The newest MORTAL KOMBAT game reminds me of an old friend I used to have. He seemed like a great guy, he was really fun to be around, but the more time I spent around him the less I wanted to. Much like that old friend, MORTAL KOMBAT 11 is  fun to be around. The kombat is great, everything works, but underneath something…is off. The game is an exercise in two halves fighting for control.

MORTAL KOMBAT 11
Kombat has many refinements from older entries. Courtesy of NetherRealm Studios

MORTAL KOMBAT 11 , has been out for over a week now, and it’s been tumultuous. For all of the pre-release hype the game generated, its actual release was marred by strife. The way the game wants you to unlock items, as well as the AI difficulty coming under fire, it’s not hard to get lost in all of the negativity. However, there are some bright spots, and MORTAL KOMBAT 11 shouldn’t be written off immediately.

MORTAL KOMBAT 11’s Krypt Problems

The previous entries in this series had a location called “The Krypt.” This was the games way of enabling you to unlock in-game kontent such as skins, concept art, moves among others. You explore these Krypts and open chests with the in-game currency you earn by playing. Each chest, up to now, had set items inside. So if you wanted to unlock a certain skin for a certain character, all you had to do was look it up. Or, if you were brave you could just explore and unlock everything. Unless you are a completionist, you unlock what you want and still have your fun with the game. Except for the jump scares, forget those.

MORTAL KOMBAT 11
This would be so fun…if it wasn’t so frustrating. Courtesy of NetherRealm Studios

However, MORTAL KOMBAT 11 decided to do something different. There are items in each chest (save for around 25 character-specific chests.) Doesn’t sound like a problem, right? Just save up enough koins and unlock all of the chests. See, it doesn’t work like that. Unlocking every single chest in the Krypt won’t give you everything. You have to spend more koins to reset chests in certain areas of the Krypt to continue unlocking. This leads me to the next point, in that MORTAL KOMBAT 11 has added new items to chests. Called Konsumables, these items are used in fighting the AI opponents when playing offline, to give you an advantage. More on that below.

That Old Computer Advantage

Every single MORTAL KOMBAT has towers. You play through the towers in ascending fights until you eventually face the tower’s boss. Towers obviously range in difficulty, however players noticed something about MORTAL KOMBAT 11’s towers. In-game modifiers are added to each tower to make the difficulty even higher, adding challenges like freezing missiles or poison pools in the stage. However, MORTAL KOMBAT 11’s towers upped this difficulty considerably. In older entries, difficult towers were clearly marked as such, not these towers. Players are finding that even smaller towers with fewer rewards are significantly more difficult.

MORTAL KOMBAT 11
Skarlet’s re-design is probably my favorite. Courtesy of NetherRealm Studios

Don’t get me wrong, no one is complaining about difficulty, here. Difficult things can be fun, however thanks to the prescience of the AI these can be downright impossible. On some towers, not even against bosses, I have gone upwards of 20 tries on merely the first or second battle. The game stacks modifiers, sometimes to the point of insanity. Not only is the AI difficult, but you have to dodge missiles, freezing (or other) auras and even assist kharacters. But wait, this is where konsumbales come in! You can equip them before each battle to also give you an advantage, and the game does a decent job of doling these out to you. Perfectly balanced? Somewhat.

The Perfect (Rage) Storm

If either one of the above problems stood alone, there wouldn’t be such an outpouring of frustration. Unfortunately, both of them together are a problem. Towers are the main way you earn koins to spend in The Krypt. Towers are sometimes nigh-impossible without konsumables, which you need to buy in the Krypt. The cycle goes round and round. The worst part? There is always that ever present way to spend real money for more koins. This feeds back into the problem of games as a service. After paying $60 for a full game (not counting DLC which adds content), having (the option) to spend real money to enhance your experience, or even enable it reeks of greed.

