways. While typically I’d find such small upgrades like a ten percent increase in health discouraging, they work well in MOTHERGUNSHIP. Nothing feels overly powerful, so upgrades won’t mitigate the need for players to master the game’s challenges. However, some players may find these upgrades lacking given the amount of experience required to gain them in the higher levels.

Weapon progression comes in the form of rarity tiers. Unlike character upgrades, parts receive substantial improvement as they move up in rarity. Players won’t directly be able to upgrade weapons, instead going on repeated runs will allow for the opportunity to find higher rarity parts. Additionally, some missions award parts for completion, and there is also a shop where guns can be purchased. These different avenues will provide plenty of opportunities for more loot focused players to grind out their favourite weapons.

While not without flaws, MOTHERGUNSHIP is a game I enjoyed playing. The gun crafting system in combination with the excellent use of visual animation results in a satisfying game built around player creativity. Giving players control over the weapons they use also helps to alleviate some of the repetition that is typically experienced when procedural content is used. However, enemies, and rooms still feel repetitive especially when the game limits your ability to customize your weapon. The progression systems help to round out the package nicely making MOTHERGUNSHIP a game I’d recommend to fans of roguelikes or those intrigued by its core mechanics.