NetherRealm Studios are back with another instalment of the iconic and legendary franchise with Mortal Kombat 11.  This could very well be the best in the series yet, with gameplay being arguably better than it’s ever been, it certainly looks its best and as an overall package, it also represents the best value in the series too.  However, with all the great aspects that Mortal Kombat 11 has, most of its rewards feel withheld from the player in the hope that it will push them towards the in-game microtransaction store and therefore, takes away from some of the positive experiences that this game has to offer.

In NetherRealm’s defence, even though they initially introduced this grind with its purpose to entice the player to spend more real-world money, they have addressed these issues and are working to rebalance the game so that the rewards seem fairer for the work that you put in.  That said, there are plenty of positive things to talk about with Mortal Kombat 11 over the negatives and I’ll begin with the utterly stupid, yet cinematic brilliance that is the story campaign.

It’s story, while not giving too much away, follows directly from the events of the previous campaign where Raiden put an end to Shinnok’s plans to rule the realms, but in doing so, Raiden had succumb to the temptations of law and order and the power of Shinnok’s Amulet, in doing so, Raiden became the tyrant he or his allies never thought he could be.  So it’s down to Sonya Blade (who is now voiced by the awesome Rhonda Rousey), Johnny Cage, their daughter Cassie Cage with Jacquie Briggs by their side to ensure that Raiden’s newly adopted tyranny does not come to fruition.

However, Raiden’s actions had caught the attention of Kronika, an elder god and the Keeper of Time, and she is hell-bent on reversing time to correct the timelines caused by the actions of Raiden.  Sadly for our heroes, while both Raiden and Kronika aim for realm domination, their motivations of tyranny may differ, and this causes havoc amongst the timelines of the realms, and as a consequence, doppelgangers of yesteryear are called upon to help save the realms once and for all.  However, will the might of Raiden and the seemingly endless power of Kronika be too much for our heroes to handle?

Other then the story mode, what does Mortal Kombat 11 have to offer?  Well as it happens, it has plenty to keep you going for months on end, perhaps even well into when MK12 arrives.  Once you’re done with the story mode, you might spend much of your time playing the Towers of Time.  This is a spin on the popular Towers modes that’s been a long inclusion in the series, but it takes much of the best aspects from the Living Towers from MKX and the Multiverse mode from Injustice 2.  Whether it’s hourly, weekly or daily, the Towers of Time’s challenges will evolve and the rewards will differ.  And with MK11 having a congested seven currencies to date with each having their own purpose, once you’ve ploughed through the story campaign, the Towers of Time is the best way to earn that currency, as well as gaining cosmetic gear and fight modifiers.

Now having played the previous MKX very recently, so that I can have a clear comparison between new and old, the rewards in the Towers of Time as well as your Klassic Towers mode, do not currently match the level of difficulty that the player must take on, in my opinion.  For starters, most of the Towers modes will begin from a Normal difficulty; however, this “Normal” difficulty is far more challenging to that of MKX.  Now I’m not a particularly good player, but I’ve played every main entry in the MK series to date, so I still consider myself to be at least competent.  Yet in the most part, to my utter frustration I was getting my ass handed to me on the Normal difficulty in Towers.  In response, I fired up MKX just to see if it was me, so I played the same equivalent modes, against the same fighters and I found that MKX was way easier than MK11.

Sometimes the difficulty does feel a tad unfair in MK11, especially when playing the Tower modes.  Many times I’d find myself on the verge of victory, with my AI opponent having only a sliver of health, only for them to often make a triumphant comeback.  I have no issue with difficulty being a challenge, which is why I often up the difficulty the more I grow used to any game.  However, the sudden difficulty spikes can feel very cheap and when you consider the current rewards on offer, especially with the currencies, the frustration certainly doesn’t match the reward.  With the main currency being Time Crystals, which is used to purchase cosmetic items and skins via the in-game store, the sudden difficulty spikes and tame rewards, feels like an aggressive push to entice the player to purchase microtransaction currency to bypass the overly deliberate frustrations of gaining insufficient in-game rewards.

