PSX 2017: Mothergunship Preview

Earth is in danger! A malevolent AI has launched a devastating attack on our home planet using a fleet of deadly spaceships. A motley resistance organization with a love of big, outlandish weaponry are all that stand in the way of Earth’s total annihilation. Terrible Posture Games (Tower of Guns) and Grip Digital have teamed up to create Mothergunship, an action-oriented shooter which proves that the best offense is a great defense. I got to spend some hands-on time with Mothergunship at PlayStation Experience in Anaheim, California and walked away with the urge to play a lot more.  

In the simplest of terms, Mothergunship is, *deep breath*, a roguelike first person bullet hell shmup with a crafting mechanic. The overall goal of the game is to reach the titular Mothergunship and defeat the evil if quirky, AI. Along the way, you’ll have to blast through robots as you move inside large battleships, fighting from room to room to reach an end boss. What I really liked about the demo is how the game has the aesthetic of a shmup. Smaller enemies look like low-level ships and menial robots but the level’s end boss appears to be inspired by those from Raiden and R-Type. Side-scrolling shmups are frightening enough with their imposing bosses and complex laser bolt patterns, but to see all that from a first-person perspective is something else entirely. The obvious trick for survival is to kill these robots before they have the chance to do you in. And the best way to accomplish this is to get real creative with your gear.

When destroyed, enemies drop currency, experience and, best of all, items to craft guns from. Gun crafting is Mothergunship’s coolest mechanic because of the freedom to create something really audacious. Tucked away in each level is a store where you can build something from scratch any way you see fit. Want to give it two barrels? Why not three? Slap on a few connectors and attach four more. How about a chainsaw or flamethrower? How about both? During my play session, I put together a gun that fired laser bolts, projectiles, and rockets all at the same time. Another crafting material you’ll come across are caps. These function as modifiers that add really fun effects. I found a cap that nearly doubled the amount of damage and another that added a ricochet effect, which made my attacks even more ridiculous. The crazier the weapon, however, the more energy it takes to fire. This is the game’s way of maintaining a balance so that no one gun is overpowered for too long and the gameplay becomes dull.  

Not that the game could be dull from what I’ve seen. This is where the roguelike aspect of the design plays a part. Roguelikes, by their very nature, are tense experiences and in Mothergunship, it raises the stakes of risk and reward. If you’re killed on a level, all collected upgrades and crafted guns are removed, leaving the player armed with only a default blaster. Persistent character upgrades, such as added health and number of mid-air jumps that can be performed, do carry over but those loving creations are almost certainly gone forever. I asked if there could be an option to see and try out stuff made by the community, but the studios didn’t have any immediate plans for that. It’d certainly be cool, though.

I really had fun playing Mothergunship and definitely look forward to its release. I love the sense of humor and the visuals pack a good punch. This is one roguelike shmup worth keeping an eye on.

Librarian by day, Darkstation review editor by night. I've been playing video games since the days of the Commodore 64 and I have no interest in stopping now that I've made it this far.