For almost 3 decades now, Mortal Kombat has remained one of the longest standing brawler series in gaming history. Countless iterations have treated us to a deep well of constantly new characters and continued our love for the mainstays in the series. With Mortal Kombat 11 that past time has been fully embraced, delivering one of the best installments to date.
The amount of content in Mortal Kombat 11 is shocking. From deep tutorial sections that dissect moves and combos that allow anyone willing to take the time a chance to become a beast in the ring, to one of the best campaigns the series has ever seen. It’s more than just training and story though, as the Krypt offers secrets of its own, while the towers give players daily challenges to test their skills. Throw in a smooth, quick matchmaking system and you’ll soon find that there is something for everyone in this title.
This story revolves around multi-verses and alternate timelines blurring together, forcing our heroes to face not only old familiar faces but other versions of themselves. It begins almost exactly where X left off, but immediately introduces a new big bad, Kronika. This time altering super being controls time and space and plans to reset the timeline again thanks to Raiden’s careless beheading of her Elder God Son, Shinnok. This action caused a disturbance within the balance of good and evil and now the MK crew must do what they can to prevent this reset from happening.
This convenient story mechanic allows for some truly memorable meetings between our heroes past and present selves, most enjoyable of all being Johnny Cage coming face to face with his much more arrogant, dickish younger self. The other side of this being some characters having to come to terms with where their present self has ended up, Jax being the most notable mention here. Overall, one of the reasons this story works so well is because every character gets their own time to shine, including ones that in past installments have only been a mention or background character.
Just like with other recent Mortal Kombat installments, this story offers the same cinema-quality level of entertainment. The cutscenes are gorgeous. The fights are just as over the top, and the stakes have never been higher. The final chapter in this game is one of the absolute best in recent memory, with some insane moments that almost force you to cheer out loud.
Outside of the story, Mortal Kombat 11 offers one of the most in-depth tutorials I’ve ever seen in a fighting game. From covering basic attacks to deep dives into very advanced techniques like chaining blocks together and frame trapping, this tutorial gives clear instructions on how to perform every conceivable ability in the game. So while not immediately accessible to newcomers, the tutorial will help get them more comfortable with common MK combos and tricks. Even if you’re a returning vet, I highly recommend taking the time to explore this section of the game, because Mortal Kombat 11 also changes it’s pacing, which means you can’t carry over everything you’ve learned from MK 9 or X.
Fights in this game are more tactical, rewarding players who analyze their opponents and wait to exploit openings rather than rewarding those that like to rush in and button mash. The slower pacing offers players a better 50/50 shot at achieving a victory, where older titles left one side feeling helpless while the other beats the ever living piss out of them. It’s a welcome change to combat and a risk that absolutely paid off for NetherRealm.
Another great change it the separation of the meters. Now offense and defense have their own meters that each build up over time, giving players more freedom in fights. The offensive meter is focused on amplifying specific moves to make them hit harder, where the defensive meter can be used for things like breakaways or utilizing your environments. On top of that, Fatal Blows are completely separate from both of these meters.
While you might think that this would allow you to spam these 30%-40% damaging abilities, there’s a catch. Fatal Blows are restricted to one use per MATCH. Not only does this significantly even the odds, but it also makes them a rare commodity that has weight behind each use. Will you use it in the first round to pull off an easy win, or hang on to it for when you’re backed into a corner. These moves can really even the odds in a short period of time, and the damage they deal makes successful use of them feel all the more worth it.
Krushing Blows are another great addition to combat. These critical moves have specific requirements that must be met, but are used automatically once that happens. While it can be extremely satisfying to watch your opponent’s chest explode into a million pieces, they also offer chances to juggle your opponent or lock them into a punishing combo. Memorizing the required criteria and pulling off these brutal new moves adds yet another layer of depth to the combat that the series hasn’t seen before.
The towers and the Kyrpt are where this title begins to fall short. While classic towers offer a great way to practice and also get a character specific ending, the Towers of Time can be maddening. These constantly changing towers have specific modifiers tacked on to each fight that mostly feel unfair for the player. There is a fine line between difficulty for enjoyment and something being difficult just because and some of these certainly feel like the latter. Thankfully not all of the challenges are dissuading. Some offer fun mechanics that can break up the repetitiveness of AI matches, but some are complete bullshit.
The Krypt is a confusing one in this series. Items are completely randomized, which can be annoying, especially if you’re searching for character specific fatalities or skins. On top of that, the cost of these chests is astonishing. Especially when you drop 10,000 coins on a chest just to get an icon or new background for your Kombat Kard. While tweaks have been being made to this system, it isn’t perfect yet, and it was difficult for me to want to drop my hard earned coins on something I knew would be completely random. Certain chests seemed to hold specific items, but for the most part, you have no clue what your rewards will be, which is a shame, because Shang Tsung’s island can be very fun to explore.
Online play is buttery smooth though, with matchmaking being a very brief stress-less affair. Its shocking how fast matchmaking actually is and in the dozens of online battles I’ve participated in, not once did I experience an ounce of lag. While all of the expected matches are here, casual, ranked, king of the hill, etc. My personal favorite was sending my customized characters into an AI match against a friend. This mode lets you sit back and watch as they beat the shit out of each other while you reap the rewards.
Speaking of customization, Mortal Kombat 11 offers a ridiculous amount of it. Changing a character here isn’t just about the clothing they wear or the weapons they use, it also allows you to handpick the combos and moves they have access to during a fight. I found myself spending hours in this area just analyzing every possible combination to try and find the perfect blend of skills and stats. This is a great addition to the series, but it makes the randomized Krypt that this customization is tied to that much more confusing.
Once everything is said and done, this is hands down the best Mortal Kombat has EVER been. It not only offers a fun, over the top, fantastic story; but a wealth of other modes that will keep players coming back for more for months to come. While not perfect, the tweaks made to grinding costs and the Towers of Time already are a sign that NetherRealm is at least working towards making these areas much fairer and enjoyable. That being said, the randomized loot makes the grind a (sometimes) frustrating experience. This is a small area of the game though, that is also completely optional. Even if this section is ignored, there is still a ton of fun modes to take advantage of that offers hours of content. Put simply, this is the best Mortal Kombat has ever been.