As much as I, DingleTheViking (Previously Kuniku), am a fan of fighting games I’ve never enjoyed the style of the NRS titles – so felt I would struggle to give a fair review – so I asked my younger brother if he’d like to do a guest spot for us. So check out Xerte’s first review for Darkworld Gaming:
Mortal Kombat 11 (MK11) is the most recent game in a long-running series of extremely violent, fast action fighting games created by NetherRealm Studios (NRS). It’s widely known for the, often-controversial, levels of blood, gore, broken bones, and dismembered limbs, and fans of the series will be happy to see that MK11 turns that up to, well, 11.
In the latest installment of Mortal Kombat, the story follows where the previous game left off. Following the events of the previous game, Raiden’s moral perspective has taken a turn for the worse – rather than acting purely to defend Earthrealm, Raiden now wants to pre-emptively defeat any that threaten it. Kronika, the Keeper of Time, believes that Raiden’s actions are a threat to the timeline that she wants the realms to follow, and enacts a plot to create a new timeline that fixes everything… again – this isn’t the first timeline reboot the Mortal Kombat series has seen. To do so, she merges past and present to enlist the aid of Kombatants from two different eras – but not everybody is willing to side with her.
The setting of the game has given NRS a way to bring back characters that should be dead in the current continuity and have them take part in the story, and also explains away mirror matches as a character’s past and future selves meeting as a result of time being broken. This allows for a roster of popular characters from across most of the series’ history, including the return of Shao Kahn, Baraka and Skarlet.
There are also plenty of returning characters that survived the events of Mortal Kombat X, and a handful of new characters including the Kollector, a six-armed man with a penchant for stabbing people at least six times; Cetrion, Elder Goddess of Nature and Life, who commands the elements to defeat her enemies; and Geras, an immortal servant of Kronika gifted with some of her power to control time. Kronika herself is unplayable, but does appear as a boss character in some game modes.
In total, the game released with 25 playable characters, a large amount of which are ninjas of various colour/gender combinations (as is Mortal Kombat tradition), american military forces and inhuman inhabitants of Outworld – though the majority of characters in this game have very distinct personalities and playstyle in spite of any similar appearances they might have. Two of the characters are not available by default: Frost is unlocked partway through the game’s Story mode (which, if you skip cutscenes, takes under an hour to reach her), but Shao Kahn is an on-disc DLC character that was included for free for anybody that pre-ordered the game – getting him without the pre-order bonus will cost you £4.99. Characters you don’t own will not appear in randomized battles (most of the game’s non-story content), but can still be fought in any fixed events that they show up in; you’re also not prevented from fighting against other players that use those characters, ensuring that if they’re fun to use or particularly powerful, you’ll see them a lot in online play.
MK11 is a traditional 2D fighting game, pitting players in a large horizontal arena where they’re free to move around, atack each other and defend against said attacks. Many of the mechanics will be familiar to anybody that’s played this kind of game in the past, but between MK11 introducing new mechanics that weren’t in previous games in the series, and much of the game’s handling feeling very different to most other mainstream fighting games, it’s easy to recommend that anybody picking this game up should take a look at the game’s tutorial.
MK11 has an excellent tutorial compared to some of the bigger names in the fighting game market such as Street Fighter and Tekken. Everything, from the basics to the game’s unique mechanics, are explained in detail with hands-on exercises for the player to experience how things work directly. If the player fails repeatedly at a task, the game pops up a message telling them what they’re doing wrong to help them better understand it.
