It’s been 4 years since the last mainline Mortal Kombat release, and fans around the world have been eagerly anticipating the release of Mortal Kombat 11. It’s hard to deny that since Mortal Kombat (2011), the series has continued to grow from strength to strength, known for its gratuitous violence, multitude of gameplay modes, options and an in-depth story mode rarely seen in the genre, but does it live up to the hype and what we have come to expect from the series?
Let me start by saying that Mortal Kombat 11 is a beautiful game – from the character models, stage design and overall aesthetic, it’s gorgeous to play and watch. Developer NetherRealm Studios have expanded on their colour palette and the game is better for it, from the doom and gloom of the Netherworld, the beauty of the Wu Shi Dragon Grottoto, and the tranquility of the Shirai Ryu Fire Garden, it all comes together in a perfect mix.
Mortal Kombat 11 expands upon its original gameplay: we have our 2 punch and kick buttons as well as a dedicated block button and interaction button. Getting to grips with the combat is incredibly easy as the game features quite an amazing tutorial mode. Here, players will be able to get accustomed to all the new mechanics of the game, as well as go through various other movements and character specific tutorials, which details every character’s special move and gives you a bit more info on them, and where they should be performed. There is also fatality training to help with where and how to perform Mortal Kombat‘s iconic, brutal finishing moves. It’s a very robust mode and one of the best I have seen in the genre. It’s the first place I would recommend all newcomers go to first when booting up the game.
X-rays make a return but have been designed a bit differently. Firstly, they are now known as Fatal Blows – you do not need meter to perform these and will rather become available when you have 30% of your health left. All characters have access to this and successfully connecting the fatal blow will lead to a high damaging cinematic attack. Fatal blows can only be used once per match, so when to use it or when you think your opponent will use it adds additional strategy to matches.
A new defensive and offensive meter has been added, where matches start with both meters full, giving players various options from the beginning. The offence meter can be used to enhance certain attacks, allowing for more damage or follow-up attacks to occur, whereas the defense meter is used for reversal attacks or breakaways. Breakaways can only be used while you are in a juggle state and will greatly reduce the amount of damage you receive. Additionally, defensive meter is needed to be able to use interactable objects within the stage. This meter replenishes as the match advances but knowing when and how to use these tools forms a big part of your strategy.
Flawless block is another new mechanic added to the game. It’s essentially a perfectly timed block akin to something like a parry. Not only will this reduce chip damage, but it will also reduce the block stun on a move, allowing you to punish some attacks that are usually safe on block with a reversal attack. Lastly, we have Krushing Blows. These can only be activated when certain criteria have been met – an example of this is the universal Krushing blow for all characters, the mighty uppercut. If you duck a high attack or a throw and perform an uppercut, the Krushing blow version will activate, and a quick cinematic plays out showing crushed bones which results in a very high damage hit. These can only be used once per match per the attack. Characters have various Krushing blows so you could get a few off per round but you will never get the same Krushing blow in the same match.
Continuing the story and expanding on the MK universe, the new big bad is Kronika, the keeper of time, and holds a title above the Elder Gods.
Story mode is another great addition to the game (as to be expected from Mortal Kombat titles), allowing players to play through events as certain characters, and in some cases, giving us a choice of who to play as under certain circumstances. Continuing the story and expanding on the MK universe, the new big bad is Kronika, the keeper of time, and holds a title above the Elder Gods. In fact, she is the mother of 2 Elder Gods, so definitely not someone you want to be messing with. Her goal is to erase the timeline and begin anew, which causes present time and past time to collide making for some interesting interactions; dead characters coming back to life, characters meeting their younger selves; and all sorts of other time shenanigans. This mode will take around four hours or so to complete, and has a good amount of cinematics to sit back and enjoy. Players will receive various rewards for completing chapters – one specific character is also locked to this mode.
