** The following is not a professional review. It’s my ramblings of the popular fighting game franchise based on my own personal experience. Take it with a grain of salt, agree with it, disagree with it, don’t even read it if you don’t want to. **
Mortal Kombat X is the latest iteration of the franchise, and one of my favorite versions to date. The graphics are gorgeous, the combat fluid and fast. If there is any flaw to the game, it comes at the expense of such a large story interspersed with flashbacks that not everyone may understand. I played MK9, but even I was thrown off by some of the storyline that was taking place. The roster includes some old favorites, some new blood and some DLC fighters that feature horror legends and sci-fi greats.
The combat itself is where it’s at. Of course, my complaint with any video game is the stiffness of the characters, how they jump, how they move, etc. But that’s just something we all deal with as gamers no matter what game we’re playing. In the style of Mortal Kombat, the fighting is as fluid as ever, moving from combo to combo if that’s your thing. The combatants hurl and punch one another, play off the backgrounds and set off their special breaker combos as handsomely as anyone would expect. I mean, if you want to talk about fighting, hey, it’s Mortal Kombat, what more can you say? There are fatalities and brutalities and quitalities, which are instant kills if a player leave a match.
Probably the one thing worth mentioning about the actual combat of the game, is the fact that each character now has three variations you have to choose from at the selection screen. For example: Scorpion can select a fighting style of: Ninjutsu, which lets him wield dual swords. Hellfire, which relies on his abilities to call forth his fire and smoke moves. And finally, Inferno, which allows him to summon forth hellspawn minions to help him with his fighting. So basically, instead of having all of your moves as you have in the past, they’ve been sorted and categorized into three fighting styles for each character and you’re made to choose one stance before combat. It really isn’t as bad as it seems, and levels the playing field by not over powering one character or the other.
There are several gameplay modes to choose from. There is, of course, Story Mode, Single Player, 1 v 1, Online Ranked, King of the Hill, Survivor, Test Your Luck and Living Towers. Out of all of those, Living Towers is the most inventive, as it plays with the Challenge Tower aspect but throws in the aspect of how you play is changed up every hour. There might be bonuses to fighting skills, downgrades in certain areas, you may only have to fight 5 players or win within a certain amount of time. It constantly changes and offers several different options to choose from.
Another option to add to the overall gameplay is something called Faction Wars. You choose between one of the five factions fighting in Mortal Kombat X, and your scores and ability to complete special tasks add to a worldwide collection of scores across all platforms. At the end of a given week, the winning faction receives faction-specific finishing moves for a limited time or other rewards such as Koins and experience. In the current/Next Gen era, it’s all about online connectivity, and this is a step in the right direction of how it should be done. A game that, when connected online, offers up the chance to work together and compete at a grand scale with other players that you may never even come in contact with.
The most controversial aspect of the game – if it can be called that – is the ability to collect tokens at certain points. These tokens can allow you to do one of two things, depending on which you receive. Red tokens will allow you to spend them at the end of each match to perform a special one-button finishing move. Instead of having to memorize a series of buttons to execute a bloody finishing move, you simply push the corresponding button for the fatality you want, and it’ll spend a coin to allow you the 1-button ease. The second token you can earn are Green tokens. These actually allow you to skip fights! If you use them in story mode, for example, you use pause the game and if you have any Green tokens, you’ll be given the option to skip the fight. It’ll automatically proclaim you the winner and skip to the end of the fight, advancing you to the next combatant.
While those actions in and of themselves created a stir, the fact that you can buy these tokens in the online store received the biggest backlash. Yes, micro transactions have come to Mortal Kombat, but you do not have to participate at all. The tokens can be earned through gameplay in story mode or unlocked in The Krypt, which is another returning feature I’ll discuss in a moment. Aside from purchasing tokens, you can also choose to skip The Krypt all together and for $20 unlock everything in it at once. There are also characters (Goro is $4.99 at launch and that’s the only way to play him is by buying), there is a special skin for Sub Zero ($1.99). And there are skin packs, such as a Cold War Era set of three costumes for three specific characters that I believe will run you $3.99. As with all games now, you also have the option to buy the Season Pass, which will net you a couple of DLC characters, including Jason from Friday the 13th and Predator as well as a couple of Classic MK characters. There are some skins included as well. That’ll run you another $20, or you can buy them independently as they’re released.
While Mortal Kombat isn’t the first to resort to all these micro transactions, it is a bit of a disappointment that they’ve gone so far into adding all these features. Why? Because, I like additional skin options, extra characters to fight as and as someone who has trouble performing combos, let alone fatalities, I love the one button fatality option. And, for the record, I did buy the season pass.
The Krypt! The Krypt is the first person movement game that lets you take all the Koins you earn through out your fighting – in pretty much every mode – and spend them on making crypt markers explode to reveal unlockable content. This may be a rough sketch of a scene, music, brutalities, fatalities, skins, areas, Red or Green tokens, etc. You get the idea. And while I don’t recall if this was available in the last version of the game, MKX features timed reward chests. While you are in the Krypt, there is a timer that’s constantly running, and at random times, chests will appear with special rewards in them. From what I can tell though, the spawn locations are also random, so keep your eyes open! There are also a few RPG elements to The Krypt in that you have to possess certain items in order to unlock other areas and progress. It’s a nice way to unwind after all that button mashing.
Now, last but not least, I’d like to point out the mobile app. Mortal Kombat X is also available on smartphones and tablets. This is a collectable card game genre fighter, but as you collect the character’s cards, you can build 3-man teams to fight either online or on a challenge map that advances as you do. You can collect cards with abilities that add to the teams strength, or weapons to equip to their individual advantage. The cards level up as you go, growing stronger. The tie-in with the console version and vice-versa, is that as you achieve certain goals, you’ll unlock items on either side. Console wins will unlock special prizes on the mobile version and the mobile version will unlock prizes on the console version. It’s win-win! And best of all, at least the mobile version is free! (With micro transactions to advance your characters if you want).
Mortal Kombat X is a beautiful (I use that word a lot, I know) next gen fighter. The improvements from installment to installment are always for the better, and I absolutely love what they’ve done with the series in this version. Micro transactions aside, this is your same old Mortal Kombat with not only next gen graphics, but also next gen characters to advance the story. The biggest downfall can be the story, however, which I found to be confusing at times, especially with the way flashbacks are handled. The main cast has aged, and that’s reflected, even if by simply graying their hair. Their fighting styles have been broken down, and this doesn’t weaken them but offers more variety in play style.
We’re far enough along in the series by now that you already know if you’re going to pick it up or not – or already have considering how long I waited to write this post – so I know my opinion doesn’t matter. But if you aren’t planning on buying it, at least rent it for a fun night of friendly rivalry and dismemberment. It’s Mortal Kombat for crying out loud!