Anybody new to the game should at least be working through the basic tutorial, and the advanced offense and defense tutorials, as these sections cover the game’s unique mechanics in detail. You’ll learn basic movement, attacks and defense, move on to the game’s dial-a-kombo strings, and then special moves and how to amplify them. After that comes the game’s new mechanics – Krushing Blows, Fatal Blows and a plethora of options that use the new defensive meter. Krushing Blows take the form of short cutscenes (mostly involving bones being broken or body parts being impaled) that play out when certain attacks hit in certain ways – which vary quite heavily, from simply being “hit with this attack when your opponent is trying to hit you” to more difficult situations to force like “hit with only the last hit of this multi-hitting attack”. Krushing Blows can only be used once per fight each, as it’s not possible to break somebody’s arm more than once. Fatal Blows are MK11’s take on Super moves that are common in most modern fighting games. In MK11, they’re extremely violent cinematic super moves that your character gets access to when they’re low on health, as a comeback mechanic. However, like Krushing Blows, Fatal Blows can only be landed on an opponent once per fight, as it’s not possible to break somebody’s everything more than once.
Beyond that, the game has tutorials on understanding frame data, building Kombos and proper fighting game strategy which any player serious about learning the game competitively will benefit from reading; finally, there’s some character specific tutorials which explain the properties of some moves for each character, though unfortunately there isn’t any form of kombo training, so players will have to experiment (or look up kombo guides for the characters they want to play online).
Even if you think you know it all, you should know that there are unique rewards for working through the tutorial – after each lesson is completed, you’ll get small amounts of currency and a couple cosmetic items, but more importantly for completing everything except the character-specific tutorials, you’ll unlock the option to set Shao Kahn’s voice as the kombat announcer. Finally, the character-specific tutorials unlock a single costume for each character you complete. All of these rewards are purely cosmetic, so you can afford to miss them (but the Shao Kahn announcer voice is great).
Beyond what you need to know to play the game, MK11 follows its traditional routes and allows you to disrespect your opponent in a variety of violent and gory methods after (or during) their defeat. At the end of the round, the klassical “FINISH HIM” will be announced, giving you the opportunity to end your opponent’s life however you see fit. Each character has two Fatality options (one hidden until discovered in the Krypt, but you can use it if you know how), but if you choose to mock your opponent by backing away and then teabagging them while holding a certain button, you’ll perform a Mercy and give them back 20% of their life just so you can beat them one last time. If you want to style on them further, some moves have special conditions which will trigger a Brutality as the killing blow – these are usually shorter than Fatalities, but many are difficult to achieve, and the game rewards you for doing so.
The actual gameplay of MK11, once you’ve learnt everything you need to know, is on the easier side for modern fighting games, similar to Street Fighter in difficulty of execution. Many kombos are formed of kombo strings and special moves where you can simply dial in all of the inputs and the character will perform the string automatically after that, giving you more time to prepare for what you’ll do after that. Blocking is done simply by holding the button and adjusting whether you’re standing or crouching, which is more or less unique to NRS games for 2D fighters. For most characters, defending against what the opponent is doing is harder than performing your own kombos. The amount of moves a character has, especially those that are good at breaking through opponents guards or can extend kombos, have generally been reduced from Mortal Kombat X. With less variations per character, this means there’s much less you need to know to fight effectively in MK11 comparitively.
One of MK11’s selling points, especially for kasual gamers who’re largely in it to have fun with the game without worrying about the kompetitive side of things, is the kustomization system. Building on the previous game’s variation system, which allowed the player to use use any character with up to 3 predefined move sets, NRS have made it possible for players to create kustom variations – your own personal version of a character, in which you can choose 2 or 3 extra abilities to add to their core moveset.
While each character has 2 base variations for kasual play and 2 more for tournament play, these do not contain every option for the character. This means there are options you won’t necessarily find unless you play around with the kustomization system. With it, you’ll be able to modify characters to to things that can be unexpected – Liu Kang can learn to teleport, Raiden can hover through the air while raining lightning down on his enemies, and somewhat ridiculously: D’vorah has the option to turn into a giant wasp when she dies, giving her one last chance to annoy her opponent to death. The system has some really fun options, and it’s interesting to work with.
Your character’s moves aren’t the only thing that you can mess with for kustom variations, however. Each character has a large number of kosmetics to collect – at least 60 costumes (usually 10 colour variants of 6 base costumes), and 90 gear pieces split over 3 themed slots, such as Scorpion’s Mask, Spear and Katana, which in some cases are modifed by the costume’s colours as well. These are unlocked through most of the game’s kontent, and you can check the unlock locations for each item within the kustomization menu. That said, while the unlock location is fixed, very often getting the item you want is down to chance, though we can at least be thankful that the game carries no RNG microtransactions. If you choose to buy something, you get what you pay for.