There are ways to combat the AI difficulty however, such as modifiers, they can be anything from dealing an extra percentage of damage or having a shield for a brief time, to having projectiles and even cameo appearances from other characters to briefly help you out with a swift move (as long as the hit your opponent).  You can set these modifiers before each match in the Tower and while you don’t have to use them, I certainly recommend that you do.  You can also acquire more modifiers by taking on the Towers, as well as exploring the new Krypt (more on that later).  However, in most cases during the Towers, your AI opponent will also have modifiers, mostly with projectiles dealing your extra damage and when you combine that with the already steep difficulty, it can still remain overly frustrating at times.  But by being a little more strategic with the modifiers you choose, it can at times work well into your favour.  Still, it feels that Towers does need a little tweaking and thankfully as I mentioned earlier, the developers are currently working on a way to re-balance the difficulty and its rewards, so hopefully challenge will match the rewards in due time.

Other quite standard modes includes Local play, Tournament, Online which includes modes such as Versus, King of the Hill and AI Only where you battle against other players AI teams and vice versa.  For something more competitive, you can also play Ranked matches in a set of a first-to-three and in less than two weeks, the Kombat League will begin.  There are also a plethora of tutorial modes to take on such as your basic practice matches against a programmable AI, Fatality Training and the Tutorial.  The Tutorial in particular is well worth your investment, whether you’re new or returning to the series.  Tutorial will cover everything from basic moves, as well as the more advanced techniques and more.  Plus with each category you complete, you’ll also earn some quite generous rewards as a bonus.

Now as you progress in the variety of modes that MK11 has to offer and you begin to slowly stock up on the seven currencies, the Krypt is a place where you should spend much of your time, if you want to unlock as many cosmetics, fatalities and other bonus goodies.  Unlike the Krypt in MKX, here you play in third-person (not first-person) and movement is free.  There are many secrets to explore in the Krypt and 100’s of chests, each with their own category of currency.  Now I have no issue with the amount of chests there are to unlock, as I like to keep busy and if the developers can tweak the grind to earn currency to feel a little fairer, spending time in the Krypt to acquire the extras will feel more justified.

In the most part, the Krypt feels like a mini-game in itself as you can spend plenty of time not only acquiring items, but also being on the lookout for cool Easter eggs from games of yesteryear as well as the most recent instalment.  I must say, I really enjoy exploring the Krypt and finding new paths that lead to new secrets.  However, while the Krypt in MKX was far more restricted on your movement, each unlockable item and chest had set items.  Meaning if you knew where a particular chest was, you’d know what would be inside.  Yet in MK11, each chest is randomised and the only way to really know if you might get anything good would be by the value that the chest holds.

Also with some items being time exclusives via the in-game marketplace, it gives an extra urgency to earn currency, in particular enough Time Crystals to purchase that sweet character skin that, and if you know that skin will disappear from the store before you can earn enough in-game currency, it might push you to spending an extra minimum of £3.99/$4.99 in microtransactions.  I know many players won’t have an issue with how microtransactions are portrayed in MK11 and its totally up-to you how you spend your money, but the current climate in MK11 does feel a little too aggressive as this makes it particularly near impossible to acquire every item in the game, even for the most dedicated of players.

Gameplay modes aside, making the crossover from Injustice 2, is MK11’s take on the Gear system.  In Kustomise, you can customise just about everything there is to each of the current 25 fighters on the roster (including the pre-order DLC Shao Kahn).  You can customise their clothing such as individual items, weapons, colours, taunts, intros into the fight, change move-sets, add Brutalities and Fatalities, and much more.  It’s once again great having such depth in customisable detail to the latest NetherRealm game, which also seems to be an improvement on even Injustice 2’s offerings.  Also, while you can customise gear and move-sets, taking the fight online, the same fighters will be as powerful as your opponent, so you can only really give yourself an edge when playing offline.  I must also add that while currency rewards are tight, almost regardless of the modes you play, you will be gifted with cosmetic items left, right and centre, which is obviously a plus.

Now I must really begin to wrap this review up, because while there’s so much to talk about with MK11, I can’t go on forever.  So to summarise, the gameplay of MK11 is arguably better than it’s ever been.  It’s fast, fluid, brutal and satisfying.  Each of the 21 stages offers something different from the last, especially with their unique player interactions.  The soundtrack is blood pumping and once again, the voice-cast do a great job in bringing its Hollywood, popcorn movie-esque campaign to life.  Oh and those annoying QTE’s from MKX’s story campaign that hindered your enjoyment of the cinematic cut-scenes, they’re no longer present in MK11.  So in conclusion, despite the current issues that I have with the in-game rewards, Mortal Kombat 11 is an absolute brutal treat from start to finish with a level of depth unrivalled from any game in its genre.  If the next set of balancing tweaks can get it right, Mortal Kombat 11 could very well be one of the best games of the modern era.