NetherRealm leaves you wondering, “How could they possibly top this?”
Mortal Kombat 11 completed its Kombat Pass with the release of Spawn back in March, leaving players wondering what would be next for the title. More characters were to be expected but few could have guessed all that would soon be coming to the game in little over two months from its latest character release.
On May 26, NetherRealm Studios released Mortal Kombat 11: Aftermath. This new expansion brings five additional story chapters that conclude the title’s narrative, three new characters, three to be released skin packs, and a host of free updates. All in all, there is plenty to experience for current players and those looking to pick up MK11 for the first time.
The story is engaging and keeps you mashing buttons to keep the plot going, the additional characters are unique and bring variety to the roster in both gameplay and design, and the free updates provide welcome quality of life improvements to an already stellar game.
(Major spoilers for Mortal Kombat 11 and light spoilers for Mortal Kombat 11: Aftermath expansion throughout)
“The Sands of Time are now yours to shape…”
At the end of Mortal Kombat 11‘s story mode, Liu Kang is infused with the powers of Raiden, becoming the god of Thunder and Fire and effectively, the new protector of Earthrealm. After an intense (and slightly obnoxious) final fight with Kronika, you are given one of two endings.
If you win twice in a row without losing a round, you are given the “Good Ending” bringing Liu Kang and Kitana together to forge a new timeline and watch over the realms for eons to come. If you lose just once to Kronika’s time-manipulating trickery, you receive the “Bad Ending”. While not inherently bad in and of itself, Liu Kang is tasked with rebuilding the timeline with the help of a now mortal Raiden who will aid the new god as long as he lives with his now natural lifespan.
Mortal Kombat 11: Aftermath continues where the “Bad Ending” left off, with Liu Kang starting to mend the Sands of Time and the sudden appearance of three unlikely companions. Shang Tsung, Fujin, and Nightwolf warn Liu Kang that Kronika’s crown is necessary to properly utilize the Sands of Time. Unfortunately, Liu Kang destroyed the crown whenever he defeated and crystalized Kronika.
The solution? Send the trio back in time to retrieve the crown to give to Liu Kang and Raiden of the past and aid in their victory. Sounds simple right? Well, when you have to put your trust in the longtime antagonist, Shang Tsung, the adventure that unfolds is anything but straightforward.
Without spoiling too much of what occurs after the introduction, I can say that the story presented in Aftermath is top-notch. Aside from a few too many, “How can you trust Shang Tsung”s, (which to be honest, how could you trust Shang Tsung?) I enjoyed nearly everything about this new story. It takes some unexpected turns, then some expected ones, and wraps up with an epic one on one battle that lets you choose the fate of the Mortal Kombat universe.
Centering your story around time travel is a tricky business, but this expansion handles it well. The expansion’s story, while shorter in length than the original campaign, has less baggage to worry about. It focuses on a smaller cast of characters with more interesting interactions than, “Whoa is that me but older?” or “I thought I beat you already, but I guess that was the other you.”
My favorite interaction was between Fujin and Jax where the two bond after Fujin explains his motivation for fighting. It is a wonderfully voiced and animated moment that shows a game that’s all about insanely over the top violence, can be grounded and mature if it’s allowed to be.
There are some really shocking moments in the story that I definitely was not expecting. It has been a long time since I ever stood up during a video game in excitement and sat back in surprise. The stakes have never been higher and with every battle, you can see how the consequences can affect the realms. The last two chapters will have you wondering, “How in the world are the heroes going to make it out of this?” and up until the very end, you won’t really know for sure.
The gameplay presented in the story mode is pretty basic but there are a couple of instances where players can use assists in battle, similar to certain challenges found in the Towers of Time. This is done whenever a moment arises where there aren’t enough opponent characters to match the number of protagonists. Whoever’s chapter it is for the story becomes playable, while the sidelined character becomes an assist tied to the right stick.
Luckily I was playing with a controller during these battles because that function would have been useless if I was on my arcade stick or Hitbox. Fights don’t demand that you use the assist function, but it’s an odd ability that a portion of players won’t be able to use if they are playing on anything but a standard controller.
The difficulty seems to have been brought down quite a bit from the original story mode, especially when it comes to the final boss fights which are a breeze when compared to the battle with Kronika. Granted I played on Normal, I was expecting at least enough challenge to keep things interesting. I might have also just gotten better at the game throughout my playthrough, so that’s definitely a factor. For those just wanting to experience the story, definitely stick with normal, but for gameplay, I might recommend kicking it up a notch.
The soundtrack gets the point across but I can’t pinpoint any individual track that felt like it elevated the experience. That’s an issue that has been consistent among the past few Mortal Kombat titles along with the Injustice series and movies in general in this day and age. It is a shame though, especially since Mortal Kombat came from such jamming beginnings. Hopefully, the next game is a bit more dynamic with its score.
All in all, Aftermath‘s story is a wild ride and a welcome finale to the epic saga presented by the last three titles. NetherRealm continues to maintain its title for presenting the strongest cinematic stories in the genre. Aftermath‘s ending brings promises of an entirely new direction for the series, one I will welcome whenever it’s ready.