Each gear item gains experience as you play while wearing it, eventually unlocking two slots for augments – gemstones that improve the abilities of the variation in some way. The majority of these can only be used for single player game modes, but some improve currency rewards in any game mode that you can use the variation in, often by encouraging the player to make use of fatalities, brutalities and mercy.
The kustomization of your variation doesn’t end there – as you progress through the game, you’ll be able to earn new battle entry and victory cinematics which you can enable and disable as you please, and the menu will also keep track of your unlocked fatalities, brutalities and round-ending taunts. You’ll also be able to edit the AI of the kustom variation, whether you want it to be an expert at kombos, a ranged fireball spammer, a grappling master, or something more balanced. Used well, this system can create an absolute monster of an AI – which you can order can clear most of the game’s more tedious kontent for you easily, or set against other players in the AI-only AI Battle mode to show off your creations (and farm some cosmetics while you’re at it). Though… some combinations of characters, move sets and behaviour traits can create derpy AI charcters that fail to really achieve anything.
Unfortunately, NRS have decided that only two specific variations per character are tournament-legal, which applies to the game’s ranked online play. These variations are not necessarily the two default variations assigned to the character in other game modes, but can be found in the preset variation options when creating one. While I can understand the balance concerns that lead to the kustom variation system not being allowed for tournament play, I still find it disappointing that many characters have moves that simply aren’t present in tournament variations, especially some of the more interesting options like Baraka’s move set focused on his warbanner.
Once you’ve kompleted the tutorial, you’ll be armed with knowledge of the game’s mechanics and ready to try out some of the single player content or hit training mode to learn how to play a character. For the single player kontent, doing the Story mode first is recommended. It’s packed full of rewards – including an entire playable character – that make it worth doing for everybody that picks up the game, but if you actually care about the story, a lot of pre-match dialogue between characters in other game modes can spoil the events in story mode, making it important to tackle first. If you really just want the rewards, most of the cutscenes can be skipped, but you’ll still have to play out the fights.
The Story mode in MK11 is a highly cinematic experience that takes several hours from start to finish, with the player taking control for significant battles. The fights can’t be skipped, but you can reduce the difficulty if you’re only here for the story itself. It’s divided into chapters, each following the perspective of one or two characters, starting with Cassie Cage; in total the player will use up to 13 characters (some chapters give the option of who to play for each fight, so it’s possible to go through story mode without using some of the characters presented). The story itself is somewhat convoluted – as almost all stories that involve time travel are – but the action sequences, animation quality and environments presented are all very strong.
I’ll be honest and say that like many action movies, MK11 doesn’t have an exceptionally deep or moving story, with a lot of the writing feeling forced. A varied cast of antagonists is arranged under a single banner and motive; a similarly varied cast of protagonists join forces to oppose them. The majority of the plot focuses purely on the protagonists, while many of the villain characters are essentially used as speedbumps with almost no value to the plot. No small number of fights happen because the characters seemingly forget to finish off their opponents (in spite of how casually they’ll slaughter their way through hordes of nameless mooks), who then come back to bother somebody else later on. Outside of the playable cast, extremely few other characters get any screentime, even those that debuted as recently as Mortal Kombat X. While it’s understandable that characters that aren’t active in the story don’t need to be modeled, animated or voiced, it feels poor that for the majority of Mortal Kombat characters that are still alive in this timeline, the only mention they get in the entire game is a having their name referenced in a konsumable or gear item.
