COVER FEATU RE: MORTAL KOMBAT 11
HOW NETHERREALM IS DRAWING FROM ITS BLOODY AND GRUESOME PAST FOR MORTAL KOMBAT 11
When it comes to fighting games, nobody does them quite like NetherRealm. From its spineripping fatalities that’ll leave even the most hardcore splatter film enthusiasts wincing in their seats, to the accessible but hard-to-master combat, Mortal Kombat has always stood out from the crowd.
The series has long been a popular choice among fighting game fans, and it is one of the most wellknown videogame franchises of all time. In its 26year history it’s even managed to spin-off outside of videogames, with varying degrees of success in film, television and comics. Now Mortal Kombat is back once again, and it looks like Xbox users are going to be treated to the most gruesome, most brutal and most visually shocking combat they’ve ever seen. Given NetherRealm’s recent track record of fantastic fighting games, including the Injustice series, we know we’re going to be entertained. Each game in the Mortal Kombat series somehow manages to out-do the last in terms of combat and pure shock value, but the big question is, just how will the eleventh game be different to any of the previous entries in the franchise?
Although convoluted, the story of Mortal Kombat has become more of a focus as the series has gone on, and we’ve seen NetherRealm’s narrative capabilities improve exponentially to what now seems like a dramatic leap in quality over the
previous games. The studio set a new standard when it came to telling a story in fighting games with Injustice 2, and it seems that those same narrative sensibilities have been brought across to MK11. This is evident from the cutscenes we’ve seen so far, which are deliciously cinematic. This is thanks to a combination of superb direction and exceptional motion capture.
There are already a few things we know about the story thanks to the steady stream of information coming from the Kombat Kast streams, trailers, behind-the-scenes videos and with our own hands-on time with the game. But there’s also a certain amount of speculation that we can make, based on the events that unfolded in the previous games.
A matter of time
The story takes place directly after the events of Mortal Kombat X, which saw the defeat of the evil Elder God, Shinnok. After his defeat, thunder god Raiden claimed Shinnok’s amulet for himself but got corrupted in the process. Although still on the side of
‘good’, Raiden is now more ruthless in his protection of Earthrealm. But this is not how things were meant to be. At the beginning of Mortal Kombat (2011) almost every single character in the MK universe was killed, leaving only Raiden and Shao Kahn to fight one final battle. With Raiden on the brink of death, he sent a message through time to his former self in an attempt to avoid this fate and apparently succeeded. But in doing so Raiden upset the balance of good and evil and tipped it towards the former. This causes the Keeper of Time, Kronika, to step in and put things right by rewinding time and restarting it. Still following us? Well, let’s just say that you can expect lots of different timelines and plenty of time travel in MortalKombat11. Throughout the story you’ll encounter many different interactions between young and old versions of certain characters.
Kronika has apparently been affecting events in the MK universe from the beginning and is being touted as the first female boss within the universe, but is she really the bad person in all this? Could it be that she’s just cleaning up Raiden’s mess? What we do know is that by messing around with time, it gives NetherRealm a perfect opportunity to set right any of the narrative wrongs of the past and start a new continuity that everyone can keep track of.
As interesting as the story may seem, the real star of the show is the combat, which feels substantially different from the previous games. The team at NetherRealm is capable of reinventing its work time and time again, so it’s no surprise that for its latest entry it has introduced a new combat system and adjusted the moves of the characters to change the way you play.
For starters, the energy meter has been separated. Initially, it allowed you to perform special moves, including
“The team at NetherRealm is capable of reinventing its work time and time again”
the X-ray moves, but now NetherRealm has separated them into two bars, one horizontal and one vertical that line the corners of the screen. These are devoted to your offensive and defensive abilities. The X-ray moves themselves have been replaced with Killing Blows and Krushing Blows. The former is triggered once your health drops below 30% and allows you to perform a devastating attack that can turn the tide of a fight, while the latter is attached to a player’s special moves and is activated after satisfying a specific condition in battle. These can only be used once per match, but when you use them is up to you and will lead to some exciting comebacks.
