Warhammer 40,000: Boltgun

Warhammer 40,000: Boltgun

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Machine Spirit Upgrade Guide
By CrazyThang
An explanation of the Machine Spirit power up for each weapon. Does not include MS locations.
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Introduction
Playing through Boltgun, you probably ran across some of those silly green skulls that make your guns glow. But what does that mean? What does it do? Why do I have the sudden urge to replace my fleshy bits with superior mechanical augmentations? The answers to these questions lie ahead!

Note: This guide is not a "secrets" guide and will not discuss Spirit locations. In addition, spoilers for the weapons of Boltgun lie ahead, along with some of the enemies - so stop reading if you want to be surprised by what is in the game! Finally, these upgrades were tested on Hard difficulty, so any personal opinions I give are based on that difficulty.
What is the Machine Spirit?


The Machine Spirit is a collectible that can be found in Boltgun, upgrading your currently equipped weapon on pickup. The upgrades differ depending on the weapon, and range from immediately obvious to "did that even change anything?" These upgrades last for a single level, and there is generally only one per level. Make sure you have the right weapon equipped when you walk over it!
Boltgun
The titular boltgun is a well-rounded weapon. It has a good magazine capacity, good accuracy, and a respectable strength of 4, allowing it to easily deal with cultists and even stand up to Chaos marines if necessary. Being the "standard" weapon of the game, it gets the easiest to notice and understand upgrade:
  • Strength increases from 4 to 5.
  • Magazine capacity increases from 25 to 45. Note that while the amount of ammo you can carry doesn't increase, it does technically increase by 20 if you have full ammo, due to the magazine holding more.
  • Special ammunition capacity increases from 60 to 100. Thanks to Lagasaurus rex for reminding me!

These upgrades make the boltgun even more useful, able to become a real threat to toughness 4 enemies (such as Chaos Marines) and absolutely shredding toughness 3 enemies. The increased magazine capacity is just icing on the cake, and I personally find that blessing the boltgun is never a bad idea and is generally my go-to choice.
Shotgun
The shotgun occupies an interesting space. It is only strength 3, but can do some serious damage if all or most of your pellets hit a target, even threatening Chaos marines if you know no fear and get right in their faces. Anything tougher than 4, however, and the shotgun really starts to struggle. It should be noted that it has surprisingly good range if you're just aiming to take out cultists. The shotgun's Spirit is also fairly obvious, but has a couple of more obscure features:
  • Dramatic increase in the number of pellets fired
  • Pellets bounce once upon hitting a surface, but not on hitting enemies - the bouncing pellets can hit and damage you

Unupgraded


Upgraded


Boing!

The shotgun's Spirit really increases its usefulness, but it still struggles against tougher enemies and now has the added drawback of potentially hurting yourself. It's a fun one to use, especially if you want to turn the room into a bullet hell, but not one I would suggest over the boltgun.
Plasma Gun
The plasma gun occupies an interesting space. When you first find it, it will be your go-to for fighting terminators and marines, but it quickly starts to fall off as you acquire more weapons that do the job just as well, if not better. The primary advantage of the plasma gun is that it shoots decently fast if you hold the fire button down, however,this leads to a thematically-appropriate but annoying overheat mechanic, where you start to take some damage from the gun. Luckily, the Omnissiah has your back with the following upgrades:
  • Fuel canister capacity increases from 12 to 18. Note that, like the boltgun, the amount of ammo you can carry doesn't increase, though it does technically increase by 6 if you have full ammo, due to the canister holding more.
  • The weapon no longer overheats.
  • Fire rate is increased after 2 shots.

Yep, pretty much every disadvantage the gun has is removed and it can easily become a mainstay of your arsenal. With plasma ammo being fairly common (and dropped by a couple of enemies!), upgrading the plasma gun is a good idea. It is still held back a bit by its low maximum ammo, but it can't be perfect.


Nice and cool.
Heavy Bolter
Don't let its strength of 5 fool you, the heavy bolter is fantastic at fighting anything. It has great DPS and never has to reload, along with holding quite a bit of ammo. On top of that, it does minor splash damage, allowing it to remain efficient against nurglings and cultists! It does have two downsides, however. First is that much like a typical video game minigun, the heavy bolter has a "spin-up" time - except in this case it's your stalwart sternguard raising the massive weapon to fire it, instead of a motor revving up! The second problem is that your walking and sprint speeds are both reduced while firing. So what does the Spirit do? Fixes that!
  • Speed penalty while firing is removed.