But if you enjoy action movies for the sake of action, the Story mode is still a relatively fun experience in which you can mindlessly enjoy well-choreographed fight scenes involving the characters fighting hordes of zombies, robot ninjas and each other. At least, until the game suddenly brings up health bars and tells you to do the fighting yourself, at which point your character will probably have their ribcage shattered during the fight, but walk it off immediately afterwards, which is… immersion breaking, to say the least. Especially when some injuries in the cutscenes are far less significant yet cripple the victim. Breakdown of immersion aside, actually playing the game isn’t a problem unless you’re not paying attention when the fight starts.
Single Player Game Modes
Story mode only ends up being a small portion of the single player content available in MK11. The meat of the game’s single player experience is in the Towers, series of battles which grant the player rewards for the completion of any given Tower or group of Towers. They’re further divided into Klassic Towers, and the Towers of Time.
Klassic Towers are essentially your standard single player game modes. There are 3 arcade mode towers of varying length which, as expected, are a number of fights against random opponents leading up to a battle against the game’s boss character Kronika, and after you win you’ll get an ending sequence for the character you’re playing as (the endings all have the same setup, so unfortunately a lot of them feel very similar). The remaining Klassic Towers are survival modes; the Endless tower pits the player against increasingly stronger CPU opponents under normal rules until the player loses a fight, while the Survival tower is a series of 25 single round fights with the player’s health only partially healing between fights. Most of the Klassic towers only have one-time rewards; the Endless and Survival towers can be useful for some of the grinding the game presents, but otherwise there’s little reason to repeat any of the arcade towers.
The Towers of Time, however, bring a much larger amount of content in terms of how much time you can spend here if you intend to compete on the scoreboards or unlock cosmetics. In the Towers of Time, battles can have conditions attached to them, which are largely detrimental to the player and only occasionally hurt the CPU opponents. These mean that each tower can present a unique challenge (with one set – the Gauntlet – being a particularly extreme example of this). The towers here are grouped into Platforms; each Platform follows a distinct theme, usually either a specific character or recurring condition, and completing every tower on a Platform will usually reward the player with unique cosmetics or a bulk of currency, as well as individual rewards for each tower. Aside from the conditions, players will also encounter some unique game modes in the Towers of Time which don’t currently exist anywhere else – Endurance Battles which force the player to fight multiple opponents without a break, group battles which have either the player or CPU control a tag team, and even multiplayer group battles which allow the player to team up with somebody online to take down a boss enemy with extreme stats.
To level the playing field, the player can unlock and use a large number of konsumable items, which give them access to very powerful extra attacks or defensive effects for a single battle, or passive benefits for the entire tower; and augments, which are items that can be attached to your character’s gear to passively improve their abilities, usually by making a single special move stronger or adding a smaller bonus to the character’s entire kit. You can also choose to have the AI fight for you if you’re only interested in the rewards, having grown bored of fighting the same CPU opponents for hours on end for currency and cosmetics. Yes, this does make the game feel like a mobile game that you can “play” for rewards while browsing the internet, or reading a book, or writing a review for MK11. Personally speaking, my Baraka bot has earned me several million Koins at this point.
As a downside to how the towers are designed, players might find that the gameplay forms bad habits. Many fights have oppressive modifiers that interrupt or prevent kombos, or otherwise have difficult rules to make things interesting, and in many cases the best solution is to use konsumables without really fighting properly at all. While it can still be fun to work out the answer to a given fight, it’s not really playing in the same way as the rest of the game. As a result, while you can spend a lot of your time in the game playing the Towers of Time, they may not be a good practicing tool for getting into the game competitively.
Unfortunately, characters the player hasn’t unlocked can’t appear in the random battles in these towers, including DLC character Shao Kahn if he hasn’t been purchased. This is problematic for a unlock that requires the player to perform 30 fatalities on him in Towers – because he can’t be encountered randomly, players have to either exploit his few fixed appearances in some of the one-time-only character/gauntlet towers, or wait for a Shao Kahn boss tower to appear.
The last single player game mode is the Krypt, which compared to the rest of the game features very little in the way of Kombat. Instead, the Krypt is a third person adventure minigame – the player takes control of a nameless man exploring the abandoned ruins of Shang Tsung’s island, filled with treasure, puzzles and – occasionally – death.
