Mothergunship PC Review

Mothergunship's glorious, fast-paced action is let down in the long run by a small enemy roster and repeating room layouts.

By Woozie, Posted 16 Jul 2018

A pillar of molten lava climbs to the top of the industrial room that I’m in. Floating drones brandishing rotating blades give chase as I notice a cluster of mines blocking the exit route. I fire a rocket at the floor and get propelled into the air; I fire another at the drones, taking a few out, while using four of my five available jumps to reach a platform above. On it waits a mine throwing turret. Several flurries of rockets, lasers and lightning later both it and the drones are no more and I find myself in another one of the break rooms which grant a moment’s respite before I’m at it again. When it doesn’t throw one of its would-be minibosses in the mix or repeats area layouts with identical enemy compositions, Mothergunship can be quite an exhilarating bullet-hell FPS.

Its setup is simple. Aliens have taken over the Earth cataloguing everyone and replicating them as AI. You’re an unnamed soldier that’s part of a ragtag group of resistance fighters which take it upon themselves to get rid of the invaders. Mothergunship isn’t breaking any narrative ground, although the exchanges between characters in the campaign aren’t exactly humorless. The story, however, is really just a pretext to get you donning an upgradeable metal frame and blowing robotic foes up.

Mothergunship, PC, Review, Screenshot

After an initial daring escape, you reach a hub ship from where you select missions, access the gun range to try out new weapon combinations, purchase parts from the black market or upgrade your armor. Whether story or side ones, missions are the most reliable source of new parts, although dying means losing everything you’ve on you at that time. Some involve starting with a fixed loadout, while others give you a few slots and free reins to how you fill them. See them to the end and a larger chunk of coins, experience or a stronger weapon part can be yours. As far as objectives go, you’re always meant to kill things and get to the final room. Aside from gathering weapon parts, Mothergunship’s progression is tied to improving the armor. When killed, enemies drop experience which is useful in upgrading different aspects, provided you pick it up fast enough. You can obtain five extra jumps for a total of eight, increase movement speed, max health, have energy recharge faster, or make the frame react better to falls. These points can be freely moved around.

Levels in Mothergunship alternate between combat and break rooms, with the occasional stores sprinkled around for when you don’t have enough barrels to shoot foes with. This structure provides a steady pace to the action, and a goal to chase – you’re always looking for a door, and sometimes there’s several, leading to the next arena. Some rooms will explicitly require clearing all enemies, surviving or not taking damage for a set amount of time before moving on. Completing these spontaneous challenges rewards extra coins, used for purchasing parts.  While there’s some aesthetic variation, with the use of different hues and the addition of lava pillars and acid pools, rooms tend to have a very similar industrial theme that does the job, but never wows. Layout-wise, there’s a selection of areas both smaller and larger, both open and closed. The best rooms, however, are those that embrace verticality.

Mothergunship, PC, Review, Screenshot

One particular example stuck to my mind, involving a large open space with a few levels and bounce pads both on the ground and in the air. With plenty of enemies around and a much higher sense of speed  as I bounced from one side of the room to the other while myriads of projectiles and drones flew by me, this was arguably one of the most adrenaline-filled encounters I’ve had in an FPS. Mothergunship succesfully harkens back to older titles such as Quake. The game is at its best when it makes use of this verticality, when you’re jumping in between levels, dealing with different sets of foes as they attempt to sandwich you in the middle or against a wall. On several occasions, I got so absorbed in strafing and lining up shots with different types of projectiles from my Frankenstein-like weapon, which fired rockets, bullets and sawblades all at once, that the sight of a few death turrets looming above took me by surprise. Bits like these make Mothergunship shine , when in the midst of the action, you realize that a bullet three times your size and tens of smaller ones are about to give you a not-so-friendly pat on the head, as you frantically run, jump, strafe and gun around the room. The bullet hell elements in Mothergunship condiment the on-screen action enough to give it a flavor of its own.

Mothergunship relies on random generation to build its levels and here’s where the first cracks start to appear. I began bumping into room layouts that I had seen before, often with the same enemy compositions, even before I had finished the campaign’s ten missions. The enemy types also become familiar a bit too soon and they’re at their worst when you’re pit against would-be minibosses that are just large bullet sponges easily dealt with by strafing when alone, and utter nuisances when joined by other baddies. Of course, there are also cases when the shotgun you’re wielding doesn’t handle agile drones shooting at you from further away too well, or when the game throws a ton of enemies in tight spaces, swiftly bringing an end to your run.

Mothergunship, PC, Review, Screenshot

The weapon crafting system is Mothergunship’s standout feature. Your suit has two arms to which you attach different parts. Barrels can be attached directly to the arms, but things truly open up once you start using connectors. These come in different shapes and sizes and have sockets to which other parts – including other connectors – can be added. Firing what in other first-person shooters would be six different weapons all at once is quite the power trip. Sometimes the sizes of different parts will make them collide with each other, but rotating them, or using a differently shaped connector takes care of that.  Caps modify things like fire rate, damage or even allow projectiles to bounce. Some of these interactions won’t necessarily work well, as adding bounce to smaller rockets just makes them spaz out a little when they hit walls before exploding; others that seem negative – like pushback on shot – can be turned into a new way of slinging yourself across the level.

There’s no reloading or ammo to worry about but having too many things on one side will drain your limited amount of energy much faster. Even so, although I was eager to create massive death contraptions to cover my entire screen, in the campaign and even after it the possibilities remained somewhat limited.  Missions don’t always let you take six parts from the get go and the store requires coins which drop from enemies. But even when I wasn’t running around with several handfuls of coins only to find no stores, the weapons I could create were relatively tame – by Mothergunship standards –, rarely exceeding four barrels attached to one weapon. The one place where you can run absolutely wild with the crafting system is its sandbox mode. You don’t gain or lose anything by playing it, but you’ve access to your entire inventory of parts right from the beginning. I built weapons that ate my energy in an instant and propelled me around faster than some of my projectiles moved.

Mothergunship, PC, Review, Screenshot

Once the campaign’s over, Mothergunship offers more difficult levels to grind. Given how they’re just about the right length, dipping in for short sessions of fast-paced action continues to feel satisfying. But even so, the repeating room layouts and enemy compositions don’t take long to make themselves noticed, adding an unwelcome sense of familiarity that I couldn’t really shrug off. More stuff is said to come later down the line, and that has the potential to solve this issue, but at the moment, while Mothergunship provides opportunity for glorious, fast-paced action, its novelty isn't there for the long run.

Bogdan Robert, NoobFeed
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General Information

Mothergunship

70/100

Platform(s): Xbox One, PS4, PC
Publisher(s): Grip Digital
Developer(s): Grip Digital, Terrible Posture Games
Genres: First-Person Shooter
Themes: Bullet Hell
Release Date: 2018-07-17

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