“Where do I begin?”
This has been a question that has been plaguing my mind ever since I decided to write about Mortal Kombat 11. So many things about this game that both work and don’t that I’ve been genuinely struggling with where to start with this write up. There’s a lot to unpack with Mortal Kombat 11 and this may be the one of the longest reviews I’ve written so far so I guess strap in because it’s gonna get messy.
Let me start by saying that I have always been a fan of Mortal Kombat. I vividly remember playing Mortal Kombat 2 on the Super Nintendo for the first time and being completely enamored with it. I watched the first movie all the and I even had the absolutely baffling animated special on VHS. After that, I played more or less every major entry in the series and consumed pretty much everything related to Mortal Kombat. Both the good and the………and the bad.
Mortal Kombat 11 was an obvious day 1 purchase for me and I purposely kept blind to anything related to in depth mechanics and modes. When I eventually got the game I was STUNNED by how well it played and how much it improved on what Mortal Kombat X did. Movement feels much faster and all attacks carry a lot more weight to their animations and sound effects, making them feel MUCH more impactful. While the game retains Mortal Kombat’s signature button string styled combo system, it feels much more forgiving with the timing for each press…for the most part. Strings like Johnny Cage’s 2-4-4-U+4 “Back Punch-Back Kick-Back Kick- Up+Back Kick” still require really specific timing. This quick combat also brings with it an even more devastating way to deal damage, the “Krushing Blow”.
Upon meeting certain requirements during the match you can deliver an EXTREMELY powerful variation of that attack that can occasionally have different attributes to the original attack. For example, Liu Kang’s Forward+Back Kick-Front Kick-Up Front Kick Krushing Blow will launch the opponent upwards instead of forward, allowing for more follow up attacks. Each of these Krushing Blows can only be used once per match so you need to have a plan for each. Going off the topic of planning though is the way meter management works now.
Mortal Kombat 11 has completely reworked how its super meter works compared to its previous entries, having it only last two bars and having it refill automatically as opposed to filling up per hit or damage taken. Having them refill fairly quickly automatically provides a nice change of pace in the combat and having the super moves (Fatal Blows) be linked to how much health each character has means you can be a lot more lenient with your meter management, at least in terms of offense.
DEFENSE, on the other hand, is where this game really surprised me.
Mortal Kombat’s defense game has always been fairly basic. Prior to the 9th game, all you really had to do was hold block and hope for the best. Once MK9 hit though the series started to introduce things such as combo breakers and super armor to enhanced moves and while that was appreciated, it still wasn’t fleshed out enough for it to be truly effective.
Now here comes MK11 with its PERFECT GUARDS AND INSTANT DROPS.
Alongside the improved meter gauge MK11 also introduces a separate meter for defensive options. This includes the aforementioned action of “Breakaways” where you can spend your entire defensive gauge to keep yourself from getting juggled, messing up your opponents rhythm and getting you out of a high damage combo. Other things you can use the meter for are “Getup Attacks”, which have to variations. Pressing Up+Back Punch or Up+Front Kick while getting up allows you to do a nearly invincible attack to surprise your opponent. You can also use the meter to do a back or forward roll to get out of a nasty situation or corner set ups but they can be countered by a throw so you have to make sure you aren’t predictable with them. Then there’s the perfect guarding or “Flawless Block’s”, which caught me way off guard. By timing your blocks correctly you can not only completely negate incoming chip damage but you can also perform a reversal at the cost of your defensive gauge (They’re the same stacks as the Getup attacks).
With all of these offensive and defensive additions to the core gameplay, Mortal Kombat has NEVER felt better in my opinions. It’s still super easy to pick up and play but it has so much depth that hardcore fighting game players with more than likely find something to love about it. I’ve had an absolute blast playing the game both offline and online and it’s easily the games feature.
…….Speaking of offline, though.
Mortal Kombat games have always done a fairly good job with single player content. Be it adventure modes, challenge towers, or…….
There has never been any shortage of things to do in these games…but here’s the thing. You could play all of those extra modes offline. In Mortal Kombat 11 nearly ALL of the single player content and unlocks are directly tied to Netherrealms servers so unless you’re connected to the internet you straight up can’t access things such as The Towers of Time, character customization unlocks, or the Krypt. The Krypt is an admittedly cool treasure “mini-game” that’s been a returning feature since Deadly Alliance. It controls like a standard third person action game and it has plenty of cool secrets, Easter eggs, and a PHENOMENAL presentation….the problem is that you have to grind to get the majority of cool things that are in this mode…or really ANYTHING in this game. You even have to grind for character specific towers and let me tell you…this system at launch was AWFUL.
But! Thankfully Netherrealm has listened to fan outcry and they’ve lessened the grinding IMMENSELY, bringing it down to a much more manageable level. I was an idiot and forgot to snag a picture but the “Fatal Blow” requirement went down to around 15-25 I believe.
Now while this is appreciated, there’s still a lot of unfortunate problems that come from the Towers of Time. Many of the challenges, mostly from the Gauntlet, can’t be completed unless you have a certain random “Konsumable” to help give you an edge. These items can be either randomly found by playing through the towers or by going into the Krypt. While many of the Gauntlets challenges can be enjoyable, a large majority of the towers can have really annoying completion requirements that can make them feel more tedious and frustrating than enjoyable and fun. The easiest way to grind through the towers, and even earn currency, is by having a customizable A.I go through them and nothing says “interactive media” than having the media interact with itself.
