Mortal Kombat games have been a popular fixture in the beat-em-up scene for over two decades, with over 20 games in the franchise. It was so popular in the mid-’90s that it even got its very own movie adaptation (which was miles better than that bad Street Fighter film!).
Mortal Kombat X is the latest offering in this long-running series, and it should be noted that the mobile offering is vastly different than the game of the same name on home consoles and PC as it contains some card-battling mechanics.
Classic beat-em-up games have never been a huge hit for mobile platforms due to their fiddly and intricate control systems that require precision to master. So what are you left with when you strip away what has been the core gameplay mechanic of the Mortal Kombat franchise, adding in some card combat to boot?
Has Mortal Kombat X delivered its own fatality by removing the core beat-em-up mechanic? Read on to find out…
Mortal Kombat X has a very similar aesthetic to its console counterparts. The gameplay, however, couldn’t be more different. The game uses a very simplified combat system with rapid screen tapping and QTEs (Quick Time Events) instead of an on-screen control system. This same feature was used in Injustice: Gods Among Us published by Warner Bros. Entertainment, the same company behind this game.
Entry into the game sets you up to familiarize yourself with the game’s simple controls and some of the features you can expect to see as you play. The starter battle gently guides you into basic combo attacks and then performing specific screen gestures for a follow-up attack or special move. You’ll also be given the chance to witness your first gratuitously bloody Fatality scene. Because nothing screams Mortal Kombat more than a traditional Fatality, right?!
As with most so-called free-to-play games, Mortal Kombat X uses an energy system. Your team will use a set amount of their own energy for each level of the tower they battle in. If a character falls short on energy, they cannot battle and you’ll need to swap them out. This isn’t too problematic as during the earlier stages of the game your characters will level faster than their energy depletes.
Mortal Kombat X lacks a story to drive your endless engagements. The repetition of the combatants you’ll face, and even your own team, make the gameplay feel somewhat disengaging. When you add in the number of micro-transactions to the mix, you can’t help but feel this game is a quick cash-in on the Mortal Kombat X hype that was floating around before the console release version.
The combat requires you to tap the screen endlessly to have your on-screen character perform a series of attacks. At the end of some combos, you will be asked to perform a screen gesture to have your character land a more powerful blow on the enemy.
All characters have access to a special attack. The gauge for the special attack is built up over time when you land a basic attack on your opponents. Most characters have several levels to this attack, which can be leveled up to have it deal more damage. The basic gestures require you to swipe rapidly in one direction, tap one spot repeatedly, or to stop an icon in a particular spot. By hitting the sweet spot or swiping/tapping enough, you can increase the damage your special move will inflict.
As you play, your profile will level up, as will your characters. If you’re lucky enough you may get a familiar face from the franchise as part of your team. The basic fighters you’re given are generic, but not without their own sense of style and individuality. You can also equip your characters with upgrades that will enhance their vital attributes. Some are part of the character’s kit while others are earned in game or through store purchases.
Your primary objective is to play through a series of battles in the traditional tower ascension seen in almost all of the Mortal Kombat games. Each encounter you use your team of three fighters to face off against the enemy team of the same number, progressing through each level until you have cleared them all. At times, you may fight against a significantly tougher boss or side event for extra Koins, one of the in-game currencies.
The accumulation of Koins and Souls, the other premium currency, is painfully slow. Koins are used for multiple purposes in the game and are more frequently given than the Souls. However, Souls are used for the purchase of higher-tiered characters that are unavailable through Koin purchases. This is a clear indication that the game, in its own way, pushes you into wanting to purchase currency to expedite your acquisition of fighters and items much faster.
MODES AND FEATURES
The lack of a story in Mortal Kombat X really hinders your investing into wanting to play through each of the towers. The only reason you’ll want to do so is to earn Koins for store purchase and upgrades. If you like mindless violence then the lack of a story really shouldn’t bother you. Mortal Kombat is, after all, violence for the sake of violence!
There are a few special events and towers you can take part in for greater rewards than those offered by the basic missions. Characters and a larger number of the in-game currencies are up for grabs if you can ascend the bespoke towers. One such tower requires that you only have bronze-tier characters in your team. You’d expect this tower to be easy, but the enemies are scaled to make it far more difficult than you’d imagine. I found that I had to spend plenty of Koins on upgrades before I could climb many of the towers’ levels.
There are shortcuts to leveling items and your team offered in the game. Instead of having to visit the shop and purchase the Character card you can instead opt to fuse it from your character menu and the game will automatically use the same cost in Koins for the fusion as if you had purchased the card and added it to your Kollection. The same service is offered if you have the same card in your Kollection, except this time it won’t cost you any Koins.
Mortal Kombat X tries to utilize a friend system that almost forces you to make friends with strangers. Before each battle, you can select a character from a random selection. These characters belong to other players in the game and will perform one special attack when you call upon them in battle. It’s a nice feature to have in your back pocket and can often land that killing blow when your health is too low to go in for an attack.
Multiplayer is catered for via the Faction Wars. You can align yourself with one faction and when you fight online you not only further your own rank but that of your chosen faction too. You can also choose the number of battles to fight in during this mode. The more battles you fight the higher the level of the player you’ll be facing off against. However, most battles aren’t too difficult as the other players’ characters are A.I. controlled. Making the two and three star fights fairly easy.
We touched on the in-app purchases a little earlier with some disdain. You’ll find a large number of items and characters to spend your in-game currencies on but will probably end up spending real money on some premium currency if you want to make your playing experience a little less stressful and more enjoyable. You can play Mortal Kombat X for free, but expect your progression to be quite slow.
DECKBUILDING AND STRATEGY
There isn’t much to cover here. Mortal Kombat X is a screen-basher of epic proportions. You can do little to influence a strategy in battle. Team building is only something you can do if you manage to acquire a larger number of the playable roster for your team. You’ll only ever get that far if you spend a huge number of hours playing or a bit of cash for easier character acquisition.
For the sake of survivability, you will want to purchase character add-ons for your main team. You will also want to level these guys up through online and extra missions to make sure they can take on the main missions with ease. Fuse cards as often as you can to increase their potency, which in turn will make gameplay much easier in the long run.
A few characters gain bonuses from being in the same team as other particular characters. Look for these and see if you can apply them to your team. Use characters that can freeze or stun enemies so you can get a few more free hits in after your special attack lands. Other than that, there isn’t much more strategic value to this game than what I’ve outlined above.
Mortal Kombat X is a visually impressive game for iOS and Android devices. The full beat-em-up versions are of a much higher caliber than the mobile versions, but the graphics here go a long way to making the game more enjoyable as a whole.
There are a few shortcomings, such as the repetitive battles and clear grasp for the wallet with the in-app purchases. These are fairly minor as the game can be played for free without the need to make any in-app purchases. They will increase your overall experience and make your life easier if you do, though.
I would have enjoyed if there was more of a story involved, as is seen in the console versions of the game. It would make you feel more connected to your team of characters and to the game as a whole. I find this to be either a relatively large oversight or laziness on behalf of the developers and publishers to allow this to come to market without something that makes the current Mortal Kombat series a little more enjoyable.
The card elements are minor, but if you’re looking to swipe and bash your way through some enemies, this game is as good as any brawler on mobiles and tablets.
For more screenshots, click here.
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