NetherRealm Studios deserves all the props in the world for bring legitimacy to story modes in the realms of fighting games. For a long time gamers would just play through an arcade ladder of a dozen or so fighters, beat the boss at the end and get a thirty to sixty second slide show of what happened after the fact. Most if not all of these endings for a fighter would have little to no impact on the overall story of a series of fighting games. But no longer. Thanks to the tireless efforts of NetherRealm, gamers have come to expect a full on story that takes the reigns of a franchise and give us character moments that rival those we would see in a feature film or a game like God of War or The Last of Us. And Mortal Kombat 11 is no different.
Picking up after the events of Mortal Kombat X, Raiden is completely corrupted by Shinnok’s amulet and is taking no prisoners in defense of the Earth Realm. Seeking out potential threats and attacking them with no warning or mercy. These attacks have become so brazen that the mistress of time, Kronika, has decided to intervene and restart the current course of time and erasing Lord Raiden from existence entirely. Both sides gather an army of fighters from now to thirty years ago to reset or preserve the current course of history.
While I won’t spoil the ending for you, I will b e breaking down key moments in the story and telling you why NetherRealm has hit another one out of the park.
the death of Sonya Blade
Death is a funny thing in Mortal Kombat. Like comic books or virtually any work of science fiction, death is an idea that can be escaped on a whim. I think a lot of people view Mortal Kombat as something of a cartoon with physics to match, couple that with people taking bullets and blades to the face at any given moment during gameplay and you’re kind of expecting any death to be taken with a massive grain of salt. But during the story mode, people die and have to deal with it. Cassie Cage, daughter of Sonya Blade and Johnny Cage, has to hear her mother die as she brings down a building on herself in order to complete a vital mission in the Nether Realm (Hell). It’s an unflinching and raw moment that lets gamers know that no one is truly safe here. Not even legacy characters who have been a part of the franchise since the beginning.
together again for the first time
Thanks to Kronika’s machinations, the fighters appearing in both Mortal Kombat X and the roster of 2009’s Mortal Kombat have been thrown together in a bid for power to restart and rebalance time. Raiden is affect most of all since his godhood allows him to exist outside of time. Thus the Raiden from the 2009 series reboot takes the place of MKX’s corrupted Dark Raiden, probably for the benefit of us all as this Raiden is slightly less powerful. Either way, seeing younger versions of characters that have since changed sides over the years is an incredible change of pace for the series and injects new life into the franchise as a whole.
Kahn vs Kahn
Kotal Kahn is now the rightful ruler of Outworld, a formerly war-torn realm that was once lead under the iron fist of Shao Kahn, a merciless and bloodthirsty conqueror. Seeing these two heavies fight over the throne is insane as both fighters are physical equals and neither has plans to vacate the throne. Both fighters engage in Mortal Kombat twice over the course of the story, with Shao Kahn actually crippling Kotal, ensuring his victory…for now. Despite how deep the story tries going over the course of the game, it’s just fun seeing two giants battle each other, something NetherRealm Studios does not ignore.
Of all characters found within Mortal Kombat, few have been put through the ringer like Jackson Briggs. A man just trying to look after his friends and follow orders has lost his arms, been driven to seclusion, watched his wife die and stood by as his own daughter followed in his footsteps and joined the Army, something he never wanted her to do. Jax knows his daughter Jacqui can take care of herself, but a good father always worries, and nothing makes him feel weaker than not being able to protect his daughter. Playing on this feeling of powerlessness, Kronika offers a place at her side as her victory over Raiden would ensure Jacqui’s safety and keep her from enlisting, something she says was never part of her plan for the universe. Jax is a surprisingly relatable character in MK11 and I couldn’t help myself from wondering what I would do in his shoes.
Johnny kinda sucks
At some point, everyone has been asked if they would like their younger self if they met them. For Johnny Cage, everyone’s favorite arrogant douche bag, the answer is a resounding “NO”. Driven to his wits end by young Johnny’s constant quips and passes at young Sonya, he takes matters into his own hands and completely owns him in a fight, humbling young Johnny slightly after telling old Johnny that “Hungry people eat lunch, humble people serve it.”. Which is admittedly a baller-ass line. It’s also kind of heartbreaking to see old-man Johnny interact with young Sonya Blade, especially when she tells him that she’s not “his” Sonya, as in the one he knew and fell in love with. This game’s got layers man.
Despite his best efforts, Kotal Kahn cannot best Shao Kahn in Kombat, but while the two titans of Outworld have been squabbling, Kitana has been laying the groundwork to unite Edenian refugees with the Tarkatan hordes with Shokan warriors. A tall order to be sure as no side has been treated lightly by the denizens of Shao Kahn. Finally leading a front against Shao Kahn, Kitana challenges Shao Kahn in Mortal Kombat and leave him bloody and dead on the ground after a hard fought battle. Shao Kahn has been the series main villain since Mortal Kombat 2. We all knew he would fall one day, but seeing someone other than Liu Kang take out the big bad of MK was a great surprise and one that will hopefully last for a while.
the bill comes due for Kano
With every iteration of Mortal Kombat, Soya’s feud with career criminal Kano has been a constant. It was becoming something of a joke amongst fans as it seemed that Kano would remain elusive forever. But now, with two versions of Kano to torment our heroes, Sonya finally puts an end to his villainous ways and shoots young Kano in the eye, killing old Kan instantly. Along with Shao Kahn’s death, seeing Kano finally get what was coming to him was a breath of fresh air the community around Mortal Kombat had needed for a long time now.
Kronika isn’t much of a physical threat to our heroes as she seemingly views fighting being beneath her. With that being said, she has created Geras to be the tip of her bloody spear across time. Geras was created with the sole purpose of fighting and killing Raiden. Unable to die, with every death, Geras rewinds time immediately and returns to life stronger than before. Having died thousands of times over, he is potentially the strongest character in Mortal Kombat history. Saying very little over the course of the game, Geras plows through any opposition with a deadly precision and a Voorhees-like calm that makes him an equally terrifying and intriguing character to watch.
if you must die…so be it
Everything has been leading to this moment. Kronik’s bloody campaign to rebalance time has been about the struggle between those that would defend Earth Realm. With this moment, you find out that Raiden is just too powerful and tips the scales too far to the side of light against darkness, forcing Kronika’s war on existence. With this moment, we get to see that every inconsistency in the MK story has been Kronika reversing time and starting everything over. The first three MK games, everything leading up to Armageddon, the series reboot in 2009 and even the squabbles with the DC Universe have all been Kronika’s doing, and it always comes down to Raiden killing Liu Kang in Mortal Kombat. Armed with the knowledge of his past lives, Raiden must make a final stand against Kronika before he is erased from existence.
Trust me, there is a lot to unpack with this game and I won’t spoil it here. Go out an pick up MK 11 today and see for yourself.