A Queen, a God, and a RoboCop
Mortal Kombat 11: Aftermath brings three new characters to the roster, providing dynamic toolkits and variety to an already impressive cast. Instead of having to wait half a year for three fighters, Aftermath grants all three at the time of purchase. This is insane when you think about the current development cycle for fighting games where you might get a new character every two or three months. This brings back memories of whenever a new edition of a game was released with balances and a batch of fighters to keep things fresh from the arcade days and even last generation. Each character has something unique to offer and is definitely worth checking out.
Sheeva is as versatile as she is powerful, using her four arms for brutal grabs, throws, and strikes. While she doesn’t have a ton of ranged options, her overall toolkit and dash speed makes up for it. She can slam the ground to trip up her opponents and can leap into the air outside of view and crush her enemies beneath her feet. Her neutral attacks are especially strong and create great openings for chaining into devastating combos. There are only a few pure powerhouses in the roster, so Sheeva is definitely a great choice.
Fujin is my character of choice from the Aftermath expansion and combines quick strikes with ranged air attacks. True to character, Fujin brings together the world of magic and mortals with both elemental and weapon-based moves. He is also incredibly mobile with attacks that can take him across the screen in a flurry of kicks or a great tornado. On top of creating distance with wind blasts or krossbow shots, Fujin can also bring opponents closer to him with a gust of air that allows for great combo opportunities.
RoboCop has been given a ton of love, as is tradition with guest characters, especially in the customization department with tons of interesting skins and kosmetics. His toolkit focuses on zoning and has a couple of throwbacks to Sektor and Cyrax with his wrist-mounted flamethrower and bomb attacks. He even has a skin that is similar to the cyborg-ninjas as well. That being said he has enough going for him to make him feel like his own character overall with a ton of powerful ranged and close attacks. It is incredible to have the original actor, Peter Weller, return to voice the character. Some of RoboCop’s kosmetics retain Weller’s likeness as well, which is a really cool touch.
Free update brings new stages, stage fatalities, Friendships, and armor break moves
Even players who don’t purchase the DLC will be granted additional features and content just for owning the game. All players are given four new stages, stage fatalities, Friendships. and armor break moves.
Retrocade is definitely the most unique out of the stages added and, quite frankly, out of all of the stages in general. Players fight in front of a backdrop that projects different retro stages from Mortal Kombat, Mortal Kombat II, and Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3. The backdrop changes each time someone interacts with the projectors and the music changes every round. The other stages included are definitely cool and more stages are always appreciated, but Retrocade takes the cake.
Stage fatalities are gruesome and a nice addition, giving more options for a truly dramatic finish. Friendships are unique for every character and a lot of fun. Hopefully, these can be used in tournaments since fatalities are too gruesome for most broadcasts to make things a bit more fun than ending with a jab. Alas, those pesky broadcast time limitations might not make it possible regardless of their lack of violence.
The most important gameplay aspect of the update is the inclusion of armor break moves. These moves are able to break through any of your opponent’s attacks that add a degree of armor, including breakaways and Krushing Blows. Armor break moves aren’t new moves on their own, but an added attribute to normal and special moves that already exist.
This new addition could completely change the way that the game is played. Before this update, there was a lot of discourse about the power given to the comeback mechanics, giving too much to those who were on the ropes. The new armor break attacks add an extra level of risk to performing a breakaway and Krushing Blow, leaving players to think twice before using them. While this isn’t a one and done fix to balance the comeback mechanics in the game, it is a step in the right direction to reward those going on the offense. Not all armor breaks are created equal, however, so some additional fine-tuning must be made for this new mechanic to make it a fair option for every character.
Mortal Kombat 11: Aftermath is a fun and unexpected expansion to a game already teeming with content. Some may argue that the asking price of $39.99 for the packaged DLC is too high, and while everyone has their own perception of value, for everything you get with the add-on, it is more than worthy of its price tag.
The production quality of the cinematics is second to none in the genre and stands above many games this generation. The costs to develop the five additional chapters contained within Aftermath, nearly half the story found in the original, is bound to be massive. Factoring in the cost of each individual character and costume pack at $5.99 each brings the price to $36 on their own, making the cost of the additional story just $4 without adjusting potential savings made by bundling.
Understandably, those who already purchased the game might feel a put off in regards to the asking price, especially since they supported the game from the beginning. This pricing is necessary to bring in new players with a complete offering at a more reasonable $59.99 and to recoup costs of development. The creatives that worked on this expansion deserve the recognition for their work and if you want more story content included in your fighting games, Aftermath needs to be supported.
Some folks don’t care for story modes and want to get straight to the competitive multiplayer, and that’s fine. You can purchase Sheeva, Fujin, and RoboCop separately for $5.99 each, but you won’t get any of the bundled skin packs and you’d have to pay for the whole expansion if you ever decided to enhance your singleplayer experience since the story isn’t available a la carte.
While it can be easy to see this as the end of Mortal Kombat 11‘s journey, Aftermath feels more like a second stride as opposed to a sendoff. I wouldn’t be surprised if more characters were added to the game in a more traditional Kombat Pack 2 that could see support into the next-generation of consoles with the potential for cross-gen play.
If this does end up being the end of the road for Mortal Kombat 11, it was a heck of a run and I can’t wait to see what’s coming next from NetherRealm Studios, whether it is another Mortal Kombat, Injustice, or something entirely new.
Mortal Kombat 11: Aftermath is available now on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, PC, and Stadia.
Warner Bros. Games provided Shoryuken with a review copy of Mortal Kombat 11: Aftermath Kollection for PlayStation 4.