By Shane Ferguson
Mothergunship is one enigma of a game. Developed and published by Grip Digital (creators of Tower of Guns and Atomic Ninjas) and played on Xbox One X, it’s a unique bullet-hell first-person shoot ’em up – with roguelike features. You are recruited to the “resistance” to save Earth from an alien A.I. Invasion. This is done by collecting datacores from enemy space vessels. As far as backstory is concerned, that’s all the information provided. The narrative is sparsely dispensed by the supporting characters banter. Mothergunship is a self-aware title that tries to poke fun at its own simplicity and lack of development. Even so, the writing can come off more flat than comedic. The forced dialogue makes it feel like the game is trying to justify its own story out loud.
Auspiciously, though, Mothergunship is a title that focuses primarily on gameplay.
It’s a fast-paced high-velocity action title that will test your wits, reflexes and occasionally your patience. The gameplay feels like a mix between Halo 4 and Doom. Your player is fitted with a mech suit that includes a triple-jump feature and two convertible arms. This is where the concept of Mothergunship becomes distinct from other FPSs. Mothergunship allows you to change out your mech’s fist for customized weapons that range from plasma beams to grenade launchers. These customizable options allow you to stack gun barrels in practically any fashion.
You create some crazy combinations such as a rocket-launching flamethrowing shotgun. In my experience, this is the best and most fun aspect of the game; experimenting with all the different gun parts is enjoyable and will be the main draw for most players. Unfortunately, this is a concept that sounds a lot better than it’s executed. Each level(mission) allows a limited set of gun parts to be selected as your loadout. The scarcity of loadout space leaves little room to get too experimental with your gun designs. As you defeat enemies, you will receive coins that allow you to purchase additional gun parts during missions. In most cases, the levels are too short and you never fully experience the benefit of your customizations. If you complete a mission, you can then keep the weapon pieces you have acquired. If your player dies, however, you will lose all of the weapon pieces currently equipped. If you find yourself on a losing streak, it is possible to end up stuck with just your fist. On the other hand (no pun intended), you can purchase and collect gun parts that you never get to use in the capacity you might’ve concocted. In addition to that, some of the weapons are useless when not in combination with another one or upgrade.
The campaign is broken down into main mission ships and side mission ships. Each ship is broken down into rooms with each room varying in difficulty. Each ship has about 5-8 rooms per mission. These rooms are sometimes randomly generated so each time you play it won’t be exactly the same. However, during your campaign, you most likely will experience many duplicate rooms. You will not need to clear every room in order to move forward to the next. This helps in situations where you might not have the sufficient weapons or health to defeat what’s thrown at you. This creates somewhat of a game difficultly conundrum in Mothergunship. The game teeters on the line of easy and unreasonably difficult based on your luck at the moment. Not only are the rooms randomly generated, the weapon pieces you have access to are as well. Power-ups aren’t consistent, so there’s no real way to create a strategy in Mothergunship. Sometimes you will be forced to run away.
The graphics are sufficient even though the art style borrows heavily from games like Halo and Doom. The enemies lack in originality and can get boring, but the rooms are masterfully designed – just as some of the game’s hidden and final boss fights. The controls in Mothergunship are smooth, comfortable and responsive. The depth perception seems a bit off, maybe due your character wearing a mech suit. This produces slight blind spots in the game’s first-person view. It doesn’t ruin the game, yet it is instantly noticeable. The sound of the guns are crisp and the minimal voice acting is fairly decent. Although it didn’t affect my experience, I have to mention the lack of invert aiming options. This is not a dealbreaker for me personally these days, yet some gamers will be very disappointed. With good reason, we have come to expect invert aiming options in 2018.
The game occasionally has trouble booting up or will shut down in the middle of a mission. I checked online to see if I was the only one experiencing this problem, unfortunately, I wasn’t. What makes this worse, shutting down during a mission is considered a death and all equipped weapons will be lost. Mothergunship strangely only allows one campaign save per profile which is odd for the genre. Once you complete the campaign, there’s additional task to complete. It’s in spoiler territory so I won’t give it away but there are also ships with unlimited rooms that add plenty of replayability. Additionally, a co-op mode will be added in August as part of a content update.
Mothergunship is a peculiar first-person shoot em up with one good trick. Fortunately, it’s a unique trick that keeps you entertained overall. Crafting guns are tons of fun and the arcade A.I. enemies makes it suitable for all ages. In my opinion, Mothergunship would be even better with a boosted level of immersion if it were experienced on an HTC Vive or PlayStation VR. But on the console, Mothergunship has a unique concept that would be more addicting if the gameplay was consistent. It’s a no-miss for any bullet-hell fan, although other FPS addicts might be underwhelmed. It’s a bit cheap at $24.99 and worth at least one play-through.