The new meets the old in this instalment of Mortal Kombat, with new villain Kronika trying to rewrite the timeline and in doing so bringing back a couple of old faces to fight against (or with) some of the new characters, or even their older counterparts introduced in MKX.
Netherrealm have really gone all out for the story mode in MK11, with a narrative on the scale of something we haven’t really seen since Armageddon, even if the roster is smaller this time around. The cutscenes are action packed and transition well between the fights and conversations to actual gameplay. There was never really a point where I felt that a fight was forced for the sake of giving players a chance to actually play which was nice. The nature of the story also allows players to see interactions that they normally wouldn’t have, like an older Johnny Cage with his younger self or having Kung Lao and Liu Kang fight their revenant counterparts. I don’t want to say too much because it’s a story but it does open some interesting paths that MK can take in the future and even if you don’t really care about the MK story it still makes for an enjoyable spectacle to see the cast at war.
Speaking of the cast: MK11 easily has one of the best starting rosters in the series. Many iconic faces return like Kabal, Jade, and Noob. Some of the more interesting characters make their return from MKX as well like Erron Black, D’vorah and Cassie Cage, making for a great balance between some of the favourite old and new characters (Even though I’m salty they added Jacqui over Takeda). Some new faces also make an appearance like Cetrion, the Kollector and Geras. Returning from MKX is character variations, and although there has been changes made it still has that same effect as MKX in that depending on which variation you use each character can be built around different play styles, making them feel completely different.
The biggest changes to the variation system only effect the casual game modes, Ranked has set “tournament” preset variations for each character like MKX. When you aren’t playing Ranked though you have the ability to create and edit multiple variations for your characters. A variety of abilities are available to choose from costing either 1 or 2 points out of 3. As long as you don’t try to exceed this limit almost all of the abilities can be mixed and matched together, to add abilities to a character’s base moveset and play how you want them to.
MK11’s variations also give you the opportunity to change the look of your character. Three gear slots are on each character where you get a variety of cosmetics for each slot, affecting things like their weapons, and accessories. Each piece of gear on the slots can be levelled up and equipped with augments that provide buffs in the Towers of Time against the AI. Different outfits and re-colours are also available to unlock for each character. Character cosmetics can be unlocked in the Towers of Time and the Krypt, amongst other things. It should be noted that for any cosmetics to unlock you must be connected online so that the servers can save your progress. Offline unlocks from things like story get synced when you connect.
As this review was being written multiple updates have changed the Towers of Time and the Krypt, which I mostly had negative feelings about but there have been patches to both to tone them down.
Towers of Time works like the Towers in MKX or Multiverse of Injustice. Multiple limited time towers consisting of challenges will rotate, offering various rewards to players that complete each individual tower and tower set. Most of these towers have some sort of built in modifier if you’re looking at the online ones. These modifiers can range from missiles and fighter assists to making a fight a 2/3 on 1 tag battle against a boss. If you’re completing online towers your score for each total will count towards the Race Against Time in which you will be in a top percentage of players for total score and rewards are granted for each milestone you reach and where you finish. Offline you can play Klassic towers with different difficulties or Endurance and Survival towers as well. These towers allow you to unlock character endings, a bit like an Arcade mode in other fighting games.
Towers of Time are a massive time sink to get all the content from but has plenty of rewards to offer. Prior to an update some of these towers were completely unfair and some modifiers were honestly broken. Netherrealm have since made adjustments though and the towers are way more enjoyable than they were on launch. It’s good that they got adjusted so quick because this is where the majority of players will spend most of their time since it offers the most rewards.
The Krypt serves the same function as MKX but has changed in how it plays. Players are taken to Shang Tsung’s Island and play as an unknown character, exploring from a third person perspective and unlocking the secrets of the Krypt. Many more gameplay opportunities arise in this version of the Krypt, with lots of little secrets and references to find as well as more opportunities to get rewards. The main method of getting rewards are the chests scattered around. They are opened by spending Koins earned from matches and offer random rewards. Hearts and Souls can also be spent on other chests and in some cases the environment to unlock new areas of better rewards. There are other opportunities to get things from the Krypt but these are best left for players to discover themselves since that is a big part of what makes MK11’s Krypt so enjoyable.
The use of three currencies didn’t really seem that appealing at first and it definitely wasn’t if the game was played at launch. Hearts took way too long to earn and Koins and Souls weren’t nearly half as abundant. It felt like a slog to get rewards, and when you’re looking at hundreds of them it wasn’t exactly motivating. Thankfully Netherrealm also made adjustments to the rewards and made the Krypt less of a grind. I feel as though it is in a god spot right now except for the Souls which I still feel take a while to earn and considering some things in the Krypt cost thousands of these souls I don’t think it would hurt to give out maybe 10 more per match.
When it comes to the gameplay and explaining it Netherrealm nailed it. An intuitive group of tutorials explain even the most advanced of mechanics to players and give them an opportunity to try them out as well as explaining things like the new Defensive and Offensive meters and individual character tutorials for those wanting to understand the basic game plan for each character. By no means do these tutorials prepare you fully for the real thing but it lets new players get into the game with an idea of what to do and let’s intermediate players learn advanced mechanics and techniques.
The changes to gameplay don’t really affect the fundamentals of MK. Characters know all pretty much have some form of weapon or projectile giving players more range in neutral and footsies but the feel of the game hasn’t really been changed at all. Besides that the biggest difference is the meter system. Rather than having one meter now there are two: the Offensive and Defensive meter. Offensive bar allows you to amplify specials while Defensive allows you to break out of juggles or roll on wakeup to get out of things like corner traps if the opponent doesn’t predict it. The rate that these bars recharge is much faster than before as well so players get more opportunities to use them. What does this mean for X-ray moves? Well, there gone in favour of Fatal Blows, a move that can be accessed if you drop below 30% health. This does massive damage but can only be used once per game. The closest thing to an actual X-ray are Krushing Blows, an extra damage boost on certain combo strings and special moves that trigger when certain requirements are met. All of these changes are great additions, opening more options for players and adding an extra level of depth through knowing the best time to spend the extra resources available.
A copy of the game was provided for this review by the developer/publisher