Mortal Kombat has always been associated with controversial topics: the title generated by Ed Boon and John Tobias back in 1992 on behalf of the then Midway Games was one of the very first games to bring the issue of violence in video games to the attention of the public, to the point it is necessary to establish the ESRB rating system, still in use in the United States of America.

The success of the series

Since then, the series has generated numerous sequels, spinoffs, TV series, animated and comics, becoming one of the most iconic and recognizable brands in the fighting scene, both for its out-of-outline solutions on the gameplay level and for the strong identity over the top, characterized by violence brutal, raw and ruthless uncensored.

The acquisition of the studio

With the acquisition by Warner Bros, bringing the software house to take the name of NetherRealm Studios, the development team was able to refine their works through a soft-reboot in 2011, a sequel and, alongside them, the two titles of the Injustice series, earning a certain fame for the rich presence of single player content and a style game with a strong scenic identity that has contributed to enrich its popularity.

The release of Mortal Kombat 11

Mortal Kombat 11, announced during the last The Game Awards and released on April 23, 2019 on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC and Nintendo Switch, represents an attempt to perfect what has been built over the past 8 years both structurally and artistic.

Mortal Kombat

Old versus New

Mortal Kombat 11 offers, as in previous NetherRealm Studios titles, different single player modes collected under the Konquista category. Among these, as usual, the Story mode stands out, a series of cinematic sequences interspersed with duels in which the player takes control of the protagonist of the chapter in question.

Synopsis

This time the balance of the Realms that make up the universe of Mortal Kombat is undermined by Kronika, the guardian goddess of time, who in order to start a New Era by eliminating all the events of the world causes a dangerous temporal earthquake that melts the present with the past, putting Raiden and his Kombattenti in front of old enemies and allies questioning what was built in the years of struggle against Shao Khan.

Narrative differences with the previous title

Unlike Mortal Kombat X, the Story mode of this chapter of the series completely removes the Quick Time Events previously proposed, while the possibility of choosing, in some fights, which of the characters on the scene to use returns.

There are also several conclusive scenarios, dependent on the progress of the final duel, but beyond these subtle differences the narrative flows in a linear way without proposing narrative crossroads that may have consequences on the events represented or clashes that deviate from the normal fighting game formula.

One of the best tutorials around

Alongside a story that, although not particularly rich in original or new ideas, proves to be cohesive with the complex and elaborate scenarios moved by the new timeline started in 2011, we find, as an introduction to the game mechanisms, a detailed tutorial that touches on basic elements of the gameplay as much as the most sophisticated and advanced ones: you can therefore expect to be prepared as much for the direct commands of the characters and their special moves as to receive advanced notions and strategies on combos and animation frames, which will prove useful to face the more difficult encounters and to face more experienced players.

Each aspect of the gameplay is touched by dedicated courses that explain in a fundamental and understandable way its functioning, allowing the player to obtain a general smattering of the game that allows him to apply the basics to become more and more skilled. This is made possible by a slower and more tactical combat system that distinguishes the title in all its aspects.

Mortal Kombat

Test Your Might

Unlike its predecessor, in fact, Mortal Kombat 11 considerably slows down the rhythms of the clashes by abandoning the "rushdown" style in favor of one that favors in a more incisive way the so-called "neutral", the ability to play on the ground by managing one's position on the battlefield to mislead opponents and harshly punish them using the most powerful combos mastered.

The combat system

The system relies mainly on five buttons: four attack buttons plus one assigned to the parade, a distinctive command of Mortal Kombat, but NetherRealm has made it possible to use each button made available by the main forms of control through useful shortcuts and secondary commands.

The combo system remains the "Target Combo System" used previously, generous on execution times although slightly more precise than that used in Mortal Kombat X, also thanks to the more moderate rhythms of the fights, this time heavily reduced in the damage that is able to inflict so as to further mark the importance of fundamentals and strategic approach rather than blindly aggressive.

New mechanics

The dynamics of the new energy bars are therefore built around this philosophy, a mechanism not extraneous to the world of fighting games, except for this new version proposed: Mortal Kombat 11 offers two bars instead of one, divided into offensive and defensive, each of which offers the opportunity to enhance your shots or perform maneuvers that bring the situation to your advantage or limit the opponent's offensive abilities.

Krushing Blow

In addition to these important resources to manage, a novelty is represented by the Krushing Blows, which replace, in terms of visual effect, the X-Ray introduced in the ninth chapter and are performed through strokes normally available to the characters who, performed under specific conditions, can be upgraded by increasing their damage or lengthening the combos.

However, Krushing Blows can only be used once per match: it is therefore necessary to be aware of which ones are available to your character and use them sparingly and only when they represent a real advantage.