Even the odds
This is a significant change, particularly for online matches. Previously, players who really knew what they were doing would save their abilities until towards the end of a battle, and those that didn’t would spend them too early, causing a huge disadvantage to new players. This made online battles far too predictable. Now meters are split, you can pick and choose more carefully as to how you want to fight and when you want to perform the right moves.
NetherRealm has also slowed down the combat somewhat. Mortal Kombat X was fast and aggressive, which caused battles to become hectic and lead to a lot of button-bashing. It would also lead people to just rush down their opponent, finding an opening and dominating with a series of combos, boxing people in a corner, and leaving little room for ever making a comeback.
“The X-ray moves have been replaced with Killing Blows and Krushing Blows”
Fights essentially boiled down to who blinked first. For MK11, the combat is much more tactical with each move being more considered. One way the team has achieved this is by simply removing the sprint ability.
Old and new playable characters will be making an appearance. The initial announcement revealed Scorpion, Sub Zero, Raiden, Sonya, Baraka, Skarlet, and newest character, Geras, who serves Kronika and favours sandbased attacks. Like Kronika, he can manipulate time, which is shown off in all its gory detail during one of his fatalities. Since then D’vorah, Jade, Kabal, Johnny and Cassie Cage, Liu Kang, and Kano are confirmed, with others to be revealed before the game’s release. All characters have new designs and outfits.
Customisation has been improved upon. In the previous game, you were only given three variations for each character, each of which came with a different set of moves. It seems that NetherRealm has taken a leaf out of Injustice 2’ s book and doubled down on customisation, this time going deeper and giving you much more flexibility to create a more unique character. Not only can you customise your character cosmetically, but you can also change how they play. There are different
“The combat is much more tactical with each move being more considered”
pieces of gear to choose from, each with their own augment slots which allow you to boost your fighters’ stats. You can change intro and victory animations, as well as which fatalities, brutalities and endof-round taunts you wish to use. There’s also the option to choose which special abilities you want your character to have as part of their moveset. There’s even an option to decide on how a fighter would perform as an AI character.
The MK series has, with increased frequency, offered more to do outside of the story and online modes. In MK11 the Towers Of Time is a mode which lets you undertake timed missions – some will be simple and last for an hour, whereas at the opposite end you’ll find more difficult feats that can take up to a week to achieve. This will be one of the areas in which you can unlock gear for your characters.
You won’t have to wait long at all to see if this entry will blast all the previous titles out of the water, as the game will be released next month. With so many improvements, both in the way that it looks and how it plays, we reckon this will be the best Mortal Kombat game ever. MK 11 arrives on 23 April 2019.
What makes story so important to the team, where it’s more often an afterthought for fighting games?
We feel it is important for the game to have different experiences. Online player vs player, single-player towers and story, all offer a different feel and experience to players. Additionally, the lore of Mortal Kombat is so rich with stories and strong characters. We enjoy, and hope the players enjoy, the storytelling the game can do through the
robust story mode experience.
The timeline gets kind of complicated after all these games, how did you approach keeping the story fresh for
Mortal Kombat 11? The general approach to story was to make sure that it expanded both the depth and breadth of our universe by introducing intriguing new characters and places. Most notable is new our new boss, Kronika, and her hourglass. Through them we learn of the much larger battle being waged in the MK universe. The depth of the MK universe has been expanded by giving our characters’ histories and relationships new dimension. The game’s story mode, in-game dialogue and the individual tower endings all work together to deepen our understanding of who our characters are and why they fight.
How do you approach trying to one-up yourselves on Fatalities with each game?
That is always a fun challenge. There has been such an awesome history of the characters’ Fatalities. There are always a few emails that go out to the entire team to, “Please, send in your Fatality ideas!” With a large studio, that generates a lot of great ideas. Then a smaller group does some filtering, organising and more brainstorming. They look for as many brand-new ideas as they can. They also look back at old Fatalities and see if there is any homage that can be done with our newer technology that can be awesome fan-service.
How do you go about deciding which characters make it in and which don’t?
