Mortal Kombat’s return to 2D gaming back in 2011 won me over, and when Mortal Kombat X came out in 2015 it took the game’s violence to a whole new level. Both games were huge hits in my fighting game library, and now with Mortal Kombat 11 that trend looks to be heading in the same direction.
I’ve been wanting to play MK11 since watching the first reveal a few months ago, seeing how the visuals took a cue from Injustice 2 to make even the most violent fatality look more brutal that before, as well as adding a gear system that made Netherrealm’s DC licensed brother so successful.
But let’s start with how the story of Mortal Kombat 11 comes to be. The game takes place right after the events of Mortal Kombat X, where Cassie Cage defeated Shinnok. Raiden, now obsessed with doing any means necessary to protect Earthrealm, decapitates Shinnok and locks his (still living) head away. This angers Shinnok’s mother, the time altering Kronika who composes a plan to rewrite history, and in doing so, brings back earlier Mortal Kombat fighters. Kronika even offers Liu Kang, Kitana, and Jax ways to alter their current lives by working with her. Thus the main story is to stop the time reign of Kronika and for each fighter to find a way to use the time travel to their advantage.
The main fighting adds new offense and defense meters that allow upgrades to moves (at the cost of half the meter per use, but charges again quite quickly.) In addition, taking a cue from Tekken 7, the previous X-Ray moves are now called “Fatal Blows.” When health goes below 30 percent, a Fatal Blow can be executed, but is only available for one successful use per match. If the move fails, it can be tried again after a cooldown period, but by using only one per match, it allows a sense of strategy of when and how to use it.
Mortal Kombat 11 features 25 playable fighters, with two of them locked at the start. Shao Kahn can be unlocked as a pre-order bonus, and Frost is unlocked upon completion of Chapter 4 of the main story. The majority of the gameplay, at least in the single player mode, is done with two different sets of Towers. The first are the Klassic Towers, which include three difficulty levels, as well as a survivor tower and an Endless tower. But it’s the second mode, the Towers of Time, that will get the most, ahem, time spent on. There are six separate towers, with four of them constantly changing as time allows. One other tower set is dedicated for specific characters, and the final tower is unlocked via special keys. Most of these towers present unique modifier challenges that boost the difficulty immensely, whether it is by adding a tag partner to assist your opponent or applying special elemental attacks to your opponent’s moves. These items can be countered via “Konsumables” that are earned during gameplay or in the Krypt.
As for the Krypt, it does make a return, but this time it has become a huge source of controversy to those who want to unlock everything right away. Krypt chests are unlocked via three forms of currency: Koins, Souls, and Hearts. Koins are earned primarily for completing game modes, as are souls, but hearts are earned by performing fatalities and brutalities.
Many have complained that the way they earned takes too much time and causes the game to have a huge grinding problem. However, I did not notice that in the 40 to 50 hours I have played so far. A patch has just been released that increased the bonus payout by about 20 percent, so hopefully that means an end to the complaints.
AI characters come over from Injustice 2 and they really do help make the “grind” much easier to endure. But what also came over which I feel did not work as well is the gear system. Rather than having your character level up, three items per character can be upgraded with (currently) two different augments that can boost the gear’s skills, A third augment is listed as “coming soon” but it seems like as of right now it doesn’t provide as much originality as Injustice 2 and its five leveled gear slots.
Graphically the game is as gorgeous as ever. The same amazing facial animations from Injustice 2 are back, and both Fatal Blows and Fatalities are taken to a whole new level of violence. Never before did they look this good, and yes that includes MKX. As for the sound, most of it as good, especially from the returning characters. Well, aside from Cassie Cage that is, as Ashly Burch has been replaced by Erica Lindbeck, and while she sounds more like a Valley Girl type, especially after a harsh brutality, makes me long for her MKX counterpart. But it’s not as bad as Ronda Rousey’s performance as Sonya Blade, a performance that makes me wonder if she is just trying to read from cue cards with no emotion at all. Even her work in WWE is more animated, and makes me wish that Tricia Helfer returned from MKX.
Oh well at least Johnny Cage is still played by Andrew Bowen and he sounds like he’s having just as much fun as he did in MKX, especially in his fatalities, which are some of the funniest I’ve ever seen him do. After all, who else could get away with something like this?
In the end, despite the claims of a grind by others, I absolutely loved Mortal Kombat 11 and have played it non-stop since the review. The recent patch makes the Towers of Time much more enjoyable and the replay value is as high as ever. More characters will be coming soon, as Shang Tsung (played by Cary Tagawa from the original 1995 MK movie) was officially announced with more on the way. I’m ready to give them a try!
Pros: Strong return for the Mortal Kombat series. Visually stunning. Fatalities and brutalities are as gruesome, if not more, than they were in MKX. Limiting the “Fatal Blow” to one use adds a bit of strategy. Mercies make a return. Constantly updating Towers of Time offer tons of replay for the single player modes. Tons of customization options for characters.
Cons: Some of the modifiers make the Towers of Time a bit too difficult, even with the most recent patch. Gear customization is slightly limited compared to that in Injustice 2. Some “claims” about a massive grind pre-patch, though I didn’t see much of it. Ronda Rousey’s voice acting as Sonya is “wooden” at best. This game begs for cross-play/progression.
Ethics Disclaimer: This review is based on Mortal Kombat 11 played on the Xbox One X and purchased with my own money. Game played for 40 to 50 hours currently at Level 46 with Krypt upgrades only acquired via in-game currency, including the apology gift given as of Update 1.03. Review done without any inside involved by other GiN Staff, Netherrealm Studios, or WB Games.