Fatal Blow

As very frequently in recent fighting games, a comeback mechanic is introduced that can be used once per game and available once you have reached 30% of your life. These attacks, called Fatal Blow, are functionally analogous to the aforementioned X-Ray and are characterized by long visceral and violent animations and by the high amount of damage.

Mortal Kombat

Choose your style

Variants also come back from Mortal Kombat X, different versions of the same character distinguished by the possession of some special moves rather than others in order to change their fighting style.

Unlike the previous title, however, this time these variants will be customizable allowing the player to be able to choose the most liked approach.

Problematic choice

This design choice is not without problematic consequences for the game which, in order to avoid excessive balance problems, had to limit the effectiveness of some types of moves and the extent of customization available.

In competitive scenarios, moreover, it is not possible to choose your own personalized variation by limiting the choice to the two predefined for each character, a limit that could affect professional events leading to the creation of particularly efficient variations compared to the other options or to the total invalidation of this possibility through its ban.

The inability to choose your own personal variation in ranked games could also lead players to completely abandon some characters characterized by predefined variations that are not particularly effective with respect to the customization options available to them.

Aesthetic customization

In addition to fighting skills, you can also choose the aesthetic aspect of your characters through an extensive offer of skins with some specific customizable elements.

However, these elements must be unlocked and it is here that what has already become a typical Mortal Kombat mode since PS2.

The Kripta

Mortal Kombat 11's Crypt puts the player in the shoes of an unnamed ninja who has arrived on the now fallen island of Shang Tsung.

The fortress, extensively explorable, is comparable to a tax museum of the history of the franchise, accompanying with the narration of the sorcerer of the island the discovery of places, finds and equipment that will help the ninja to further explore the island and solve the puzzles.

In the coffers scattered around the island it will be possible to find emotes, fatalities, costumes, accessories, artwork and various treasures.

Mortal Kombat

A slow progression

The management of the Kripta is a thorny issue, however, due to the long-winded progression system devised by NetherRealm Studios which makes use of three distinct types of currency, which can be earned with the dropper in the various game modes, leading the progression towards a grueling grinding desperate to be able to access randomly hidden content within the 600 coffers of the island.

He doesn't wink at microtransactions

Contrary to what one might think, however, this system is not designed to cleverly lead players to the online store and microtransactions: it is in fact impossible to buy the usable currency in the Kripta with real money and the only aesthetic changes available in the online store are limited in quantity and in their availability time, marked by a random daily rotation.

The Towers

It is here that, theoretically, the Towers would come into play, a single player mode that allows you to launch into battles of increasing difficulty detailed by modifiers of various kinds that, once overcome, reward the winner with the currencies of Kripta and, in some cases, cosmetic items specifically unlockable in this mode.

Unfortunately, the latter are obtained from the so-called boss fights, battles of very advanced difficulty designed for experienced players that require to be faced in a cooperative, demanding challenges that unfortunately rotate at regular intervals.

All this makes obtaining the various game contents particularly long and superfluently cumbersome, in a similar way to a mobile game without however the economic advantage that would normally result.

[Caution! On April 30, a patch was released that seems to correct all these problems. You can find the Patch Notes Thu!]

Mortal Kombat

Old engine makes good soup

The difficulty in obtaining in-game items is perhaps the only real flaw in an otherwise well-kept and successful title.

In addition to the huge amount of costumes and accessories, the characters can benefit from enhancement modifiers represented by gems that can be equipped in the accessories in a similar way to the costumes of Injustice 2, modifications that serve as a useful support for the completion of the Towers and the game, outside of the aforementioned campaign, it offers numerous hours of play and content even without considering multiplayer in the least.

The technical sector

The technical sector, in particular, stands out for the care and the high level of realization: the animations, always a weak point of the franchise, make numerous steps forward while the use of brighter colors, softer shadows and a character design less medieval and more detailed make the title a jewel created to last even more than its predecessor over time and this is even more impressive if one takes into account that the engine on which the title is built is a modified version of the Unreal Engine 3 , a choice that guarantees excellent stability and performance thanks to the exceptional automatic benchmark tool integrated in the game.

This tool is also used, compulsorily, the first time you use the online mode to ensure the best possible performance in games, performances that affect a positive multiplayer game experience thanks to the greatly improved netcode that had never shone for optimization.

Conclusions

Mortal Kombat 11 is a worthy bearer of the name of an important and symbolic franchise of the fighting world that enjoys production values ​​and artistic direction rarely invested in niche titles like those of this genre.

Every aspect of the game is artfully finished, from cinematography to the essentials of gameplay, from the exceptional technical sector to the online granite and enjoys a roster full of old iconic glories with interesting additions, well calibrated and with a strong identity.

A poor and poorly managed progression system (but nothing incorrigible) is therefore not enough to damage the very solid structure of the title, although much of its success will depend on how much, for how much and how Warner Bros. intends to support the title.

[Have you already read Sekiro's review? You can find it Thu!]