The joy of Metal Gear Solid 5’s Mother Base

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After a mission, when I’m covered in blood and filth, there’s nowhere I’d rather be than Mother Base. Located in the crystal blue waters of the Seychelles, it’s the offshore headquarters of hero Big Boss and his mercenary army, Diamond Dogs. As you play The Phantom Pain you build it up from a single platform to a sprawling city on the sea, and watching it grow over time is one of my favourite things in the game.

Except for a few key story moments, you don’t have to visit Mother Base. But I spend a lot of time there. It’s the eye of the storm. A place where I can relax, take stock, and refresh before returning to war-torn wherever. The more I play, the more the place has started to feel like home. When I fly in by helicopter, the sight of its twinkling lights is strangely reassuring. I’m back. I’m safe. Everything is fine.

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There are a few reasons to spend time there between missions. Rough diamonds are hidden around each platform, which earn you GMP—the game’s currency—when picked up. You can take a shower, which not only washes the battlefield grime off your clothes, but restores your mental well-being and makes reflex mode last longer. But mainly I visit to torment the staff. I mean, boost their morale.

There’s nothing a loyal Diamond Dogs mercenary likes more than seeing Big Boss on Mother Base. Any soldiers you capture in the field and convince to join your side can be found here, and they salute you when they see you. To bolster morale, spend some time manhandling your troops. You can punch them, choke them, slam them against walls, or knock them out with tranquilizer darts—and they love it.

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“Thanks boss!” one says breathlessly after I throw him off a ledge. “It’s an honour to be held in your iron grip!” another yelps as I choke him unconscious. You can brutalise your staff mercilessly and they’ll adore you for it, such is the reputation of the legendary Big Boss. Just make sure you aren’t up too high, though. “Train with me, boss!” one guy said, and I obliged, throwing him. He fell off the side of a platform to his death below. Game over. They like pain, but not death. They’re funny like that.

I also use my Mother Base staff as guinea pigs for any new gadgets or weapons the R&D department have developed for me. I got the hang of a non-lethal sniper rifle by climbing to the top deck of the command platform and picking off wandering Diamond Dogs in the distance. And by messing around with the decoy balloon—which they salute, confused, bless them—I discovered that if you inflate it while someone’s standing on it, it knocks them out. It’s a place to experiment without getting shot at.

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When you arrive on Mother Base, a line of saluting soldiers waits for you at the helipad. This is the perfect opportunity to equip the cardboard box, press the stance button to stand up, sprint at them, and hit the dive button. Snake will use the box as a makeshift toboggan and knock them all on their arse. I do this every time, and I will never get bored of it. Ever. And they get a morale boost, so everyone’s a winner.

When I’m not engaging in unorthodox team-building exercises, I’m hanging out with animals in the zoo. Yes, that’s right: my offshore military base has a zoo. When he’s not saving the world, Big Boss is rescuing animals from war zones, and I’m building quite the collection. I’ve got a few bears, some donkeys, and many, many sheep. There’s even a gerbil in there somewhere, but I can’t find it. I’ve developed two obsessions while playing The Phantom Pain: collecting cassette tapes of ‘80s pop hits, and extracting endangered animals. Video games are the best.

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It’s also a good place to listen to the tapes you amass as you complete missions. You really should listen to these, because it’s where the bulk of the story in The Phantom Pain lies. It gives important context to everything, and it’s where Kiefer Sutherland does most of his talking. I listen to them as I roam Mother Base looking for diamonds, or sometimes in free-roam mode while gathering medicinal plants. Be careful, though: there are no checkpoints on Mother Base, and any diamonds you’ve gathered will be reset if you fall off the side, which will happen. Return to the ACC to save.

Mother Base is a wonderful thing. Big Boss’s motivation in the Metal Gear saga is creating an independent nation of mercenaries, free from the meddling of governments and the outside world—and Mother Base is an interactive expression of that idea. It feels like it’s yours, even though your mate’s is probably identical, and offers respite from the danger of the rest of the game. The Phantom Pain is an emergent sandbox of possibilities, but sometimes you need a break from all that.

Andy Kelly

If it’s set in space, Andy will probably write about it. He loves sci-fi, adventure games, taking screenshots, Twin Peaks, weird sims, Alien: Isolation, and anything with a good story.