The Krypt also makes a return but also where my complaints on the game start. While the Krypt is a great idea, the cost of opening chests is simply way too high. From my experience, chests can range from needing 2000 coins to open to over 15000 coins. When I first entered the Krypt, I went in with just over 200,000 coins – I spent them all and came out with nothing, I received items such as character artworks, consumable items for towers modes, and even some character skins but nothing for the characters that I typically play with, and there in lies my biggest issue with the game: the grind. If a high costing chest guaranteed an equal reward then it would be worth it but character art is not an equal reward when I spent an exorbitant amount of coins opening it.
You will need to grind for hours and hours to get customizations for your character. Unless you are lucky and manage to pull customizations for your character out of a pool of thousands of items, you will be trying to grind out the various modes to get resources to open more chests in the Krypt or consumables to complete various towers. Certain towers can unlock specific character rewards, however, these are usually quite challenging and frustrating. While the AI behaviour can be up and down, it is the modifiers that really add on to the frustration levels. It’s not uncommon to have to fight against incredibly difficult modifiers such as having the enemy on fire, as getting close to them in any state will damage you. It’s these sorts of modifiers that turn the game from fun to frustration.
Consumables can be used to help players and can be activated during a match; however, consumables are not infinite and are limited in resource. Obtaining them is also random, so you may use a consumable and not see it again for many hours. Even if you don’t use a consumable during the match, the game still counts it as a used item and you will lose it. It becomes frustrating very quickly and the rewards very rarely seem worth the effort. Even when you do get rewards with that character customization, you’d learn very quickly that you cannot use it because it requires XP to level up, otherwise you are at a disadvantage in some towers – so you go back to easier towers to level it up to compete in harder towers. Classic Towers make a return too; completing these will unlock character arcade endings which are usually quite short but enjoyable and luckily modifiers are left out of these, so it’s fun to play and get through all of them.
Being able to customize a character to your style, including the special moves that they have access to, is very appealing.
If you don’t care about customization and just want to play the game, then I am happy to report that the online mode is one of the best you will find. There are also plenty of other towers such as the already mentioned classic tower that are great fun to play and don’t have insane modifiers attached to them. Sadly, the character customization is a huge part of the game where most players will spend a lot of time on. Being able to customize a character to your style, including the special moves that they have access to, is very appealing. It means that my Sonya might always be different to someone else’s Sonya in terms of what special moves they have access to, keeping fights fresh and varied. Thankfully these are not locked behind a grind and silly unlock methods – all character’s special moves are unlocked from the get-go, and can be customized as you want.
Fatalities and Brutalities, on the other hand, are but if you know the Fatality command you can perform it whether you have it unlocked or not. Additionally, Mercy makes a comeback and performing one will restore 30% of your opponent’s health, just enough to allow you to taunt them for a little bit longer.
Mortal Kombat 11 is an incredible fighting game and one that is well worth playing. The character roster is varied with a few new faces, stages are the best they have ever been, the music and atmosphere is great, and the story mode further expands on the universe we all love. The game is only hampered by the unlock requirements and the grind many players will find themselves in, pushing you to use finite resources to get through certain requirements or spending coins on random loot – being unable to just buy the skins you want with the resources you have accumulated, and rather hoping to get one for a character you want to use and not a character you don’t use. Mortal Kombat 11 is still the king of single-player content in the genre, and well worth the purchase for fans of the franchise, whether you just want to play by yourself, or you just care about playing online with friends and having fun with the experience.
I must add, though, that NetherRealm Studios have already stated a patch is coming soon to fix the progression system, and that the system isn’t working as intended. Difficulty spikes and the grind are being reworked and players will be receiving a little bonus in terms of currency, however, I am reviewing the game on the bases of what I have, and I’m experiencing at this moment. Whether this future patch fixes these issues is something we will have to wait and see, but Nexus will keep you updated with any future changes.
Mortal Kombat 11
Mortal Kombat 11 is an incredible fighting game with some of the best combat that the series has seen to date, but falls victim to some nagging progression system problems.