The first thing a player will notice after watching (or skipping) the Krypt’s introductory cutscene is that the place is completely filled with treasure chests – that require currency to unlock, all of which can be earned in-game. The contents of most chests are completely random, and it’s very possible to not get every item in the Krypt without using a mechanic that locks the treasure chests so you can open them a second time. The currencies used in the Krypt – Koins, Soul Fragments and Hearts – can only be obtained as rewards for playing the game.
Past the treasure chests, there are several items the player can find which either unlock abilities used for exploring the krypt, open doors directly, or are used to get other, more immediately useful items. The first such item is Shao Kahn’s hammer, which you’ll be using exactly the way you’d expect a giant hammer to be used – to break things. It has some other uses as well – you’ll come to rely upon it in time.
The Krypt contains a number of puzzles, most of which are solved by either hitting them with one of your items, finding and using the right key, or pulling on levers until things happen. Some of these puzzles require the player to spend a large amount of currency or complete tasks outside of the Krypt, so be prepared to enter and exit the Krypt multiple times before you’ve opened every room in it. One particular grind takes many hours of gametime and is more of a long-term goal, but does reward a hefty amount of cosmetics that can’t be gained elsewhere when you finally get it done.
And, as is tradition, the Krypt contains traps and jump-scares. If you’re easily affected by the latter, turning the volume down reduces the impact of most of them (or you could try to enjoy the Krypt at its best by wearing headphones or using surround sound). It’s possible to die in the Krypt, but this has no real consequence besides being mocked by Shang Tsung’s disembodied voice and sent back to the entrance of whatever room you’re in.
What most people expect when buying a fighting game is, of course, the multiplayer experience. MK11 features your standard versus modes in offline play (with the option to enforce official tournament rules) as well as an AI battle mode where you can create an attack force to send against other player’s defense squads or vice-versa, while online play is more flexible, offering ranked matches with tournament rules, and various kasual modes including standard versus, 3 king of the hill variants, AI battles and even online practice mode. In the future, NRS will be hosting official online tournament seasons called Leagues, though little information is available at the moment.
Some game modes such as Kustom Kombat/Test Your Luck from previous games are not available in MK11. While not important to any competitive parts of the game, anybody that enjoyed these modes casually in MKX will miss them in MK11. Considering the modifiers and konsumables in the Towers of Time largely do everything these modes would allow for, it’s somewhat of a disappointment that NRS didn’t at least make it available for multiplayer game modes; similarly the lack of tag/endurance matches which could’ve been introduced with the systems used for Towers feels like a missed opportunity.
The online experience is solid – the lobby system is easy to navigate, you can still use practice mode while queueing for ranked matches, and the netcode does a good job of hiding lag in gameplay (while also giving the option to actually see how much lag there is). The game is still well-populated at this point and it’s easy to find matches at most times of day.
One thing to be aware of is that the official tournament rules for the game only allow two specific variations per character, which will be available in the character select screen regardless of whether you’re using them as kustom variations. If you’re serious about the game at a competitive level, you’ll want to practice with these variations specifically, which may mean actually creating them as kustom variations because NRS didn’t make all of them the default variations outside of tournament modes. Most online modes allow the host to set the lobby to tournament mode even in kasual matches.
The other important aspect of multiplayer gameplay, outside of netcode, is the balance aspect of the game. Between 25 characters getting 2 variations each, the game has effectively 50 characters to balance (which is a significant amount for a fighting game), but it’s not quite that simple. Tuning a character to have one core moveset between two variations may mean that NRS had to be careful not to make any given move too strong with one variation, but this in turn leads to situations where it might not be strong enough for the other. Many characters have individual variations that don’t feel worth using even if their other variation is exceptional, and some characters are outliers against the entire cast, either being very strong compared to characters with similar roles, or so weak that D’vorah is almost universally considered the worst character in the game. I don’t feel that these issues are crippling for the game, as most of the cast is viable, but they are a direct result of the variation system itself, and they show why NRS decided to make less core variations than the previous game, as well as the restriction on kustom variations in tournament play.
