Mortal Kombat 11 is a continuation of the classic arcade fighting franchise, Mortal Kombat. With heaps of blood, dismemberment, and all around violence, Mortal Kombat 11 continues the trend of brutally graphics one-on-one fights. Like the past few Mortal Kombat titles, MK11 is packed with various modes of play, unlockable content, and a narrative-heavy story mode. It changes up the established Mortal Kombat formula in some ways, borrowing from Netherrealm Studio’s last game, Injustice 2. However, the experience retains the signature mayhem that the franchise is known for, never straying too far from its roots. Let’s see if Mortal Kombat 11 packs a big punch, or if it’s time to pack up this arcade titan for good.
New Rules of Kombat
Although a lot has changed in Mortal Kombat 11, the core fighting still remains accessible and easy-to-learn. It’s classic one-on-one arcade fighting gameplay at its finest. The wide roster of characters both new and old provide a good variety of play styles, and most are pretty straightforward. The old Mortal Kombat staples remain; you can crouch and punch people for devastating uppercuts, perform gruesome special moves with slo-mo detail, and execute your opponents with overtly violent finishers. All the elements you know and love about Mortal Kombat style is here, but Mortal Kombat 11 makes some distinct changes in how they are used. Luckily, MK11 provides a comprehensive set of tutorials that efficiently teach you the nuances of its combat.
Performing attack combos is still a simple affair, only requiring you to press the correct button sequence in quick succession. You can perform special moves by inputting certain quick directional presses combined with attack buttons. Each fighter has an extensive list of unique attacks and abilities, and these can be strung together for high damage combinations. Lengthy combos are usually achieved by using up a bar of special meter, which can alter your moves and open up new attack opportunities. There’s also a special meter for defensive maneuvers and environmental interaction, such as dodging out of an enemy combo or throwing a discarded weapon found on the ground. In Mortal Kombat 11, these special meters replenish over time regardless of your action. This is a distinct change from previous games, where your special meter was reliant on aggressive gameplay.
Mortal Kombat 11 also trades out the franchise’s signature X-Ray attacks with new abilities called Fatal Blows. You gain the ability to use a Fatal Blow when your health bar dwindles low. If you connect with one, Fatal Blows deal an insane amount of damage and come with a gratuitous display of slow-motion violence. Characters’ legs are snapped like twigs, eyes and ears are poked and prodded with blades, and it’s all shown in graphic detail. As gruesome as Fatal Blows can be, they’re entertaining time and time again and prove to be a vital tool during fights.
In both gameplay and cosmetic appeal, Mortal Kombat 11 does some fun things to keep its roster fresh and complex. The biggest change are the character variations, which allow you to pick and choose certain special moves and then save that loadout for later play. This feature has been seen in previous Mortal Kombat titles, but MK11 puts a greater emphasis on it. Custom loadouts can be used in nearly every mode except for ranked online play, so forming your ideal move list is a fun way to fine tune your character.
The character customization extends far beyond custom move lists though, as you can also alter a character’s appearance through various cosmetic options. Each character has three unique costume pieces, and you’ll unlock new cosmetic variations as you progress. For example, you can change Scorpion’s mask, sword, and chain spear. In addition to these three pieces, characters also have an overall “skin”, which modifies their color scheme and style. New skins are earned constantly, whether through the Krypt, the Towers of Time, or the new AI Battle mode.
There are tons of cosmetic options to choose from, and I found it entertaining to customize even my lesser-played characters. Skins are plentiful and cool looking, so you’ll quickly stand out in online play after a few tweaks. Although you can insert gear augments to strengthen various moves and abilities, they aren’t a major focus. Mortal Kombat 11‘s custom variations and unlockable cosmetics feels rewarding and interesting, and give even the most popular characters a personalized spin.
Playing with Time
The narrative of Mortal Kombat 11 picks up shortly after Mortal Kombat X. Raiden, a demigod tasked with protecting the Earthrealm, has gone power crazy after defeating the vengeful sorcerer god, Shinnok. Wielding his amulet as a sign of power, Raiden continues his reign. This catches the eye of Kronika, a new face in Mortal Kombat lore. Proclaiming herself as the “Keeper of Time”, Kronika uses her powers to bring all the Mortal Kombat timelines together. Kronika promises a New Era, where the world will be unaffected by the tamperings of Raiden. However, this means that the world we know (and the characters within it), might be a simple sacrifice for this “perfect world”. As characters from the past and present spill over into one world, they are forced to pick sides in the fight between Raiden and Kronika.
The story mode in Mortal Kombat 11 is similar to Mortal Kombat 9 and Mortal Kombat X in structure. The story is broken up into chapters, with each chapter focusing on a specific character in the overall narrative. It makes the admittedly complex story a bit easier to follow, breaking up the tale into smaller side-stories. Some chapters are split between two characters, allowing you to choose which you fight as during key battles. Each chapter contains a handful of fights, and serve as a good introduction to the characters featured.