This is very useful for some of the more frenetic later stage "purge" fights, as you can keep full mobility while tearing into enemies. The only downside is that it takes a while to build heavy bolter ammo back up, so it isn't the best weapon to use for general fights. It also still has its "spin-up" time and frankly has so much muzzle blast and so many ejecting shells that it can be hard to keep track of what's going on when you're also zipping around at full speed! That said, weigh carefully if the increase in mobility is better than the increase in damage that many other weapons get.

Fun fact: firing the heavy bolter pushes you back very slowly.
Vengeance Launcher
A returning weapon first introduced in Space Marine (which Boltgun is a loose sequel to - go play Space Marine, it rocks) which hasn't yet made an appearance in the wider Warhammer canon, the vengeance launcher is a weird one. It fires sticky grenades on a flat trajectory that explode after a couple of seconds, dealing damage to their target and anything around the grenade. They also stick to the environment and cause minor damage when they hit an enemy. Despite only being strength 3, the vengeance launcher fires quickly and, as long as you don't mind the delay, is surprisingly versatile and powerful with multiple sticks. Of note is that the grenades do hurt you when they explode, so don't get too cute sticking an entire cylinder into that aspiring champion charging you. The upgrade for the vengeance launcher is obvious:

  • Strength increases by 1.

Thanks to Casteverus and The Master of Lolikind for pointing this out. I'm not sure how I missed such an obvious increase.

That said, while the strength buff does push the vengeance launcher into better territory for dealing with marines, it already didn't have much problem mulching cultists. This does make it a bit better against toads, however.


Just look at that strength!
Meltagun
The meltagun returns in its "super-shotgun" form first seen in Space Marine. The meltagun is a power weapon, plain and simple. It kills anything other than bosses very quickly and at surprisingly long ranges. It also over-penetrates and goes through scenery elements. Its biggest downside? Only 8 shots total (don't be fooled by the ammo counter, it uses 5 fuel for each shot). However, ammo eventually becomes somewhat common for it, and it can immediately turn a losing fight into a resounding victory. Its upgrade is subtle, but immensely powerful:

  • One more beam is added to the burst. (Or, in shotgun terms, it gains a pellet.)


5 beams.


6 beams.

This simple modification makes the gun even more powerful... but does it need to be? Unless you KNOW you're heading into a boss fight, it may be a bit overkill and you are probably better served upgrading a more general purpose gun.

Fun fact, the meltagun also shoots a blast BEHIND you. I didn't realize this until testing for this guide, and it happens whether or not the gun is upgraded. Very random, and possibly a bug? I have not tested whether or not these backshots do damage.


I was standing in the middle of that little room and ran out to grab this screenshot.

Pointless note: The meltagun in 40k has traditionally been strength 8, not 7. I figure they reduced it to not make it gain extra bonus damage on bosses/not have to make bosses T8, which would wreck the balance.
Volkite Caliver
Imagine my surprise when a weapon popularized by Warhammer 30,000 appeared in this game! The original Martian death ray, the volkite caliver fires a long-range beam that damages enemies as long as it is held on them. Enemies killed by the caliver explode, removing the need to carefully gib pink horrors and aspiring champions and damaging nearby enemies! It's a great weapon and very versatile, though requiring the beam to be held on target can lead to some dangerous situations. It has one of the more subtle upgrade in the game:
  • The gun "pulses" roughly every second, doing a burst of damage to its target.

The pulse damage is not insignificant, and is a great way to deal with enemies faster than keeping the beam on them normally would allow you. I personally quite like the volkite caliver, and the extra damage saves time and ammunition. I just wish there were some outward change in the gun's animations or art to let you know that something is happening.
Grav Cannon
An interesting choice of weapon to add to the game, it effectively functions as Boltgun's BFG. It fires a beam like the volkite caliver, but the end of the beam emits a large radius of incredible damage (even if it hits the environment). It uses ammo in the same manner as the heavy bolter, so it has a single pool it draws from until empty. The problem is, it's so damn powerful I can't actually tell what the upgrade does! It doesn't seem to use ammo less quickly, it doesn't seem to gain damage (though that would be very difficult to tell outside of taking it to a boss fight), and it doesn't gain any neat tricks like the volkite caliver as far as I can tell. The closest I have been able to figure out is:
  • EDIT: See Below!*

*Thanks to RustBot for doing a bunch of testing! Here are their findings:

"Normally, it creates a gravity well that damages enemies in a radius and lightly pulls them towards it as long as you keep the trigger down, and on release the well explodes, knocking enemies away and gives them light damage over time for a brief second.

