In 2014, Terrible Posture released their roguelike first person shooter, Tower of Guns, to a surprising amount of fanfare. MOTHERGUNSHIP is not a true sequel to Tower of Guns, but there are some obvious similarities in this spiritual successor. Much like Tower of Guns, MOTHERGUNSHIP is a roguelike first person shooter. While Tower of Guns gave players a randomly chosen character story at the beginning of each procedurally generated run, Mothergunship opts for a more traditional campaign. Players take on the role of an unnamed recruit who is forced to fight his or her way out of an invading alien spaceship after their mission goes awry with little more than the guidance of a motley crue cast of witty and sarcastic characters that communicate via the recruit’s communication lines. These little blips of dialogue stack the game full of goofy humor (such as when one character decides to decorate the hub for a birthday party) to lighten the mood what with all the brutal lava rooms, acid pits, murderous robots and really huge bullets whizzing by your head that are to come.
Once players successfully survive the tutorial mission and fight their way out of the ship they find themselves in a space station hub where in they can access campaign missions and side quests, as well as an armory for upgrading their mech suit and a moderately well hidden black market for better weapon upgrades. Choosing a mission allows players to select a limited number of weapons and mods that they can take with them for the mission before they start.
As the mission begins, players will find crafting stations in the very first room. These crafting stations allow for players to assemble the weapon barrels – everything from shotguns to lightning rods and spike ball launchers – along with various connectors and caps to modify their functionality. There’s only a couple of rules for crafting your weaponry. The most important of which is that weapon barrels must always face forward. There are ample amounts of connectors available ranging from L shaped to 3 prong rows to 5 point boxes that can be stacked, rotated, and mounted in such obscene ways that you’re guaranteed to be able to create a literal beast of a weapon if you’re patient enough to master the crafting. The second is that the weapon barrel simply must fit. Different weapons are obviously differently sized, but the crafting mechanic is simple enough that you can scroll through your collection of gun barrels and wait until one that works shows up as a blue outline rather than a red one. The second important rule is that you must have enough energy available on that arm to actually fire the weapon you’ve created. Each weapon barrel and ‘cap’ (which serve as power boosters or weapon modifiers like lava) comes at an energy cost. Thankfully, the amount of energy you can expend per shot is split between each weapon arm, and they’re both healthy sized amounts even in the beginning. This allows for the creation of some truly monstrous weapons with some serious firepower.
Once you’ve given up a sizable chunk of your field of vision to the massive arsenal strapped to your mech suit’s arms, you can then proceed to make your way through the labyrinthian style alien ships. This is where MOTHERGUNSHIP returns to its roguelike form. The ships are sectioned off into various rooms, and as you clear each one of its bullet hell induced challenges you can then choose which room to proceed to next. Player beware, however, as there is no mini map or navigation guides on these ships. Once you choose a door to proceed through, the one behind you closes down. All paths eventually lead to the exit, but if you were hoping to backtrack and revisit challenge rooms, find a shop before moving on to the boss, or just hoping to grind out some XP by clearing more of the ship then you’re just plain out of luck. Before entering a new room you the game does show you via hologram what the threat level of that room is, but only after it’s already closed down access to the previous room you were in. This makes it difficult to judge which path you really want to take, and just leaves you stuck with what the game wants to throw at you reducing the choices regarding your path to nothing more than an illusion.
It’s during these sequences where the game is loading up the next room that it also stumbles the hardest. There are noticeable performance issues at these loading points that results in screen tearing and jittery frames. Since a majority of the game’s communication based cutscenes happen during these in between screens the stuttering does affect those moments, as well. The developers are aware that these performance issues exist and previously stated that a patch would be out on day 1. Unfortunately, at the time of writing this review, that patch is still not available on Xbox One. MOTHERGUNSHIP’s other downfall is that is an inexplicable grindfest coupled with seemingly random difficulty spikes. Often times while running through side missions and even the main story quests the weapons you craft can leave you feeling like the ultimate, overpowered badass. Blasting through challenge rooms and taking on swarms of saw blade equipped enemies and giant Super Mario-esque bullets create moments of frantic tension, but then the difficulty spikes out of the blue and you find yourself defeated. Defeat in MOTHERGUNSHIP results in the loss of any weapon parts you’ve collected during your run, as well as the ones you took with you. Sending you back to the side missions or endless mode to hopefully grind out some better weapons and XP for mech suit upgrades that you didn’t know you needed. There are coin and experience grinding modes built into the game, but they’re locked away behind the final boss battle. Rendering them obsolete for helping to actually complete the game.