MOTHERGUNSHIP (Xbox One) REVIEW – Good Gunplay, Bad Guncraft


Developer(s): Grip Digital, Terrible Posture Games
Publisher: Grip Digital
Platform(s): PS4, XB1, PC
Review copy provided

For all the shooting games there are in the world, there seem to be very few that actually let you make the guns. Sure, games like Bulletstorm, DOOM and Borderlands provide unique weapons that feel great, but sometimes it’d be nice to put your own spin on things. Unfortunately, MOTHERGUNSHIP doesn’t deliver on that promise as well as it could.

The new shooter from Terrible Shooter Games acts as a kind of spiritual successor to their previous game Tower of Guns. Like Tower of Guns, MOTHERGUNSHIP is a roguelike where everything is randomly generated, from level layouts to enemy placements, weapon parts, power-ups and so on. Sadly, MOTHERGUNSHIP doesn’t retain the random story elements from Tower of Guns, but it does keep the humour.

You play as a new recruit of the human resistance, tasked with infiltrating different alien ships and finding datacores or just blowing them to kingdom come. Honestly, the reasoning is irrelevant. It’s just an excuse to get you from point A to point B by way of hundreds of enemies and massive weapons.

The central conceit behind MOTHERGUNSHIP is the ability to create guns from several weapon parts. Parts come in one of three forms. Barrels are the shooty parts that you point at the bad guys, while connectors allow you to join parts together in unique ways. Lastly, caps act sort of like mods for your guns, adding new properties like occasionally dropping mines or causing bullets to ricochet off the environment.

There’s no limit on how many parts you can stick on a gun, beyond the amount connectors you have available. You also have to make sure that weapon parts don’t clip into each other, which gives the weapon building somewhat of a puzzle solving element. There’s no denying the satisfaction felt from being able to find a way to create a triple barrelled chaingun with just a few parts.

Any weapon parts you find during a level can be brought back if you survive, so the game falls into the typical cycle of finishing levels to earn loot so you can do harder levels for better loot. It’s a gameplay loop as old as time itself. Well, maybe not time, but gaming certainly, and one that you can easily get sucked into. Death holds more weight when you lose a high powered item that you’ve just found.

It all sounds great on paper, and the gameplay is fast paced and frenetic to boot. Think along the lines of DOOM but replace the BFG with weapons like a spikeball launcher or the powerful Pulse Gun that shoots out an oscillating wave in front of you. The sheer amount of enemies means you have to constantly be on the move, otherwise death is inevitable.

However, in practice, the weapon crafting isn’t as well utilised as it possibly could be. The scope is there to create massive, multi-barreled guns that look like something out of a Looney Tunes film, but they’re wildly impractical in combat. The more barrels you have on your gun, the more energy it’ll expend when you pull the trigger, meaning it’ll overheat quicker. You’ll spend more time waiting to fire your gun than actually firing it, making it useless in combat.

Pictured: impracticality.

That effect is compounded once you start adding multiple barrel types on your gun. Trying to combine a machine gun with a rocket launcher is an idea that will always end poorly because you’ll be pissing energy like a gaping hole in a can of Monster. Instead, you’re kind of forced to create more “basic” guns, just because they offer a consistent rate of fire and damage. Though by basic, we do mean five machine guns lined in a row, because that does get the job done.

It’s a decision that makes sense, and gives MOTHERGUNSHIP a layer of strategy when thinking about how you’re going to create your loadout. Unlike The Engineer in Team Fortress 2, you can’t simply solve the situation by adding more guns; you have to be a little bit smarter than that. But even if those massive weapons were useful, you’re never given a chance to construct them in an actual mission anyway.

You can only take a handful of parts with you at the start of a level, and any additional parts have to be bought using coins randomly dropped from enemies. Also, the stock that shops hold is random, along with whether or not the shop actually spawns. Like we said, everything in this game is randomly generated, and that can be as much to your benefit as your detriment.

It feels like the decision to limit the amount of parts you can take into a mission was done to create difficulty, preventing you from finding a winning gun combo and riding that to victory on every level. In doing so, it seems like Terrible Posture Games have inadvertently undercut the very system they’ve been trying to promote. What’s the point of trying to create over the top weaponry if you’re neither given the tools or the incentive to do so?

The game does give you a Sandbox Mode (once you’ve completed the game) and a gun range to test out the wackier gun configurations, and it’s here where the game feels the most fun, creating guns so powerful they literally bounce you across the room due to the kickback. It’s incredibly enjoyable, but deeply unrewarding because you don’t get anything from it, other than maybe a few goofy clips you can show your mates.

The trailer, which you can see below, proudly displays the frankly bonkers weapon combinations that are available within the game, but actually creating them outside of Sandbox Mode is just impossible. It’s marketing like that which arguably creates a disconnect between how the game is portrayed (bombastic guns 24/7) and how the game actually is (less bombastic, more “I hope there’s a bloody shop in the next room”).

The main campaign is pretty short, and the endgame focuses on the same gameplay loop you’ll have already spent a few hours getting acquainted with, so unless you’re really enamoured with the core gameplay, replayability is almost non-existent. At least for now, anyway. The developers have already confirmed that more is on the way, including a free update next month that will add co-op play.

Beyond that, the developers will add additional campaigns, level designs, weapons, enemy types and more, along with incorporating feedback from the community. Personally, I’m hoping that feedback will include making the crafting more ridiculous yet viable. One solution could be to include loadout slots and reduced energy drain as upgrades alongside the upgrades already in the game, including max health, movement speed and damage resistance.

One area that does need work is the random generation of levels and rooms inside those levels. For instance, nightmare missions are meant to be some of toughest challenges in the game, but you’ll routinely receive other normal side missions with the same or harder constraints as a nightmare mission, which doesn’t make sense.

Also, during the level, there are rooms that can have certain properties, such as the diceroll rooms, which can add various modifiers to a room, along with the self-explanatory challenge rooms. In certain challenge rooms, there were times where you’d be instructed to kill X amount of enemies in a certain amount of time, but not enough enemies would spawn.

There’s enough present within MOTHERGUNSHIP for it to be a great roguelike shooter with some unique and innovative elements regarding the gun crafting, but right now, the game needs a lot of refining, and it needs to stop getting in its own way. It needs to let the gun creation system breathe instead of neutering it before every level.

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Though the core gameplay is as rock solid as Tower of Guns, MOTHERGUNSHIP’s weapon crafting is a victim of lost potential. Still, we’re hopeful that Terrible Posture Games can turn it around with future updates. Microtransactions: None