That said, most of the cast has at least one variation that reaches a solid midground, and the game is still young enough that it’s entirely possible the community hasn’t worked out how to use some of the weaker variations in the way the developers intended. NRS have been quick to release multiple patches that address bugs or balance issues that have arisen, and with multiple DLC characters on the horizon it’s likely they’ll be adjusting the balance further in the future.
It is worth noting that NRS are known for patching things quickly when they think something is unbalanced. With MKX there were times when something seemed too powerful, so was patched almost immediately, and players could find themselves struggling to get to grips with one patch before another came out. Whereas many other developers often leave non game breaking things to see how they develop before deciding to tweak them – it is up for debate which system is better.
Moving past the gameplay, let’s talk about the game’s aesthetics. MK11, for as unrealistic as the setting and action may be, has a very photorealistic graphical style. The textures used are high quality, and fabrics, shadows and blood spatters all obey the laws of physics. When a character is struck, not only does the wound persist but their blood can cover themselves, the person attacking them, and the environment, and it looks great in action. Many of the characters look human enough that it’s a little hard to believe that the action sequences in story mode are CGI – though is is definitely helped by NRS sculpting many character’s faces using real people, including MMA celebrity Ronda Rousey getting to be the face (and voice) of Sonya Blade.
The environments in the game are similarly impressive. While the game takes place on a two-dimensional plane, all stages are fully constructed 3D areas, most of which you’ll get to see from other perspectives during story mode, as well as during mid-battle cinematics as the camera pans to capture the action from a more dynamic perspective. Few of the stages in the game are purely static arenas, either, with a variety of background characters working away or spectating the battles, and in many cases there are background events that progress between rounds. A giant beast will appear through a portal in time while you fight in the Koliseum; impacts from the battle may break some of the traps in the Shaolin Trap Dungeon. Few of the stages merely feel like a backdrop to the fight – things are happening behind you all the time.
The game’s Krushing Blows, Fatal Blows, Fatalities and Brutalities are especially visceral, often featuring dynamic perspectives as the action cuts in to a close-up of whichever body part is being brutalised. You’ll be able to see – and hear – the character’s bones get broken in slow motion, with body parts flying off, internal organs being exposed and destroyed, brains and eyeballs popping out of a character’s skull, and worse. But not just what’s being done to the character, but how, is also often impressive, and in some cases the emotion shown on each character’s face can make what you’re watching even more traumatic.
The rest of each character’s abilities are generally very well-designed. The characters use their more magical abilities in varied and interesting manners, and many attacks in the game feel like real martial arts – with some fantasy attached of course. Similarly, the character suffering those attacks responds to them realistically in many cases – if Baraka slits somebody’s throat with his arm blades, they’ll momentarily grasp at it as they gasp for air. If he breaks one of his blades off in their stomach, it’ll remain impaled in their body briefly as they bleed out around it. For the most part, you can feel each attack that hits.
The UI of the game is clean and easy to read. The health bars are marked so that the player can tell at a glance roughly how much health they have left, and if that’s not enough there’s an option to turn on a numerical display as well; notifications for things like counter hits and punishes will pop up with icons that make it easy to tell when they happen (which is valuable with how important Krushing Blows make confirming these), and the 2 EX bars are well defined, with one being vertical and the other horizontal as well as a sword and shield icon so the player can tell which is which even before fully memorising it.
The graphics as a whole, but especially the animations, are very much improved over previous Mortal Kombat games. However, nothing is perfect – some attacks which are effectively filler buttons in many character’s kits didn’t get as much love as the more important abilities of each character, to the point that crouching kicks have arguably become a meme in the community. Many stages and characters have similar dark tones that create a lack of contrast that can make it hard to tell what’s going on at times; this stems from the game’s attempts at having a dark theme while also aiming towards realistic graphics, but only a handful of stages go against that.
