MOTHERGUNSHIP is the second release from Terrible Posture Games, in partnership with Grip Digital. Long-time readers of WOTS may remember Terrible Posture Games as the developer behind Tower of Guns, which we mini-reviewed back in 2014. I feel pretty safe in calling MOTHERGUNSHIP a decendent of Tower of Guns – they share quite a bit of DNA between them. I loved Tower of Guns for its roguelike, bullet-hell twist on classic first person shooter gameplay. How does MOTHERGUNSHIP live up to its legacy? Find out in my MOTHERGUNSHIP review!
MOTHERGUNSHIP isn’t a traditional shooter. Like I mentioned in the intro, it’s easiest to describe it as a roguelike, bullet hell, first-person shooter. Besides being quite a mouthful to try to explain, it’s also a little tough to understand without going into a little more detail.
The roguelike “dungeons” in MOTHERGUNSHIP are ships packed with all manner of alien AI-controlled killer robots. Some are ginormous Banzai-Bill firing fixed gun emplacements that track your position, others are flying robots with mounted lasers, and still others are tiny robot T-Rex things that chase you around and nip at your heels. Each alien ship is a series of prefabricated rooms arranged in a random pattern. Destroying these robots yields various items for collection. The most notable of these are the little purple diamonds that represent experience points, and the coins used to shop for gun parts.
Part buying and gun crafting are both important parts of MOTHERGUNSHIP. At the beginning of each mission, you’re allowed to bring along a small number of parts (usually 1-6) which you can use to build your starting loadout. Occasionally after clearing a room, you’ll find a shop where you can buy parts and/or modify your guns.
You can hold two guns at any one time, but each of those guns can be customized in whatever way you see fit. Want to jam a bunch of shotguns and flamethrowers together to create a devastating short-range murder machine? Go for it! Maybe you just want to get as many fast-firing machineguns and energy weapons as you can find and stick them together to make the ultimate bullet hose. The sky’s the limit, just as long as you keep all the barrels pointing the same way.
Between missions, you can spend accumulated coins to buy extra parts, or spend your experience points on various perks. These perks are mostly what you’d expect – bonus health, faster weapon energy regen, extra jumps, and so forth. You can assign and reassign these points at any time between missions.
As you might have figured out by now, there’s a lot of interlocking pieces at play in MOTHERGUNSHIP. There’s a fair amount of complexity to manage – in combat, you’ve got to keep track of where all the enemies and their shots are (and there are often lots) as well as how charged your weapons are, where the jump pads/hazards are, etc. Outside of combat, you’ll be hunting for secrets, choosing your path through the ship, and crafting your weapons.
Some of these systems work better than others. For instance, a lot of the time the gun crafting system seems like it’s made for a more complex game than MOTHERGUNSHIP. I don’t think I ever used some of the connector types, and most of my guns topped out at around 3 barrels. The levels in the main game just aren’t long enough to build bigger guns than this, and the overall max energy/regen is low enough that larger guns are impractical anyhow.
The level design in MOTHERGUNSHIP feels like a step down from Tower of Guns. I feel like the environment types in Tower of Guns were more varied and there was less repetition than what I see in MOTHERGUNSHIP. A lot of the enemy designs feel recycled, and there are also far less bosses in MOTHERGUNSHIP versus Tower of Guns.
Secret areas are another disappointment in MOTHERGUNSHIP. In Tower of Guns, secrets were usually a reward for being a diligent explorer or completing a series of tricky jumps. In MOTHERGUNSHIP, secrets are randomly generated inside of the walls. Finding them can be important, as they sometimes contain max health boosters. However, finding them involves staring at walls until you see the telltale blue pattern. Wall Texture Inspector is not a terribly fun game to play.
I would say overall that MOTHERGUNSHIP doesn’t feel terribly well balanced. There are a number of things that really need to be tweaked:
- The RPG “roguelite” elements feel too grindy to be worth investing time in. I never felt considerably more powerful after leveling up, and the levels were so far between that I didn’t see the point in trying to grind them out.
- Some enemies are slow and can be one-shotted no matter what gun you’ve got. Others tear your health to shreds and soak up damage so easily that it can take minutes of sustained fire to bring them down.
- The difficulty feels a bit unbalanced as well. The final room of the penultimate level took me a good 10 tries to get through, but once I was done with it I crushed the entire final level and the final boss on one go.
- When you die on a mission, you lose any gun parts you took into the mission. I understand the need to risk something, but the loss of parts on top of the loss during the level often left me disheartened. Not only did I fail my mission, but the next time I attempt the mission, I’m probably going to be less prepared. Grinding for parts/XP can help with this some, but it certainly lessens my desire to play “one more game” after a loss.
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MOTHERGUNSHIP is another unique take on the first person shooter, and at first glance it seems to take the central strengths of Tower of Guns to a new level. The gunplay is still as solid as ever, and having overarching RPG elements makes the disparate missions feel more like a cohesive game. However, MOTHERGUNSHIP feels more like an Early Access title than a fully finished game. Some bits feel like a step backwards from Tower of Guns, while many elements seem like they need more time and refinement to really gel.