We recently caught up with Brian Goodman, marketing and game manager at NetherRealm Studios, to get some hands-on time with Mortal Kombat X and discuss the game's story, characters, and features.
As we already learned, the game's opening chapter occurs two years after Shao Kahn's invasion of Earthrealm. A flood of supernatural creatures floods through a portal, led by the fallen Elder God, Shinnok. Furthermore, many of the fallen characters from Mortal Kombat 9, whether they were heroes or villains, have fallen under Shinnok's control. These include iconic characters such as Scorpion, Sub Zero, and even Jax.
But Earth, far from helpless, fights back with everything it has. Johnny Cage and Sonya Blade team up with Kenshi to prevent Shinnok from fully realizing his plans. They are soon joined by Raiden and the wind god Fujin, and together they successfully trap Shinnok in an amulet. But all that is just prologue.
Meet the New Guys
The actual Mortal Kombat X narrative takes place 25 years after Mortal Kombat 9, and Earthrealm is threatened once again. Although Johnny Cage and Sonya Blade remain as playable characters, they've grown older, and the task of saving the world must be passed on to a new generation. Four heroes come together to follow in their predecessors' footsteps and make names for themselves. They are: Cassie Cage, Jaqui Briggs, Takeda, and Kung Jin.
Cassie Cage: Of the four, Cassie Cage is one of the most recognizable. As Johnny Cage and Sonya Blade's daughter, she inherits both her father's cocky brazenness and her mother's militaristic discipline. Cassie is also a little faster and more agile than her parents, which spells really bad news for anyone taking her on. Despite having twin guns, her fighting style is to get in close and lay on the damage. She quickly switches between high and low attacks, including the signature crotch crushing X-ray move, which I'm sure her father regrets teaching her. Especially during father/daughter matches. Other special moves include calling in air strikes or pulling out her dual pistols.
Jaqui Briggs: Although her family tried to discourage her from joining the military, Jaqui was determined to follow in her father's footsteps by becoming a member of the special ops team. While she lacks her father's cybernetic arms, she set to become a heavy hitter. Jacqui makes for a perfect counterpart to Cassie by relying on a few slow but devastating moves, as opposed to Cassie's combination of fast strikes. She may actually be a bigger threat than her dad, since she moves a little faster and has more agility than Jax. The metal arms motif isn't abandoned entirely, as there is a variation where she arms herself with a pair of robotic gauntlets for that extra touch.
Takeda: Takeda is Kenshi's son, Kung Lao's cousin, descendant of Liu Kang, and is raised and trained by Scorpion, so he embodies a ton of Mortal Kombat history. He's armed with whips that can be used like a sword or similarly to Scorpion's kunai. Takeda has a lot of range ranged moves, and can use his whips to perform and counter air attacks. Although he's capable of up-close strikes, player might regard him as more of distance character.
Kung Jin: Kung Jin was a rogue and thief until Raiden took him under his wing and brought him to the White Lotus for training. He's armed with a bow, which enables a number of projectile moves. I'm guessing he might play similarly to Green Arrow from Injustice: Gods Among Us, but with a Mortal Kombat flair. Of the four, Kung Jin is probably the biggest departure from the other fighters, since he has no familial ties with any of the previous characters. Traditionally, Shao Lin characters have been mid to close range fighters, even when accounting for Kung Lao's razor edged hat. Kung Jin bucks that trend by preferring distance.
The group of four have to figure out how to become the new heroes and distinguish themselves from their predecessors. Like all other fighters, each character can select from three styles, which determines some of the special combo moves they can pull off. It also impacts the look and history of the character. For example, one of Katana's variations is an homage to her fallen sister, Jade, and she can pull out a staff to fight with.
Waging a Faction War
All of Mortal Kombat X is supported by Factional gameplay, where players can decide to join a faction (White Lotus, Lin Kuei, The Brotherhood of Shadow, and The Black Dragon) and contribute to it by playing the game. It doesn't matter how you play the game, whether it be story mode, tower challenges, or online fighting matches. Everything you do will contribute points toward your faction. The mode is also global and platform agnostic, so players can contribute to their faction regardless of where they're located and what system they prefer. Even the Mortal Kombat mobile game, which will feature both X-ray moves and Fatalities, will contribute to the Faction War, but with a daily point cap to avoid abuse. Each week, points are tallied up and awards, which range from costumes to Faction specific finishing moves, are given to the winners.
Although the Mortal Kombat series has been steadily building a stronger single player experience, Faction Mode promises to make the game more social for everyone, no matter their play preference. The Faction Mode accounts for population imbalances by focusing on how much players contribute to each faction instead of the total number of people that join each one. Engagement with the game and playing challenges will have higher weight than individual faction numbers.
It is that sort balance, and an emphasis on creating an experience that everyone can enjoy, helps make Mortal Kombat appealing, even after ten games. All that it built on a foundation of being a solid fighting game, with a diverse and interesting of cast of characters, and (of course) a ton of bloody Fatalities.
Mortal Kombat X starts eviscerating kombatants on April 14.