Developed By: NetherRealm Studios
Published By: Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment
Platforms: PS4, Xbox One, Switch, PC
Reviewed On: PlayStation 4
27 years ago the gaming world was introduced to the goriest fighting game that was ever made. Back then you have fighting games that were still utilizing hand-drawn sprite animations which were popularized thanks to Street Fighter II. In order to set itself apart, Mortal Kombat uses two features to distinguish itself from other fighting games. First, they used digitized real life actors for all the playable characters and secondly is the high amount of blood and violence. Fast forward to 2019, the release of Mortal Kombat 11 shows the game has really come a long way since then. NetherRealm Studios really did not hold back and MK11 certainly did not disappoint. This franchise has grown in many ways to solidify itself as one of the best fighting game franchises around.
Test your Fight
Mortal Kombat 11 introduces some fundamental changes. The first change is the removal of the run button. What this means is there is no more rush down attacks due to the slower traversal speed or over-reliance of far-reaching extensive moves. The pacing has gone down quite a bit hence there is little emphasis on an aggressive approach of mixups during fights but more towards smart and tactical play. While this change may seem like a major departure from previous games, rest assured as you delve deeper into the mechanics, it feels a lot more rewarding. The other change is how you manage your meters. Past games have always featured one meter dedicated to ex moves, supers as well as defensive moves. This time it has been divided into a dual meter mechanic. One for offensive and another defensive.
The defensive meter is spent on special dodges, rolls during wake-ups and character-specific defensive moves as well as environmental actions. The offensive meter is used to enhance special moves including changing its properties like extending the damage output or adding extra hits or adding frame advantages. Another interesting thing to add is that some moves do use up both meters, for example, certain wake-up attacks as well moves with armour or invincibility frames requires the use of both meters. All of these may seem really intimidating to some especially newcomers but once you understand and put things into practice, it actually opens up a great quality experience that is worth appreciating.
In addition to those changes, this time around the game introduces a new brutal attack call Fatal Blows. It replaces the X-Ray moves from MKX/XL. While the gory visual idea is about the same, the use of it is drastically different. The X-Ray moves require you to charge the super meter to level 3 to use. Fatal Blows can only be activated when the health bar drops to 30% or lower. When activated, the amount of damage it deals quite considerable. It forces players to be vital in their timing when using it as it adds a whole new layer of strategic element into each fight. Krushing Blows, on the other hand, are like shorter versions of Fatal Blows and can be activated when a simple action is met such as landing a counter hit or punishing a whiffed move. Most Krushing Blows are tied to each character’s uppercut however there are some can be activated through normal attacks as well. Like Fatal Blows, it can only be used once in a match.
Test your training
While it does seem there is a lot to digest with the mechanics and admittedly the game itself isn’t actually casual oriented, it does feature a very in-depth and robust tutorial mode. This is probably the most comprehensive tutorial mode that has ever made for any fighting game that I have played. For starters, it thoroughly covers from the core basics to the advance offensive and defensive plays. This is a very important aspect, especially in fighting games. Newcomers would likely mash their way, hoping to make something connect even if it is just 2-hit combo. However, even some Newcomers would eventually decide to take the mechanics a little more serious and hence a comprehensive tutorial is needed. While it is easy enough to look up online for videos or even forums but not many would feel the need to jump in there that fast. The tutorial in MK11 is so well thought out that it offers just enough for Newcomers to be able to play better without frantically worrying what moves or combos should they choose from their online research.
Furthermore the most surprising parts are the coverage of technical knowledge such as Frame Data for each moves, how to identify Frame Advantage and using Frame Traps. These are very deep fighting game knowledge that hardcore players would come to appreciate it. Unlike many other fighting games, NetherRealm Studios definitely are not cutting corners. They didn’t change the fundamentals of their game just to attract the casual crowd. They are aware that the most dedicated and the ones putting in the effort to practice would truly appreciate what they have put together.
Test your lore
Mortal Kombat 11’s story mode is also a marvel of its own. In general, fighting games aren’t known to have very good story modes. The majority of them felt like simple additions with no effort and thought put into it. NetherRealm has proven yet again that putting up a good story mode can really make a difference, especially for a fighting game. The story here picks up where MKX/XL left off as many familiar faces make a return with new talent such as Ronda Rousey lending their voice for Sonya but those that died in the previous game stay dead. The game also wastes little time in introducing the main baddie by the name of Kronika. She is an all-powerful being that has control over time and is hell-bent in getting back at Raiden for upsetting the balance between darkness and light. Her time-bending powers set up the core basis of the story of the merging between the past and present. This creates fun and amusing scenarios with past and present characters meeting up together. The story is one that truly needs to be enjoyed first hand due to how finely crafted it is.
Test your luck…skills and patience
The story mode by itself can almost last 6-8 hours long and once that’s done, there will be a couple of modes players can get into. Firstly, there is the Krypt where you will be controlling an unnamed character where you will be running around a dungeon like area opening up dozens of chests which then award you a variety of items which includes customizable options for the characters. That is right, MK11 follows the footsteps of Injustice 2’s gear system which means the number of customizable options is plenty to choose from. Each character has more than 80 pieces of customizable pieces as well 60 skins – granted many of those skins are just recolours of one certain outfit. While there is so much option to customize, the issue at hand is collecting them. Some of them can be obtained through completing the Story mode while the majority of them comes from the Krypt and the second mode in the game, Towers of Time (ToT).
