Developer: NetherRealm Studios
Publisher: Warner Bros.
Platforms: Xbox One (Reviewed), PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch, PC
Release Date: Available Now
Price: $59.99 USD – Available Here $99.95 AUD – Available Here
Among the many 2D fighting game franchises Mortal Kombat has always stood out among the major three and after a successful soft-reboot back in 2011 the franchise has only grown more popular over the years. Raiden’s efforts to alter the timeline haven’t gone unnoticed and now that an Elder God with the power to control time itself has stepped in, Mortal Kombat 11 features an even more expansive storyline than before along with a number of gameplay modifications and a few new characters to spice things up. The question is, does this entry bring the series to new heights or is it dragged down by extra baggage?
Mortal Kombat 11 takes place after the events of Mortal Kombat X that saw Shinnok defeated by the forces of Earthrealm at a terrible cost. Numerous longtime fighters had fallen in battle only to return as Revenants and even Raiden saw himself corrupted during the battle. Things quickly grow more dire as Kronika, the Elder God of time, has found Raiden’s interference with the realms to be an affront to her own plans and she begins to force the past and present together in an effort to create a “New Era.”
This sees numerous fighters from the past step into the present day where many of them have either been killed off or revived as Revenants and witnessing the various interactions these characters tend to have with one another makes for some great scenes, especially when certain fighters meet their own daughters that are nearly older than them. If someone would say ten years ago that Mortal Kombat could deliver a solid lore-filled storyline that has its fair share of drama, loss, and some moments of levity here and there few would believe them but that is what NetherRealm studios manages to pull off here.
That being said, the motivations for some characters flip flop incredibly easily at times and it is quite evident that the writers struggled to find a solid ending for the storyline here, especially given how the story concludes. Even with these faults players will find that the different twists, lengthy cutscenes showing off plenty of action that allows the player to jump in for a few fights as most characters, and aforementioned character interactions make the story one that fans will not want to pass up, even if it falls apart a bit by the end.
Wherever players choose to start their experience in Mortal Kombat 11 the game will initially give players a chance to make use of a fairly in-depth tutorial that explains not only the ins and outs of the standard gameplay elements but also goes over the various changes that have been made to the game’s combat system in this entry. In fact, if you really want to stick it out in the tutorial players can find that they can even learn how to manage the battlefield and use certain combos to their advantages while character specific training options are also available, allowing both returning and new players to get a feel for how their favorite, or perhaps new, fighter controls in this new entry.
However many other elements of the game have been changed a bit and streamlined to make fights run a bit smoother and at a brisker pace, which is a bit ironic given that many of the faster movement elements are now removed. Players will find that dash distance is smaller now and running has been removed entirely though defensive options, as well as offensive ones, remain as tried and true as ever. Rather than using an energy meter like previous games players now have access to both Offensive and Defensive meters that can be used to trigger a variety of effects such as using Offensive meter to perform armored wake-up attacks or extending the damage of a special move or using the Defensive meter to immediately drop out of a potential juggle or avoid ending up in a precarious knocked down state.
Even attempting to try and turtle up is a bit discouraged unless players are prepared to be active with their blocks as chip damage still exists outside of performing “Flawless Blocks” that require a block right as a blow strikes. That being said there are still plenty of unique ways a fight can go, especially since powerful Krushing Blows deliver x-ray style devastation with increased damage whenever used as a counter attack and players can still use another powerful weapon at least once a match, Fatal Blow. Fatal Blows can only be used once per match and only if the user’s health drops to around 33%. These flashy attacks replace the previous X-Ray strikes and deliver massive damage to the enemy, often turning the fight around entirely if used correctly but it is a bit annoying as many of these Fatal Blows do drag on a bit too long and hurt the pace of a fight.
The overall roster for Mortal Kombat 11 may be missing a few characters that fans may have wanted but packing 24 fighters at launch (with the 25th being a pre-order bonus) there is still tons of variety here. This is especially true since three new characters in the forms of Cetrion, the Kollector, and Geras have been added to the group. Customization returns and allows players to choose various skins that they have unlocked and little equipment pieces as well that can alter their fighters’ appearances though it is worth noting that these generally are only available for use in single player as online modes tend to restrict players to the default two options available as default.
Now while players will want to dive into the story first to unlock a certain character and various cosmetic items for their fighters, the majority of their time will be spent elsewhere either fighting online against other players or taking on the numerous towers available hoping for some good rewards. Thankfully the online mode works great with a variety of solid match types available including a king of the hill and tournament mode. Other than a rare disconnect or laggy connection nearly every fight online has run smoothly and just in case you fight someone that chooses to drop out early, they still receive a fitting punishment.
