Gaming has changed a lot since I started in the ‘90s. We went from a few options, to many options, to a bunch of options and many more you can buy. Among the biggest chances, besides the aforementioned microtransaction philosophy is how Mortal Kombat is viewed. What was once viewed as the worst game, in terms of violence, to one of the most beloved fighters in the West is nothing short of amazing. With the reboot doing wonders for the overall presence of the franchise, there is a lot of excitement, fear and interest directed at Mortal Kombat 11. Now that this game is in players’ hands, does it meet expectations or is it a sad reminder of times?
Similar to previous titles, Mortal Kombat 11 has a fairly robust story centered around the existing cast and a few newcomers. With time and change being the main concepts explored here, it isn’t terribly surprising the villain has control of one of these elements and wishes to remove one of biggest directors of change. Where this is fun and different, it serves more as a reminder of the series’ long history.
Outside of the central conflict presented in the game’s actual story, even the character driven tower endings build on existing structures. The ever popular Sub-Zero is a great example of this. After gaining control of time, Kuai Liang (current Sub-Zero) watches his older brother, Bi-Han (Noob Saibot/’elder’ Sub-Zero), and prevent the Lin Kuei from going down the road to creating Cyrax and their whole mechanical revolution. While I’ll admit the explanation is rather, let’s call it tedious, it shows just how much more there is to the world of Mortal Kombat besides blood and gore.
Where the story has evolved, similar things can be said about the combat system. Regardless of it retaining the relatively simple input method of basic directions and single inputs, the system gets a lot of play out of fluid combos. Doing things in the correct order have a certain seamless flow. This stood out in the trailers and makes difficult and impressive moves so much more fun to watch. The downside is that it isn’t the most accessible system.
When it comes to Mortal Kombat 11 teaching players how to play, it does a good job of covering the basics, leaving players to figure the more nuanced elements. Basic commands and mechanics are given a tutorial that explains the reason for this mechanic or the intended use of a move, followed by players having to perform it. A couple simple combos are included, showing players the intended method of play, the issue stems from trying to create more advanced combos. Sure, players can figure it out in tutorial, watch guides or simply face more adapt challengers, it’s just a shame it stops short.
Even if that area is a little lacking, there is almost an absurd amount of content to unlock and use to customize your character. With the average character having three pieces of gear, multiple skins, fatalities, victories and intros, you’re looking at a total of about 160 items per character. This doesn’t include brutalities and end of round taunts, as they don’t have a listed end point, giving players plenty to do.
The struggle with this many unlocks is a lot of things, some of which deal with the infamous microtransaction issues and equally criticized Towers of Time systems. For most, the core issue is simply figuring out how to unlock them. Fatalities are fine, as you don’t actually need to unlock them if you know the input but the rest hinge on skill and luck.
To unlock most of these items you either need to find them in The Krypt or earn them in The Towers of Time. Where problems start to rise is, various reports indicate The Krypt is random, meaning you have no real control over what you unlock. The Towers of Time has set rewards for events, you just have no control over which events are offered.
Thankfully, a lot of The Towers of Time missions give multiple pieces of gear. For example, Bewitching Storm currently gives four pieces of Jade gear and a costume. However, the odds of getting the item you want is pretty low. Another fairly annoying choice is how it’s designed to seem intimidating.
Yeah, Scorpion has 30 pieces of gear for each category, but almost half of them are just palette swaps. Skins are even worse, as someone like Skarlet gets six different designs, with each having about 10 different color schemes. To make matters worse, some of them are minor changes. Sure, it takes effort to make even slight differences, it just makes the system seem bloated, even if some of them are done well.
Anyway, outside of the struggle of finding whatever you want, The Towers of Time is far from the most enjoyable mode in the game. For better or worse, a lot of stages are set at higher difficulties and expect players to overcome outright frustrating mechanics. Random slow downs, changing the games overall timing, player seeking rockets and so forth do not lead to a thrilling challenge. I actually lost the same challenge multiple times because I’d end up in slowed down and the A.I. would use a fatal blow and practically defeat me.
Some users have gone so far as to say they require using konsumables and so forth, except I wouldn’t go that far. Most of the challenges I faced could be overcame with luck and perseverance, especially since I am nowhere near professional level, it just doesn’t make for a fun gameplay loop. Sign on constantly, look at various towers that might be active for an hour or two, proceed to fight a number of enemies with every disadvantage pointed at you, all to potentially unlock a minor cosmetic. Another option is simply waiting for it to, ideally, be on sale and use currency, either earned or purchased, leading to a lot of unrest.
Even if some suggest it isn’t a choice, it absolutely is, it just is one player’s shouldn’t have to make. It isn’t enough to destroy the experience, especially if you don’t care about the single player experience, it just turns a fun game into a needlessly tedious and grind heavy endeavor.
Mortal Kombat 11 looks great and manages to make things fascinating to watch. With the ability to interact with people and tons of new and comical finishing moves, it has a lot to delight fans. Even if fatal blows and the unlock system need to be reworked, it’s still a good fighting game. At most, I’d say it’s something to be cautious of and certainly see what, if anything, changes in the future, it just hinges on what you want. Those looking to fight people online or just love the franchise will likely have a blast, it’s those who really care about cosmetics that might take a hit.
[Editor’s Note: Mortal Kombat 11 was reviewed on PS4 platform. The game was provided to us by the publisher for review purposes.]