MORTAL KOMBAT 11
The perfect representation of whoever designed this games progression system. Also, one of my new favorite additions to the kast. Image courtesy of NetherRealm Studios

A time will come when people get sick of this kind of thing and companies will have overplayed their hand. Look at the STAR WARS BATTLEFRONT 2 controversy. BATTLEFRONT 2’s release was an utter disaster, however in the space of a year it turned itself around and the player base is even growing. They’ve added free content and had a solid road-map to the future, and fixing their mistakes. NetherRealm Studios has already mentioned a major patch incoming which will significantly tone down AI difficulty. The patch will also make adjustments to the Krypt and include a “We’re Sorry” gift of in-game currency. A step in the right direction? Time will tell.

Beneath the Kontroversy

With all of the above said, MORTAL KOMBAT is still an excellent game. The fighting has never felt tighter, with each character bringing a buffet of moves and styles to the table. The mechanics underneath the hood are vastly improved, from a revamping of the meter system to shorter “super moves.” The revamping of the meter system is my personal favorite. When a player catches you in a long, if not infinite combo, there is nothing more frustrating. However, there are now a myriad of options for a defensive player. Usually these would burn down your fighting meter, however MORTAL KOMBAT 11 has split the meter. There are now two sections each, one for defense enhancements and another for offensive enhancements. Escaping an enemy attack now has no bearing on your aggressive strategy, and I love it.

MORTAL KOMBAT 11
Shhhh…I’m adding as many Skarlet images as I can. Courtesy of NetherRealm Studios

You can tell NetherRealm clearly has love for their baby, and it shines through from otherwise every pore. The voice acting has never been better, save for…Ronda Rousey, who sounds like she’s standing in line at a check out. Poor business choices notwithstanding, the Krypt is a blast to explore. There are secrets and shout-outs to older games everywhere. Not to mention being able to explore the island from Mortal Kombat 1 is super geeky fun.

INJUSTICE 2’s kustomization feature returns! Each character has dozens of skins and gear variations. You can also equip augments to their gear in order to increase your character’s effectiveness in kombat. Anyone who reads my articles knows, I love me some kustomization.

The Story Behind MORTAL KOMBAT 11

While most fighting games are fine with making a bare-bones story to excuse the fighting, MORTAL KOMBAT’s story has always been on another level. Starting with the 9th entry, the series tidied up all of it’s krazy mythology . MORTAL KOMBAT 9 rebooted the series story and let it go. After ending up in a precarious place — with almost all of the cast dead — MORTAL KOMBAT X picked up the threads and provided us with another great story, ending with almost all  of our good guys gone bad.

MORTAL KOMBAT 11
Kronika- the series first main female villain. Courtesy of NetherRealm Studios

One of the only real criticisms leveled at the story by long-time fans were that MORTAL KOMBAT 9 and X included the deaths of too many fan favorites. Quickly rectifying that, the story in MORTAL KOMBAT 11 immediately brings back a number of older characters, using time travel shenanigans. I loved seeing the interactions between all of the characters in the story, and how the clashing of old and new timelines played out. There are some surprisingly layered and touching moments mixed in between all of the gory battles and over-the-top plot lines going on.

One of my favorite side plotlines was a surprisingly touching and informed PTSD narrative. Ridiculous circumstances aside, said character was killed in an earlier game, brought back to life as a revenant and then rescued and brought back to life for real. When we find them in this game, their experiences have had a profound effect on them and it’s not treated jokingly or dismissively at all. Who would have expected to find something like that in MORTAL KOMBAT 11? Not me.

Finish Him!

As I mentioned before, MORTAL KOMBAT 11 is a game of dichotomy. There is so much love and attention poured into this game, yet an equal amount of bad business decisions. Much like the story itself, the game struggles to find a balance between light and darkness. While the characters in the story from the past fight their dark revenant selves from the future, so, I imagine, did the developers have to leverage their love with something else.

MORTAL KOMBAT 11
Don’t worry, the game is still plenty violent. Courtesy of NetherRealm Studios

Unlike the friendship I mentioned above, I’m hoping that NetherRealm Studios can get their act together. MORTAL KOMBAT 11 still has plenty of time to amend its ways, and with their pledge to support the game for years to come, I think they’re going to be just fine.

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