Review: MOTHERGUNSHIP

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I should tell you up front, I hated Tower of Guns. For a game all about shooting guns at larger guns, I found the gunplay, the enemies, and the levels to be terribly underwhelming. I’m not so vain to think MOTHERGUNSHIP was designed in response to my criticisms, but it very well could be. Everything I disliked in Tower of Guns is turned on its head here, from the ridiculous piles of firearms you can construct to the gorgeous arenas of death you float through in your rampages. Even the humor and presentation have been punched up for this outing, making it one of the better first-person roguelikes to blast through, especially if you like chaos.

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The Archivist armada has arrived at Earth, subjugating its defenders and beginning the process of fatally recording the existence of all things on the planet. A rag-tag resistance led by a rather unhinged team of troops has recruited you to pilot their armored suit into the vessels of the fleet to strike at their heart. The heart, of course, is the titular mothergunship, a massive command vessel that houses the AI controlling the Archivist hordes. Thing is, she’s cloaked and shielded and just not real easy to reach, so you’ll have to cut a swathe through her forces to find your way to the goal. Your allies will guide you as best they can, but it’s the guns you build along the way that’ll make the real difference between survival and digital extinction.

It’s an arena FPS, and I’m sure you know what I’m talking about. Each level (which represents an Archivist ship) is a series of rooms full of enemies to blast, and you can’t move on to the next room until they’ve all been blasted. Most rooms here have multiple exits, and some lead to special rooms like ones with challenges or randomized effects. As a roguelike, the rooms and their deadly contents are always randomized except for a few bosses you’ll encounter in your journey. That means you’ll never know quite what to expect, though the enemy lineup is a pretty constant bunch of stationary turrets, flying annoyances, and traps like laser disco balls and flying mines.

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Tower of Guns annoyed me because it was shooting boring guns at boring enemies. The enemies are slightly improved here but the guns are on a whole new level. For one thing, you don’t actually find guns. Little shops in the levels have a selection of parts you can buy, and from those you cobble together your own boomsticks. You’ve got three kinds of parts, connectors, barrels (the shooty parts), and caps (which provide bonuses), and the only rule is that your barrels have to face forward. That means you can strap a rocket launcher to a grenade launcher, make a bank of six chainguns, and cram every barrel in your inventory together to create a ball of guns that would make an NRA member weep. Sure, it might drain all your energy in a single shot, but that’s why it recharges so fast!

If you survive a level you keep the parts you found, and you can take a small assortment of banked parts into each level to help you get started. The game is extremely liberal with giving you affordable parts, and allowing even the strangest amalgamation to function. I’ve made guns so absolutely stupid that they covered my entire field of vision, and it almost didn’t matter because they’d vaporize anything directly in front of me. The building interfaces is incredibly intuitive and works off of simple nodes, and all the parts have grades and clear stats so there’s incentive to keep hunting and no impediment to understanding and experimenting. I even spent a fair bit of one night just making monstrosities in the gun range between missions.

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The campaign will take you upwards of a dozen hours, and more if you like doing side missions for coins and parts. You’re bound to fall in love with the goofy characters you meet along the way, too, expertly voiced and given some truly hilarious lines. The whole presentation is incredibly slick, with colorful, detailed levels to blow stuff up in and a pleasantly pounding soundtrack. Levels are rife with secrets, and it’s easy to get a dozen or more double jumps in a single level to let you explore the heights for hidden passages. Really this one is everything I wanted Tower of Guns to be, giving you the firepower and mobility to see all its treasures right from the start. Not many FPS roguelikes can match MOTHERGUNSHIP for sheer spectacle and fun, especially not with the monstrous guns it encourages you to build.

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