Overall, Mortal Kombat 11‘s story mode sets a new bar for fighting game career modes moving forward. Although the story itself can be hard to parse at times, the graphics are undeniably beautiful, the action is bombastic and exciting on both a cinematic and gameplay level, and the experience never slows down. It’s very cutscene-intensive, but that doesn’t detract from things, thanks to their high quality. The narrative is a great setup for funny character interactions, fan service fights, and all around goofy scenarios. Most of the time, Mortal Kombat 11 can be pretty self-aware, delivering some truly hilarious moments. The story mode is a great starter to the Mortal Kombat 11 package and works well as the centerpiece of the experience. It’s not the most comprehensive mode in the game, but its a benchmark for other games moving forward.
Keeper of the Krypt
Another fan-favorite mode receives a noticeable makeover in the form of The Krpyt, an explorable area on Shang Tsung’s Island that houses hundreds of chests full of unlockable goodies. Unlike other iterations of the Krpyt, MK11‘s Krypt lets you take full control of a character from third-person perspective, jogging around the island to find new chests. The Krpyt is broken up into several areas, some of which require a quick puzzle to access. There’s a narrative aspect to the Krypt, and while a nice touch, it doesn’t add too much to the mode.
Generally speaking, the Krpyt functions very similarly to previous Krpyt modes in Mortal Kombat. Using the various coins and currencies you’ll gain from winning fights and progressing in story mode, you can unlock any number of chests in the Krpyt that you see fit. The items you receive are randomized, and range from new costumes and fatalities to additional currency and gear. Since everything is randomized, you might have to spend more time searching for the specific item you want. However, most chests feel worthwhile to open, especially as you coin counter dwindles.
If you’ve played the classic Mortal Kombat games, you’ll know just how important the concept of towers are. Throughout the series’ history, Towers have served as simple arcade ladders with varying difficulty and number of opponents. They provide a more instantaneous way of getting in the fight than story mode does, while removing the anxieties and competitive nature of online multiplayer. Mortal Kombat 11 has two distinct modes with towers to play over and over, including the classic Arcade Towers and the new mode Towers of Time. Both modes give you fun and exciting fights in quick succession, while representing them in drastically different ways.
The Towers of Time mode is similar in nature to the Multiverse in Injustice 2, Netherrealm’s previous fighting title. For those unaware, that means constantly updated tower content tied to hourly, daily, and sometimes weekly timers. Each set of towers usually revolves around a theme or story, and completing them unlocks various currencies and modifiers for Krypt and customization use. The Towers of Time heavily feature unique gameplay modifiers like character assists and consumable buffs which are rarely found in other modes. You can also team up with friends against super-tough Group Battles, which provide a fun cooperative spin on things. The Towers of Time are constantly updated and balanced, ensuring a fair and enjoyable victory. As the Towers of Time are the main component of replayability (beyond competitive play), it’s good to see the mode have decent depth and support.
Taking the Fight Online
When it comes to multiplayer and online options, Mortal Kombat 11 is impressive in both its variety and solid technical performance. Fighting games are often hit-or-miss affairs when it comes to online play; shoddy networking can cause rampant lag and other issues. However, Mortal Kombat 11 remains smooth and enjoyable most of the time, rarely slowing down or lagging. Even if your opponent has a less-than-optimal connection speed, the match won’t be ruined by slowdown. This makes online play consistently reliable, and you’ll never have to worry about dropping a combo and losing the victory.
The selection of modes for competitive play are a good smattering of casual and private options, with the expected ranked playlists and leaderboards. You can effortlessly connect with other players (both friend and random) in King of the Hill, 1v1, and various custom lobbies. These can also be hosted privately, so you won’t have to worry about random opponents showing up. There’s a toggle for “kompetitive mode” as well, which disables the custom fighter move sets. Ranked play is where you’ll find the fiercest competition, and you’ll engage in best-of-five sets that are a true test of will and strategy.
Like in past Netherrealm games, online play is rock solid and endlessly enjoyable. Whether casual or ultra-competitive, Mortal Kombat 11 does everything to harbor the fighting spirit. Players can express themselves with emotes while waiting in lobbies, view extensive records, and earn consistent rewards for participating online. It’s a great atmosphere for competitive fighting that adds tons of replayability to this surprisingly addictive fighter.
The Bottom Line on Mortal Kombat 11
Ever since Mortal Kombat 9 brought the Mortal Kombat name back into good graces, the franchise has been steadily regaining its momentum. Mortal Kombat 11 takes the best parts of the previous titles and mixes them up in some cool ways, both in core fighting and game mode options. Even after you’ve finished the focal Story Mode, there’s no shortage of content to enjoy. Between the endless Towers of Time, the fantastic online competition, and the addictive gear customization, I’ve found countless reasons to return to Mortal Kombat 11. Some of the fundamental changes to the formula will be disappointing for veteran players, but despite some of its flaws, Mortal Kombat 11 is well worth your attention. It’s bloody, graphic, and incredibly goofy to boot. Few fighting game franchises have the morbid draw that Mortal Kombat does, and MK11 embraces that. You should definitely give Mortal Kombat 11 a try; it’s one of the best entries in the entire series.