Mortal Kombat is one of my favorite series but it's a series which suffered a great deal, well, pretty much since Mortal Kombat III. It's said every series has a expiration date and it was clear they ran out of ideas roughly around the time Shao Khan invaded Earth Realm. It's kind of funny given Mortal Kombat has a much better history of getting itself adapted than most other fighting games.
When Netherrealm Studios took over the franchise, it was questionable what they were going to bring to the table and the answer turned out to be story. Mortal Kombat 9's story mode wasn't the first time such a thing had been added (that was Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe) but it managed to give a coherent story of the first three games while also adding a time-travel narrative that didn't work too well in Star Trek (2009) but served decently in Mortal Kombat. It also ended on an amazing downer note which forms the basis for Mortal Kombat XL.
|Cassie Cage is my favorite character of the new game.|
Indeed, the biggest flaw with Mortal Kombat XL is one I never thought would exist for a Mortal Kombat game and that it has too much story. A quarter of the game takes place twenty years before the remaining 2/3rds and there's a lot of stuff which references past games in both continuities as well as discusses the politics between dimensions. For an enormous video game world-building nerd like myself, it's awesome but others may find it off-putting.
The premise for the tenth game in the franchise begins with most of the original Mortal Kombat heroes dead and raised as undead slaves of Quan Chi: Liu Kang, Kitana, Kung Lao, Nightwolf, and Sindel. Shinnok, the evil Elder God, is invading the Earth Realm with his armies of demons and the only person who can stop him is Johnny Cage. Honestly, it would have been the set up for a bad joke in the previous Mortal Kombat timeline despite the fact Johnny Cage is one of the most popular characters in the franchise.
|Baraka isn't playable. Which is ridiculous.|
The big reason for Mortal Kombat XL is it allows an entirely new generation of fighters to be created and grow up, most of which who have some sort of connection to the previous generation of fighters. There's Cassie Cage, Jacqie Briggs, and a few other Earth Special Forces which are tied to previous heroes. Surprisingly, most of these generation Y heroes are pretty awesome. Cassie Cage is the appropriate combination of snarky and awesome and reminds me of one of my novel characters.
|We're not going back to 3D and I think that's a good thing.|
I do have some complaints about the story even though I'm, overall, very positive about the developments within it. For one, Mileena and Baraka are two of my favorite characters in the franchise. They get the short end of the stick storyline-wise and I find Mileena a far more sympathetic character than Kotal Khan. Kotal Khan is supposed to be the "good" (or at least neutral) new ruler of Outworld but every scene he's in shows him to be a complete tool with no real honor. Mileena isn't any better, don't get me wrong, but at least we're not being told she's a good guy.
|Not a big fan of Revenant Kitana's new look.|
So, while it's ridiculous judging a Mortal Kombat game by Story Mode primarily, that's where we're at. I enjoyed it for introducing the next generation, having them lose enough not to overshadow the new generation, and then come into their own in the final round. Is it ridiculous we have moments like Johnny Cage and a SPOILER character defeat Shinnok? Characters who are not gods? Yes, but that's Mortal Kombat for you. This is the game where you can rip out Raiden's spine and always has been.
The graphics are excellent this time and while I may regret the loss of Sonya Blade's ridiculous outfit from the previous game, I think the designs for this game are excellent. I especially liked Cassie Cage's outfit. I will say, I didn't much care for the aging Johnny Cage's new look and think they should have let him stay as young as they've let his wife or Kenshi. Scorpion having resumed his humanity is also a bit of a back and forth for me. Shinnok's look is ridiculous, though, and he appears to be a male Maelificent. Not exactly a look which inspires terror in the hearts of mortals.
|Shinnok has looked better. Like...any other look than this.|
I'm not a big fan of the Faction system where all of your points online go to an arbitrary team which "competes" against one another but whatever floats your boat. I do like "quitality", though, where if you quit during a match then your character's head explodes. That's a nice way of rewarding players who stick to the end. I haven't completed "Tower Mode" for every character, which is basically just original recipe Mortal Kombat, but I've enjoyed the stories I have completed as well as the extra costumes for characters.
|Xenomorph is the best non-sentient fighting game character aside from Panda.|
One element I strongly have distaste for is the fact this is a game which is wall-to-wall with microtransactions. I have a larger tolerance for these than most gamers as I'm willing to pay extra as long as I'm getting extra. Sixty dollars is not my absolute limit for playing a game and I find packs with 80s Horror Movie icons not so bad to pay for. However, this pushes even my buttons as it seems like they've left out half of the roser in order to eventually sell them back to you. It's doubly noticeable when Baraka is in the game along with characters like Rain but you can't play them. Then again, perhaps that's why I'm playing XL rather than the original X.
Netherrealm Studio is probably too busy making Injustice 3.5 to get cracking on Mortal Kombat XI but I really look forward to the next installment of this series and want to see some more spin offs. I love the franchise and think this is the best they could have done with the game.