Even as I write this I’m having Noob Saibot (Who has the most aggressive A.I in the game) go through the towers and earn me rewards because it’s just easier that way…BUT THAT’S NOT FUN! All this game is, is just a more frustrating version of Injustice 2’s Multiverse mode. Yeah that game had stupid modifiers and annoying A.I. but at least you could get by it with your skill or by leveling up, which isn’t NEARLY as annoying and time consuming as getting random items to help you out. Everything was still DOABLE, it could still be fun. You didn’t have to finish anything with super moves, or perform 50 specials, oR GET 10 PERFECT ROUNDS, OR SPILL A BAFFLING AMOUNT OF BLOOD, OR GRIND FOR 10,000 SOULS FOR A SHITTY AMULET TO OPEN A DOOR, OR PERFORM 50 FATALITIES ON EACH SPECIFIC CHARACTER TO EARN A SEVERED HEAD TO UNLOCK A THRONE ROOM.
AND IT DOESN’T LOCK ALL OF YOUR REWARDS BEHIND A FUCKING SERVER SO HEAVEN FORBID IF YOU WANT TO PLAY A VIDEO GAME OFFLINE AND ACTUALLY WANT TO UNLOCK SOMETHING AND FIND OUT YOU CAN’T.
So I’ve almost completed the Krypt.
All of this nonsense is used for collecting customization items so you can make the entire cast look the way you want them to and it’s very cool! You can make a lot of really fun looking costumes doing this (Cetrion being a standout) but it just sucks that it’s tied behind all of this annoying grinding and currency management.
But let’s say you don’t care about any of that and you just want to play the story mode. Well THANKFULLY you’re in for a great time. Mortal Kombat 11’s story has a heavy focus on time travel and in my opinion, fixes a lot of the narrative missteps the series has made over MK9 and X, like Liu Kang being DEAD AND A VILLAIN. MOST characters get at least some time to shine and many of them bounce off each other in a fun way, especially past and present Johnny Cage, though I do wish more time was spent on characters like Skarlet, Erron Black, and Kollector, as they still don’t have too much personality outside of their character interactions. Now I will say that the presentation, voice acting (outside of Ronda Rousey as Sonya because…yeesh), animations, and transitions are all masterfully done and it’s very clear that a lot of time was spent on making this mode look good and it’s easily the best single player aspect of Mortal Kombat 11. I don’t want to spoil it too much of the story because I think it does a lot of really fun things but the ending takes a WONDERFUL turn that had me smiling ear to ear. Overall, great stuff!
The last thing I want to talk about is the presentation for this game because WOW does Mortal Kombat 11 look good. With each new game, Netherrealm always finds a way to step up their game and here is no exception. Stages are vibrant and beautiful, the color pallet actually has COLORS this time, characters actually have fluid animations now, it is a MASSIVE step up from MKX and Injustice 2. This is exemplified in the story mode as several characters exhibit a wide variety of emotions and they’re executed masterfully. I don’t know how much better Mortal Kombat can look after this honestly.
Netherrealm also upped the cinematic elements of the fatalities as they have a much lighter tone to them this time around. A big complaint I had with Mortal Kombat X was that the majority of the fatalities lasted a bit too long and got uncomfortable to watch after a while so I’m glad to see that they addressed that here.
Do not get me wrong though. Some of these fatalities are still fucked. But at least it’s only a few this time around.
As beautiful as this game is though there were still a few things that bothered me about it.
First off the main menu
For some reason, Mortal Kombat has struggled to have a decent menu system after Mortal Kombat 9. This is so lifeless and annoying to navigate. Another thing is that for how good the animation in this game is they REALLY dropped the ball with the Brutality win animations. All of the characters move in awkward ways and at times it can look outright comical (seriously look up Scorpion’s brutality win animation it’s so goofy). Also, as usual, Mortal Kombat’s music is near nonexistent. I know Mortal Kombat has never had the most AMAZING of soundtracks but I would at least like something that doesn’t come off as slightly hard elevator music. The only standout track in the game is in the Black Dragon Fight Club but that’s because it’s the only one with any real energy.
Turn it up at least, god.
IN CONCLUSION: I am so fucking exhausted.
Mortal Kombat 11 is the best the series has ever looked and played. There are so many options for both offensive and defensive play, the visuals are unbelievable, the combat is satisfying and I’ve had an absolute blast playing it. That’s the thing though…I enjoy PLAYING it. Everything else outside of the actual gameplay doesn’t feel like an actual game, it feels like a part of your daily routine. The excessive grinding, uninteresting towers, and frustrating player progression really do annoy the absolute hell out of me. I understand the need for longevity but locking so much behind so many unfun things isn’t going to drive people to play the game more, it’s just going to frustrate them and make them uninterested. The only people that are going to jump through all of these hoops to earn all of these rewards are psychopaths like me who just want everything for their characters. Lord though and the grind still isn’t even done there are still the DLC characters.
OH GOD THAT DOESN’T EVEN COUNT THE UPCOMING DLC CHARACTERS I’M GOING TO BE PLAYING THIS GAME FOR THE REST OF MY LIFE…….
Look, Mortal Kombat 11 is good but if grinding isn’t your thing you probably aren’t going to find much joy out of this as a single player game. If you’re a massive Mortal Kombat fan like I am you’re going to find a ton to love and appreciate, same if you’re a fan of fighting games. However, if you’re looking for a fun single player fighting game…maybe look somewhere else. Get Soul Calibur VI that has MUCH better offline stuff. I don’t see myself quitting this game anytime soon but god am I sick of trying to unlock stuff.
Seriously my brain hurts so much from all the grinding all I see are dragon logos now.