Mortal Kombat 11 is not only the next big entry into the legendary series but also a subtle celebration of everything that has happened with the franchise up to this point. There’s a lot of fan service that hardcore Mortal Kombat enthusiast will notice all over, while everyone else will indulge themselves in the highly detailed visuals, solid fighting mechanics, and an abundant amount of content to see. However, Mortal Kombat 11 is anything but flawless. An unfortunate and annoying grind for resources to obtain unlockables and some unbalanced single player content hold back what could have been one of the best entries in the series. But that doesn’t mean Mortal Kombat 11 can’t bring the excitement of finishing moves and martial arts madness to players looking to have a good time.
The story of MK11 takes places years after the previous game, with a lot of things changing for Earthrealm’s heroes. While the fallout of Mortal Kombat X’s story is still felt here, the story takes a very wide turn and implements time travel into the Mortal Kombat universe. For a series that prides itself on having sorcery as part of its narrative, it’s not a bad thing, but it does open up a lot of opportunities to retread a lot of familiar ground from earlier games in the series. New versions of characters collide with their past counterparts, while newer characters continue to mix things up with an already outrageous story.
There are some good moments that occur within the game’s 12 chapters in Story Mode, but the ending does feel a bit rushed. There are multiple endings to see depending on how well you do during the final battle, but even then the finale feels like a hard stop. Fans of Mortal Kombat will still eat up the nostalgia and new directions some characters go, but the conclusion of this story could have had a better landing.
But what about the fighting? As you’d expect, Mortal Kombat 11 builds upon the fighting system from the last game by adding in new abilities for every character and techniques to keep the momentum of a fight shifting. Instead of one bar for all your special techniques, you now have an offensive and defensive meter that refills over time. Both can be used for either powering up your special moves in EX versions of them or spending a meter to roll out of a bad situation.
There are over 24 characters on the main roster, with more being added as downloadable content after release. Some classic faces make a return, but the newer additions to the MK roster are just as interesting and unique. The fatalities are just as gruesome and over-the-top as the previous game, with some really clever and humorous ones for a few characters. Mastering one character’s move list is tough enough, but you’ll definitely want to go through the roster and get a feel for how every fighter plays.
The single player content in Mortal Kombat 11 is a mixed bag of meaty and downright frustrating. While patches and updates have corrected a lot of issues around the release of the game, completing the single player Challenge Towers, Story Mode, and the special Towers of Time can be a real grind. Gathering Koins and other resources to unlock new items and bonuses in the newly revamped Krypt will have you doing many things over a long period of time. It can get very annoying trying to gather up enough souls or hearts to open up chests and find new moves and cosmetics for characters, mostly because the rewards you get can be slim. The updates have increased the number of rewards you gain after completing a match or other important task, but it still feels like you don’t gain enough and will have to grind a lot more to obtain of the game’s bigger rewards.
This is related to the new Krypt, which is a huge homage to the legacy of Mortal Kombat in many different ways. Unlike the generic locations of past games, the Krypt is now located on Shang Tsung’s island, who is voiced and bears a likeness to Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa (the actor who played Shang Tsung in the Mortal Kombat live-action film). This in itself is very cool to see, but the island’s design for the Krypt also takes a lot of inspiration from the first Mortal Kombat movie. Clever fans will notice Goro’s Lair, The Pit stage bridge, and many other locations with tons of fan service and Mortal Kombat history.
Exploring the island and unlocking chests can take a very long time, especially if you plan on opening every chest and discovering every secret. Most of the chests you unlock are randomized bonuses of gear and custom items, which can be frustrating when you are trying to find something specific, but there are a few special chests with fixed rewards that you can still open. Shang Tsung talks to you throughout your time in the Krypt, giving witty commentary and background on many of the places you visit within the Krypt. Of course, it wouldn’t be the Krypt without some big secrets and hidden goodies to find through side quests and other tasks you complete while exploring. These can range from obvious to incredibly hard, so finding all of them will take a lot of patience and time.
If finding everything in the Krypt is important to you, then the Towers of Time are the place where you’ll spend the most time gathering resources to do so. These towers are very similar to Netherrealm’s other game Injustice 2, where you take on a series of fights with certain criteria and modifiers. These change up nearly every day and can range from incredibly easy to incredibly difficult. The problem, however, is how some of the modifiers and special conditions can turn out to be broken or borderline unfair in some cases.
Random projectiles that attack you during a match can sometimes be unblockable or appear off the screen without warning, the A.I for computer opponents can be very inconsistent, and rewards for completing challenges can often be meager. Much of this has/will get changed because of various patches and updates, but some problems still linger depending on the tower you enter. The Towers of Time are the best spot to gain resources for the Krypt, but you’ll definitely be doing a lot there for a long time to get what you need.
Online play is also where you’ll be spending a lot of time in Mortal Kombat 11. However, while the online modes are great and have a lot of ways to connect with players to battle, many of the tasks for completing certain challenges for the Krypt are not counted in any online multiplayer modes. This is a really poor choice since many players will be spending time playing others online. Need to get 50 fatalities with a certain character? Then don’t try to do so in online multiplayer because none of them count. This might eventually be patched later on in a future update, but for now, you’ll only be playing multiplayer for the sheer joy of dismembering your fellow MK fans.
Mortal Kombat 11 is a very meaty game with a great amount of love put into the presentation and fan service scattered throughout. The fighting is great and the roster of playable characters is fantastic. However, smaller details like the rewards you gain from battles, completing various tasks, and other specific areas of the game still need some adjustment. It might not be a flawless victory, but Mortal Kombat 11 is still a great time.
This review was based on a digital review code of Mortal Kombat 11 for the Xbox One, provided by Netherrealm Studios.