The ToT takes up a mobile game approach whereby there is a daily and weekly rotation. This mode plays out like the Klassic Tower except it comes with different modifiers attached to them. These modifiers can range from flying arrows shooting off the screen at you to fires shooting out of the floor. These modifiers are always stacked up against you and it can tend to feel very unfair especially if you are not that well versed with the game’s fighting mechanics or you haven’t familiarized with your chosen character. Nonetheless, the recent updates have made the towers slightly more manageable along with better rewards. Furthermore, much like Injustice, you can switch on the AI for your selected character and let them fight it out for you in those towers. The AI itself actually does a pretty great job in completing the towers even on the Hard difficulty. The use of AI is very useful especially in the process of grinding. It is great for the less hardcore players to be able to get something out of it because many of the unlockables are behind the chests in the Krypt which uses Kombat Koins or by completing various challenges in the Towers of Time and they are plenty of things to unlock.
There is a need for a huge amount of grind in order to unlock many of the skins, gears and many others. It is a real time sinker and one that can feel very long and mundane. While using the AI helps there is still the RNG element tied into the chests in the Krypt. Each chest you open up grants you a randomized item ranging from gears, skins and even crafting materials – which you need to craft Konsumables that can be used in Towers of Time to give you an edge against tough and unfair opponents. There are other chest which are non-randomized however they require a special currency which can only be earned through completing Towers in ToT. All in all, the grind in this game is real and requires major patience and also a degree of luck with those darn chests.
If the ToT and the Krypt feel exhausting thanks to the grind, there is the AI Battle mode which seems like an idea that was taken from a mobile game. In this mode for starters, you choose 3 characters that form the Defending Team and Attacking Team. The Defending Team basically acts as the passive force that will be fighting off the Attacking Team. By passive, it means other players can decide to select your team and fight you. This mode is where your customized AI Build comes into play. You can customize “builds” where you have 60 points to put into each character’s stats to determine how they fight. By default, all fighters are set to 15 on 4 attributes but you are encouraged to play around with them. The different amounts given to each parameter does make the AI react drastically. You could just follow the best build the community has to offer which I must say always does the trick. However, speaking from many testings, everything can still be rather randomized. You will still win fights but you definitely will not be able to win all of them. If this all sounds confusing, my suggestion is to just stick to the default one. It still can get the job done for most parts.
Test your Konnection
The modes offered in multiplayer include the standard but expands robustly. You have the choice of Kasual which comprises of the standard Versus and King of The Hill. This time there is an added AI Only which as the name suggests involves pitting your built up AI to fight against the AI of other players. There are also three choices between 1v1, Kustom Lobby and Practice in the Private mode. The Practice mode serves as a good place for players to invite another player to teach or be taught without constraints of the usual match rules. There is also the Rooms session where you either join Rooms of other players or you create one yourself.
That said, there is plenty of choices to play around but the bigger question is how well the connection is or rather the netcode. As far I have play-tested, the fights are pretty stable. There are a couple of matches that have some minor latency issues but somehow the game manages to stabilize the connection pretty quickly. Bear in mind that I am playing using a Wi-FI connection so that alone may affect some of the latency issues. Nonetheless, I am very impressed with the handling of the netcode thus far especially on fights that were against players of a different region. One of the best netcodes so far I have encountered for a fighting game.
(Almost) Flawless Victory
All and all, Mortal Kombat 11 still one heck of a well-packaged fighting game. NetherRealm Studios really upped their game – and gore, to the next level. They have really solidified themselves as the one and only developers that know how to create a top-tier quality game that not only excels in producing gut-wrenching gore but also top quality in both its in-depth mechanics as well as being visually impressive. Furthermore, it is probably the only fighting game that also has the best story mode and that alone is an achievement on its own considering fighting games are known to have mediocre to weak storytelling. While the grind in the Towers is very questionable, nonetheless, NetherRealm Studios are aware of it and still making adjustments to improve the quality of life for all players.
What I liked
- Very comprehensive and understandable Tutorial Mode
- Graphics are really looking great
- Fight mechanics itself is simple but has depth
- Towers of Time is a really good time sinker
- Additional use of AI is intriguing but addictive
- Gear customization is aplenty
- Fights are more grounded and the pacing is just right
- Netcode is amazingly stable
What I didn’t like
- May still be hard for newbies
- The grind at Towers of Time can be long and tedious
- The adoption of a mobile game concept of said grind
What I wished was better
- More characters
- Lessen the grind
- A longer story mode, it is still good though
Mortal Kombat 11 not only sets a high standard on how fighting games should be handled but also proved a point that fighting games do not need to cheapen anything just to cater to one crowd. Sticking true to the core identity while making major improvements to ensure that every gamer from casual to hardcore will still be able enjoy it at their own perceived level without compromising much.