Last month I picked up Mortal Kombat X for the first time. My boyfriend (who has been playing the series since he was a kid) bought the game and wanted me to try it, so I did on a whim. I didn’t expect to like it, as fighting games never really appealed to me before. But hey, I believe almost any game is worth at least trying, especially if someone is recommending it. (Someone trustworthy, anyway.)
Within a few minutes of starting up the game, I was hooked.
Let me preface this by saying that I’m a pretty big fan of hack-n-slash and beat ’em up games. My favorites are the Batman Arkham and Devil May Cry series. They favor combo and timing-based maneuvers, which require quick maneuvering. Thinking that fast can be a little stressful at times, and the learning curve is steep. But I’ve always found it to be the most exhilarating type of gameplay out there. There’s nothing like the rush of finishing off an enemy with a stellar combo.
I know that fighting games are similar. You also rack up combos, and you have to maneuver fast in close combat. But fighting games aren’t known for their stories, and I’m an RPG girl at heart. Combine that with the over-the-top character designs, and I guess fighting games just never really spoke to me.
But all that has changed playing Mortal Kombat X. It has totally won me over.
For one thing, the fighting makes button-mashing fun for first-timers. Trying out different characters from the wide cast makes it exciting to figure out which ones feel natural to play. For instance, button-mashing as a magic-wielding character feels very different than button-mashing as a melee brute. In time, I found the characters whose skills came naturally to me. Through experimentation with the controls, I was able to score combos and figure out a couple of basic abilities on my own. But once I had chosen my favorite character, I started memorizing moves for more thoughtful fights. That’s what I’m practicing now.
Obviously, that’s the way to go with fighting games. It requires a lot of skill to read the battlefield and deliver the right moves at the right moment. Mastering this is exactly what makes this type of gameplay the most rewarding to me.
My favorite character by far is D’Vorah, who is apparently a new character to the Mortal Kombat series. She is a Kytinn, which is a species of hive insects that live in humanoid bodies. She has small wings and a pretty hefty set of pincers that jut out from her back for certain moves.
Initially I found her close combat combos very easy to learn; she can be a quick-hitting melee fighter if you want her to be. Over time, I came to love playing as a hive queen type of character. Her special moves include hitting her opponents with a swarm of wasps or poisonous resin. Sometimes she looks like she’s literally leaking the glowing yellow goo. Though she’s much stronger in close quarters than elsewhere on the field, she has some great distance knock-down moves that give her a precious second or two to run across the arena and start kicking and pinching her way to victory.
Another thing I like about Mortal Kombat X is the character design. While other fighting games (including past Mortal Kombat games) have over-the-top designs — including muscular men and women who look about to tip over while wearing almost nothing — X keeps everyone looking fit as fighters. Even the female characters in sexy attire have much more realistic proportions, and honestly I love playing dress-up when any of the characters has more than one outfit option!
While player vs. player battles are the meat of the game and entertaining for hours, I’ve enjoyed mixing it up with the other modes too. Story Mode isn’t my favorite, as I don’t like having to play as characters I’m not familiar with, and some battles are really hard. The only positive is that I do like getting to know more of the story! More than that, I enjoy completing Towers when I’m playing by myself. Traditional ones are fine, but I have more fun trying challenges or Towers with limited-time modifiers. It’s also interesting to play matches against a partner, selecting modifiers for each other and ourselves to add to the challenge! Just choosing the option that has the loser explode is hilarious.
But probably my favorite mode is Test Your Luck. It’s player vs. player, but with a random set of modifiers that make every battle unique. Sometimes it makes things more competitive, as when just one player has an advantage in combat (like an unlimited super meter or regenerating health). Other times, the landscape offers new challenges, such as when it’s raining toxic raindrops or vortex holes appear in the ground that your character can fall into.
But my favorite thing about Test Your Luck mode is that it’s silly. When competition gets tiresome, this mode livens things up and makes losing feel funny instead of disheartening. For instance, you might have a modifier that poisons your character over time, making your odds of winning slimmer. And that’s okay — you can blame it on the modifiers and just have a good time. Sometimes modifiers make the ground tilt back and forth or speed up time so your characters move at superspeed and sound like chipmunks. You never know what’s coming in the next battle.
Another thing that keeps Mortal Kombat X entertaining is the variety of arenas available. You can choose where you want to stage each fight, but my partner and I usually randomize the arenas. Some are gorgeous — I definitely have favorites. The coolest thing is that each stage has its own unique environmental components, which you can use in the fight. For instance, at the marketplace, you can grab an old woman and throw her at your opponent. In the jungle, you can swing on vines. In multiple arenas, you can kick something at your opponent, leap off an obstacle, or bash your opponent’s head into something hard. Using the environment gives you an advantage and creates more interesting battle scenarios!
Of course, one of the most fun aspects of Mortal Kombat is the Fatalities. When you win a match, the game prompts you to “finish” the other character by initiating a gruesome finishing move that plays out almost like a little tiny cutscene. Every character has a different set of these Fatalities that suit their personal styles. D’Vorah sends wasps to make holes in the loser. Sub-Zero yanks off his opponent’s head. Tanya stomps holes in the defeated’s body with her high heels. As awful as they sometimes play out, there’s something very satisfying about knowing that you get to finish off the other character this time!
My partner has been playing Mortal Kombat for a lot longer than I have, so I have a ways to go before I can beat him regularly. But mastering moves is a blast. It’s so satisfying to nail a new maneuver, or hear the game prompt me to “Finish him!” when I’ve won and can initiate a Fatality.