The game manages all of this while running at a solid 60 FPS on all systems, with fast loading times compared to similar fighting game with fully 3D graphics, but NRS were only able to achieve this on the Nintendo Switch by heavily reducing the graphical quality, and having seen comparison images, I won’t hesitate to call it the objectively inferior version of the game. While the developers have been working on numerous graphical optimizations for that version of the game, I wouldn’t recommend buying MK11 for the Switch if you own any other console that can run the game. As for the PC version of the game, while it may run better on a dedicated gaming PC, patches for that version of the game have been delayed consistently, though I haven’t heard of any major PC-only issues.
While the characters have a large amount of costumes on release compared to other 2D fighting games, it’s not without fault. Becuase NRS have tried to maintain a solid theme for each character, it feels like it’s backfired and they’ve allowed themselves to design extremely similar costumes rather than achieving a decent variety, which is especially noticeable on some characters like Baraka and Cassie Cage. And while I don’t really care one way or another, a lot of gamers have claimed it’s ridiculous that in a game with as much violence as Mortal Kombat, there’s very little sexuality in the female characters – in spite of many of the male characters spending their time topless. Baraka can fight in nothing more than a loincloth and shorts. In fact, that’s about half of his clothing options. I don’t think it’s relevant to the game to sexualize the female characters, but it does seem a little silly for NRS to work so hard to go in the opposite direction (…unsexualizing the female characters, not sexualizing the males) given their target market.
Lastly, let’s talk about the game’s sound and music. Many of the game’s sound effects are suitably disgusting, matching what’s heppening on-screen – characters might choke on their own blood, and you’ll hear body parts being broken, crushed and cut up, the sound of blood getting everywhere other than where it should be. Kombat in Mortal Kombat is, in a word, gruesome, amd yje sound design really tops it off.
The game’s music does a good job of fitting the overall feel of Mortal Kombat, dark and at times oppressive. The music is tied purely to the stage you’re fighting in, and ramps up at the start of each round. That said, whie the music is fitting for the setting, at times it feels more like ambience than music suited for action, and after over a week of playing the game I still feel like very little of the music is actually memorable. It’s also not helped by being unable to choose what music plays other than by choosing the stage you play on, because some players might be drawn to specific stages due to the interactibles provided.
The voice work in the game is largely well-performed, with many characters having voices that feel right for that specific character (although there are some cases where a character’s voice acting is far too flat – especially in cases where they’ve not used professional voice actors). All characters have multiple unique interactions when paired together as opponents, although with the exception of mirror matches you won’t hear every possible dialogue just repeating the same battle over and over, as it also matters which character is player 1 and which is player 2. These interactions range from insults and witty repartee, to surprisingly friendly banter for two people about to kill each other, to interesting little lore titbits, and most of it is delivered really well.
Though speaking of those pre-match interactions, despite many characters existing in two different forms in the game’s story, most of these interactions assume only the past form exists, even if you use a costume for the present version of the character. It can be somewhat jarring to use a revenant Liu Kang costume, but all of the dialogue assumes he’s the good old chosen one, friend to all living things. While it may have been imbalanced for some characters due to not everybody having both past and present forms, I would have liked to see characters interact based on the costumes used when there are more than one version of a character.
Long-term fans of the series, especially casual gamers, will find Mortal Kombat 11 is a solid entry in the series, with many of them finding the game has a surprisingly high amount of single player value for a fighting game. The large roster, on top of the kustom variations and variety of challenges lends itself to a high fun factor for casual to mid-level play. If you’ve enjoyed the series casually, it’s definitely worth considering the purchase. For those playing the game purely for its story, I don’t recommend buying the game at full price; frankly put, the story alone isn’t worth the full price tag.
Competitive gamers may be more critical of the technical aspects of the game; with the core gameplay arguably watered down from MKX, and there being less to learn, it may feel less interesting as a fighting game than it could be. Longterm players of NRS games in general will still feel right at home playing MK11, and still enjoy playing it, but whether the game remains strong competitively still depends heavily on the future support it gets from the developers. The grind wall to unlock cosmetics may be offputting to people unwilling to sink hours into casual single player gameplay.