It’s been just over four years since Mortal Kombat X hit consoles and PC. Sitting at an impressive Metacritic rating of 82 (averaged across platforms), MKX was highly praised, leaving fans and critics alike wondering how NetherRealm could follow-up on such a solid game in the ever-expanding franchise. As it turns out, NetherRealm Creative Director (and original Scorpion voiceover actor), Ed Boon, and crew have been able to do just that with the newest addition to the series, Mortal Kombat 11. Somehow, NetherRealm has managed to take one of gaming’s most complicated storylines and bring it all together to create an all-encompassing Mortal Kombat experience that effectively serves long-time fans, while making it easy for newcomers to join in the fight.
Mortal Kombat 11 provides players with a ton of modes and challenges. So much so, it’s almost hard to know exactly where to begin. However, Mortal Kombat 11’s best feature is its Story Mode. In the buildup to its release, we knew that the game’s premise revolved around time travel, with older versions of characters meeting their former selves in an effort to stop (or aid) Kronika from using the Sands of Time to reset the world in the image of her “New Era.” What we didn’t know was that NetherRealm was going to do such a perfect job of bringing in, essentially, the entire timeline of Kombatants since the series’ reboot in 2011. Surprisingly, the storyline and time travel considerations are easy to follow, even for players who may have missed out on Mortal Kombat X. Watching lifelong enemies joining forces to battle a common enemy is easy to believe, with Mortal Kombat 11 having quite possibly the most satisfying ending in the franchise’s nearly 27-year history. However, the story itself, when played on Normal difficulty, only takes about 4 - 6 hours. So, what is left to do after the credits roll? (Funny enough, players are reward with a trophy called, “What’s Next?” after completing the Story Mode.)
You have no doubt already heard about the grindy nature of Mortal Kombat 11’s progression and loot system. We can confirm that grinding your way to loot and experience points is currently the case. Most of the time, you have no idea what you’re getting, or what (if anything) your rewards actually do. Fortunately, NetherRealm - and even Ed Boon himself - have made it known that the player feedback is being taken into consideration as they “fix” the rewards system, which will reportedly happen sooner than later. Does that mean you should wait to play Mortal Kombat 11’s other modes until they have that fix in place? Absolutely not.
Veterans and newcomers alike should take advantage of every mode, trying out every Kombatant to see which one sticks, while getting used to their controls. Although most of us are relatively sure that we know who our go-to main will be heading into the game, you would be surprised how easy it is to take to more than just one character. This is especially true for those who are primarily interested in the online versus modes. Mortal Kombat 11’s Kombat League goes live next month, so getting to know every character will not only aid you in finding who you’re best at, but it will also assist you in strategizing against each opponent you come up against. So, then: what’s the best way to learn the ins-and-outs of each character?
Klassic Tower Mode will be your best friend (for the time being), and will ultimately allow you to knock out multiple birds with one stone. Successfully completing a tower will result in a short video clip detailing your character’s story after they beat Kronika (which in no way has any connection to the game’s formal Story Mode). Although some of the character stories have been met with nonsensical criticism - which is an entire topic all its own - it’s definitely worth it to play through as each character to also (hopefully) gain the loot that we all desperately want.
However, the majority of said loot can only be acquired via Krypt with currency from the Towers of Time Mode. This mode features towers similar to the Klassic Tower Mode, but ceratin towers are only available for a certain amount of time, and with the addition of challenges, such as opponent modifiers, requiring players to use single-use "Konsumable" items in order to have a semi-fair advantage. And therein lies the problem. Though the Towers of Time is meant to be difficult, many believe that the mode is beyond hard, making it un-fun to play, especially with the miniscule chance of being rewarded with worthwhile loot. As such, for a single-player experience, it’s probably best to stick to the Klassic Tower Mode; at least until the Towers of Time Mode fix is put in place.
Of course, besides loot, it's safe to say that the other thing that Mortal Kombat players are always after is bragging rights. Mortal Kombat 11’s online versus experience is about as good as it gets. The matchmaking system is nearly identical to the Injustice series because… well, it works great. Ranked and casual matches, as well as a King of the Hill versus mode, create a fun time while taking on online opponents. A quirky AI versus mode also exists, in which you pit your characters against another opponent’s team for Kombat supremacy. Think of it as a chess match, or some other form of mental form of battle. You still receive rewards in this AI mode, so it is definitely at least worth checking out for a bout or two.
Beyond the known progression and loot system issues, there isn’t too much missing from Mortal Kombat 11. If hard-pressed, one of the only other criticisms would be that some of the characters to make an appearance in Story Mode aren’t available as playable characters in the game’s other modes. NetherRealm has only officially confirmed a couple of DLC characters that will eventually be making their way to the game, so it wouldn’t be a surprise if the Story Mode characters, namely Sektor and Cyrax, made the final roster.
Assuming NetherRealm can fix the progression and rewards system - and there’s no reason to think that they can’t - Mortal Kombat 11 could be easily positioned to go down as the best Mortal Kombat game that the franchise has ever seen. Where the series will go from here is anybody’s guess, but we have full belief that the team at NetherRealm will be up to the task of topping another superb Mortal Kombat game.
4.5 out of 5 stars
A copy of Mortal Kombat 11 was purchased by TheGamer for this review. The game is available now for the PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, and PC.