Towers on the other hand are something of a bane on the existence of Mortal Kombat 11 as it often does a great job squandering the solid fighting mechanics that the developers have crafted in favor of ridiculously challenging and exploitative modifications. You see, while the aforementioned customization does allow players plenty of options to change the looks of their character and to a lesser extent add various buffs to certain abilities almost every element of customization and other aspect of unlockable content in the game is locked behind mechanics worse than many mobile games on the market today.
By playing the game players earn three types of currency that can then be used in the returning Krypt. This Krypt is actually quite interesting to explore and features a number of little puzzles to solve but it also contains completely randomized chests that require the aforementioned currency to unlock. Every fight rewards players with coins in some form or another while defeating foes rewards souls and performing brutalities or fatalities rewards a heart. Each of these three types of currency can then be used to open chests that reward the player with a randomized roll of literally anything. Concept art, other types of currency, consumables usable in the tower, equipment or augments for characters, logos or backgrounds for a fighter card, costumes, and even other fatalities can potentially be obtained here. That being said, the fact that you can, and will have to, pay additional coins to have the chests reset with additional loot in hopes of getting something useful is already a bad sign as unless you happen to be quite lucky it’ll be a very long grind until you manage to find some useful drops here since special drops seem to be quite rare.
Of course if you simply want to you can also purchase premium currency called Time Crystals that can then be used to simply buy whatever is currently available from the rotating in-game store. Forcing players to deal with this level of microtransactions and randomization in loot for a fighting game is already annoying enough but when the actual towers themselves tend to feel incredibly unfair, things only get worse. Players have the ability to take part in standard Klassic Towers that work like an arcade mode with every character getting a special ending and select a difficulty that fits them without worrying about other modifiers but the Towers of Time are another beast entirely.
The Towers of Time are a time-limited series of fights that see the player needing to complete a handful of towers to unlock special rewards such as costumes and pieces of equipment for various fighters. Unfortunately these fights tend to be incredibly unfair most often than not. Even with plenty of practice with your favorite character these tower battles stack not only challenging AI but modifiers that will constantly beat you down. Numerous hazards such as freezing projectiles, health draining missiles that heal your opponent, boost your enemy’s attack while lowering your health, and many more will only affect the player and encourage them to use consumables that can also only be obtained at random from the Krypt. Unless the player opts to use their limited consumables to counter these effects, they are simply at the mercy of whatever the enemy AI feels like throwing at them. Even then these consumables often fail to work correctly even if they directly counter the effects of the modifiers leaving players feel like they are being jipped even worse.
Between these elements and the game telling players to skip difficult fights with also limited skip tokens and you have a recipe for disaster. To make things worse, even if you do want to obtain equipment and costumes that don’t fall into whatever current Towers of Time are available you will need to spend in-game money once again to unlock that character specific tower at an ever increasing cost to obtain items for your preferred fighters. This sheer level of grind required to hopefully unlock items that match your playstyle or favorite fighters and the nasty nature of the Towers of Time leaves Mortal Kombat 11 with the foul stench of extra monetization at every turn outside of its well-crafted combat system.
Visuals & Audio
As soon as you begin playing Mortal Kombat 11 it is evident that NetherRealms spent a lot of time making sure this game looked as detailed as possible. Every character model is gorgeously detailed, even background characters for the most part, and the stages themselves are wonderfully designed with plenty of little interactable elements that can play a part in the fights. Thanks to the highly detailed character models the aforementioned lengthy cutscenes end up feeling quite cinematic in nature and will not disappoint fans of the series. The gore is also easily at its highest level possible with so many of the Fatalities, Krushing Blows, and Fatal Blows delivering gruesome results that you’ll have to see to truly believe, if you can unlock some of them that is.
The soundtrack features a great mix of background music for use in the game’s various stages and story mode while the characters’ voice work, outside of the awful sounding Sonya Blade, is top notch. It is noticeable that nearly every fighter has different dialogue with one another when beginning a fight and this is a very nice touch that more games should mimic.
Delivering a solid and entertaining storyline coupled with well-honed combat mechanics make Mortal Kombat 11 a great fighting game that returning fans and even newcomers can grasp thanks to the extensive tutorials available. With so many solid tweaks to the fighting system players will find that this remains one of the best fighters in the series. That being said, the fact that literally every other aspect outside of the fight is plagued with obvious efforts to force players to spend a little extra through microtransactions or simply slog through a grind worse than many mobile games in order to unlock even the smallest of extra content makes Mortal Kombat 11 an excellent fighter that is buried under the weight of monetization.