Upgraded, the well's radius and pull are greatly increased, and the explosion has much greater knockback, and the damage over time after the explosion is also greatly increased.

The raw damage output from holding down the trigger doesn't seem to change much, but the many other advantages compound to make the weapon a much more formidable threat, and lifesaver, as you can just sweep it over an area like an anime laser and watch the surrounding countryside explode.

Tested on Exterminatus, with the lightest of squeezes expending only 1-2 ammo per shot:

The normal grav-cannon kills a Chaos Terminator in 4 shots, almost 3, but I could never push it that low.
The upgraded version always kills a Terminator in just 2 shots, brushing up against the line to 3 shots but never crossing it.

Holding the trigger down and firing directly at them had no noticeable change in damage, so I theorise that the difference comes from the post-explosion damage over time, as the chunks it bites off the enemy's healthbar are noticeably bigger.

Plus, the bigger radius and greater pull of the gravity well *more* than make up for a panicked aim. Everything the light touches will be yours."
Conclusion
Thank you very much for reading my guide, I do honestly appreciate it. If you have any comments or think I missed something please comment down below.

If you want my pointless opinion about which weapons to upgrade, I think it depends. I almost always upgrade the boltgun due to its ability to deal with almost anything or the plasma gun for its sheer power in the late game, but I think a case can be made for upgrading pretty much anything if you know what you're getting into. I personally wouldn't ever upgrade the shotgun (since I never use it over the boltgun) or grav cannon (for scarcity of ammo, that said, if you know a big fight is coming...).











*Thought for the day: Those who neglect the machine spirit neglect their own souls.*
26 Comments
McCovican 8 hours ago 
Multi-Melta ― Increases max burst count from 3 to 6. Unlike the Meltagun, it doesn't appear to add an additional projectile, however.
Solaris Vex Jun 21 @ 5:30pm 
The rocket launcher reloads faster and has krak missiles dealing high damage. I think the blast radius is reduced but I'm not sure.
Freezie Jun 20 @ 3:47pm 
Are you planning on updating this guide since the DLC is out?
Potatopanzer Jun 6 @ 4:46pm 
Thank you so much for this guide. I always just upgraded the bolter because I couldn't ever figure out what any of the other mods actually did.
CrazyThang  [author] Jan 25 @ 7:56pm 
That's great information, thanks. I haven't played the game in a while, but I will definitely add your information.
RustBot Jan 25 @ 4:22am 
Tested on Exterminatus, with the lightest of squeezes expending only 1-2 ammo per shot:

The normal grav-cannon kills a Chaos Terminator in 4 shots, almost 3, but I could never push it that low.
The upgraded version always kills a Terminator in just 2 shots, brushing up against the line to 3 shots but never crossing it.

Holding the trigger down and firing directly at them had no noticeable change in damage, so I theorise that the difference comes from the post-explosion damage over time, as the chunks it bites off the enemy's healthbar are noticeably bigger.

Plus, the bigger radius and greater pull of the gravity well *more* than make up for a panicked aim. Everything the light touches will be yours.
RustBot Jan 25 @ 4:22am 
Hey there! Thanks for the guide, some of those effects are really subtle so it's nice to have a more comprehensive description like this!


I also discovered what the upgraded grav-cannon does.

Normally, it creates a gravity well that damages enemies in a radius and lightly pulls them towards it as long as you keep the trigger down, and on release the well explodes, knocking enemies away and gives them light damage over time for a brief second.

Upgraded, the well's radius and pull are greatly increased, and the explosion has much greater knockback, and the damage over time after the explosion is also greatly increased.

The raw damage output from holding down the trigger doesn't seem to change much, but the many other advantages compound to make the weapon a much more formidable threat, and lifesaver, as you can just sweep it over an area like an anime laser and watch the surrounding countryside explode.
CrazyThang  [author] Jan 23 @ 12:44pm 
Interesting, I never noticed that myself but I didn't test for it. Maybe one day!
thevideogameraptorboggle Jan 23 @ 11:37am 
Very late, but something I noticed from the Switch port on Exterminatus difficulty, the upgraded Plasma Gun did far less self-damage to me. I stood directly against a wall and fired the Plasma Gun into it, the regular one did 100-ish damage with each hit, the upgraded one only did 20-ish damage.
CrazyThang  [author] Jul 25, 2023 @ 11:43am 
True, thanks!