That is a harder and longer process than I think people would imagine because there are so many factors to account for. Who was in the last game? What does the story need? Who hasn’t been in a game for a while? Who have the fans been clamouring for the most? Who are the must-haves for this game? Who does the design team have gameplay ideas for already? Who do the artists have ideas for already? Are we looking to bring any new characters into the MK universe? Do we have enough heroes? Do we have enough ‘evil’ characters? Just getting those lists together is always more characters than could fit into a game, so we have to cut it down and make some hard choices because there are so many characters we all want to be in the game. I think fans would go crazy if they could see Ed Boon’s spreadsheet of that process.
On that note, how do you handle bringing new characters into the fold? Are certain things dialled up to make them more appealing?
The most important part about bringing
new characters into the MK universe is making sure they feel like they have been a part of the universe all along. We don’t want them to feel any different than the rest of the established characters. We do try and give new characters mechanics that haven’t existed before, but still have that MK feel. Take our new character Geras for example, he can actually take time off the match timer, add time to the match timer and even rewind time. This is something we have never done before, but all still fits in the MK universe.
There are lots of changes to the core fighting for Mortal Kombat 11 – what’s been your goal this time around? What ‘feel’ is the team going for?
The big changes we made to the core fighting mechanics for MK11 were separating the players’ meter and having Fatal Blows not require meter. Before, the player was forced to manage one bar of meter for both offensive and defensive attacks. By separating the meters, players can break out of a combo and still have meter to amplify special attacks. The player also regains meter over time, it no longer requires the player to take or receive damage to fill up their meter. Fatal Blows are similar to X-ray moves that we had in Mortal Kombat X, however they no longer require the player to use meter. Before, players were required to decide on whether to use their meter to perform an X-ray, combo breakers or to enhance special moves. Fatal Blows can only happen when the player’s health reaches below 30%, and it can only be used once per match, it’s really a nice comeback feature that can tilt the match in either direction if you can land it.
How much do you, or are you able to, take on-board fan requests and include things at the suggestion of the community?
MK I think the fans influence the game more than they realise. However, not when they think they are. For example, when MKX came out we paid a tonne of attention to fan response and feedback, same with Injustice 2, and so many decisions the studio made about MK11 were influenced by fan responses to past games. We even had focus tests done with our previous games to ask specific questions of the fans to help influence decisions for the newest game. Most things fans ask for and want can’t be accomplished in a day, so there is just a bit more lead time on things. Like, if you tweet at Ed Boon (@noobde) today about a character you want in MK11, it’s too late for the on-disc roster for sure, but maybe DLC.
Does this game feature a Krypt? What can we expect from it?
Yes, there will be a Krypt! You can expect it to be fun. I don’t want to oversell it, for sure, but I think it’ll be a nice surprise to the players when they see the direction the Krypt has taken in this game.
“We try and give new characters mechanics that haven’t existed before but still have that MK feel”
Are there any other game modes included within the game?
I sometimes forget everything we’ve already announced, but I know I can say this. Yes, because we plan to keep adding to the game and supporting the game well after launch. The features planned to be added to the game even in the first couple months are pretty awesome. There is more coming.
Finally, who is your favourite character to play with? And do you have a particular set up for that character?
Favourite characters are always tough. I’ve been a Goro guy since Mortal Kombat: Deception, I was a Liu Kang guy before that. In Mortal Kombat 11, I’m again leaning toward Liu Kang, but the final gameplay polish is not on the characters yet and some others are also in contention, although I cannot say who, as some are not announced yet!
below Stabby blood mage Skarlet debuted in 2011’s Mortal Kombat reboot.
Sub Zero and Scorpion there, both showboating their iconic powers. Above
Johnny’s daughter, Cassie Cage also returns for Mortal Kombat 11.
Raiden’s a naughty boy in this timeline, which explains the red thunder. Top ABOVEThe mutant Baraka has blades in his arms, kind of like a more angry and toothy Wolverine.
belowCybernetic Black Dragon mercenary, and all-round a-hole, Kano returns in MK11.