Through the looking glass: MOTHERGUNSHIP

By Sci-Gaming Oirschot

Are you ready to save humanity from the robotic alien armada that conquered Earth? Well, you might need some guns. Fourty-barrel chainguns? No problem. Want to shoot exploding barrels and fire a laser beam at the same time? There’s a module for that. As long as you can still see your enemies, you can craft whatever gun you can come up with. As long as you can find the right parts…

These days, gamers are used to saving the world from an alien invasion. Some started saving the planet with Space Invaders, others joined the fight with Halo. But those games featured only a handful of guns. What if you could make your own gun, fit for the occasion, or even any occasion?

MOTHERGUNSHIP promises an Earth-saving bullet hell shooter, where you fight off alien robots with a DIY gun workbench. As long as you can still see your enemies, you can craft whatever gun you can come up with. As long as you can find the right parts…

So what is it?

Let’s start with the game itself. MOTHERGUNSHIP explains itself as a FPS/Bullet hell shooter with a gun crafting mechanic. Although it does not call itself a rogue-lite, it does feature similar gameplay mechanics. You can build your own guns by snapping different modules together. As you progress, you will earn XP which you can put in upgrades for your armor. You earn money to buy gun parts back at the base between missions. During missions, you can also purchase gun parts, as long as there is a shop available. Each mission is a randomly generated chain of rooms, each with their unique layout. Each following room will up the difficulty and the player can choose his or her own path through the mission. Besides the regular rooms, you will find the shop, challenge rooms, gambling rooms, boss battle rooms, gift rooms and goal rooms.

Complete a mission, and your gun parts and coins will come back with you to the base. Die, and you lose all the parts you have on you, as well as the coin. But why would you die, if you can make the biggest gun imaginable?

Not enough cargo space

So, you’re ready to fight off some alien robot scum? Choose a mission and pick the gun parts you want to take with you on your mission. Depending on the mission, you can only take a limited amount of gun parts with you and some missions have fixed parts you have to use. This is somewhat contrary to what a lot of players would expect from this game. You cannot just build a gun the size of Jupiter, but the game limits the amount of parts you can take with you on each mission. This makes it pretty much impossible to collect enough parts to finish your fourty-barrel-chaingun flying sawblade destroyer. At least not in the main portion of the game, as you unlock this game mode once you finish the main game. Not only did this surprise me, there’s another reason why this is a curious choice in development. I’ll explain this later on.

Just enough room on board for you and four gun parts

Enough room for activities

We punch a hole in the ship’s armored shell and we enter the starting room, with two … placed workbenches to craft your first gun(s). The gun building itself is easy and you’ll be able to craft a simple gun in no time. Enter the first room and shoot away! The rooms are spacious and feature multiple doors, hallways and double ceilings. Doom-like wall hugging lets you discover secret rooms with temporary upgrades. The rooms are colorful and are brightened by all the firepower the alien robots can fire at you. You will encounter turrets, rocket launchers, sawblade flying robots, exploding drones, small gunships and much more target practice. You will soon find out that shooting alone will not save your shiny behind and reach the next room. Luckily your armor features a triple jump to reach hard to get places, and more important, dodge all those rockets going straight for your head.

The most impressive rooms are the wide open ones, filled with sawblades, lava beams and trampoline like platforms. You really feel immersed in an epic battle for Earth. You dodge, jump and fly through the air in a mission to kill every single robot there is. If you succeed, the upswept music will dim down and, if you are lucky, the Shop room will be accessible. Here you can spend your hard earned cash for gun parts, or health if you are in a bad shape. Note that there is no auto-regen in this game, so you either not get hit at all, or salvage health upgrades from fallen robots or buy back health in the shop.

Speaking of salvaging, when you destroy a robot, they will spawn loot. There’s all kinds of loot, like XP, money, health or jump upgrades. Be quick though, because they disappear after a short time. Some rooms, like the gamble room, will offer more of the same loot like the jump upgrade. It’s a risk/reward thing, which will make you more agile and increases the chance to find hidden rooms and reach those ceiling beams with extra loot.

The boss battles look stunning. The bosses are well designed and can look a bit overwhelming. They require agility and timing to defeat and you feel good after taking down these enormous contraptions.

Even Elon Musk is jealous of this TBM.

No party without the parts

So you’ve killed a bunch of robots and are lucky enough to collect some coin. Off to the shop! Shops offer a limited stock of parts to buy, featuring the 3 components and sometimes the health upgrade. You can choose between connectors, barrels and caps. Connectors create more attachment points. Barrels offer more boom and caps boost your gun stats, for instance velocity or crit chance. Guns parts have four rarity levels: Common (white), Rare (blue), Epic (purple) and Legendary (yellow). Common parts show signs of rust, while legendary parts look, well, legendary. The higher the difficulty level of the room, the bigger the chance of finding better parts.

If no one else can help you, and if you can find them, maybe you can use these gun parts.

Buying the right parts for your gun can be a struggle. When I was lucky enough to encounter a shop, I did not always have the coin to purchase the parts I wanted. Other times I had the coin, but there was no shop in sight. Even when I had both the coin and the shop, I was faced with useless parts (all caps, or 4 barrels when I needed a connector). When you are a hardcore rogue-lite player, you make the best of the situation and go with it. You expect the worst and find a way to make it work. For people who expect a bullet hell to be your bullets and their hell, this kills the fun. For me it meant not being able to build an effective gun to win the boss battle, and dying meant losing my gun parts I took with me on this mission. The cool gun I dreamt of building got further away each time I died. I pushed through the latter levels but I always felt held back without real reason.

I understand that letting you use half of your parts would be costly if you die and lose them all. I feel there could be a system where you lose a percentage of your parts. That way, you can still experiment and enjoy the gun crafting, without the restriction or the fear of losing all those precious parts.

Once you beat the main game, you get the Sandbox mode. This is the mode where you can go nuts and build that 40-barrel chaingun with lasers and grenade launchers on the side you dreamt of building early on. Dreams do come true, but they come at a cost.

Come for the guns, stay for the chaos

Criticism aside, this game offers a fast paced bullet hell experience in a colorful environment, with enough targets to shoot away the stress of your day job. If you are into rogue-lite games, this is right up your alley. If you love a good sci-fi setting and the idea of saving planet Earth, consider picking it up during a sale.

Get Surviving Mars on: Humble Bundle (PC)