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How Mortal Kombat 11: Aftermath sets up the series' future

The Aftermath story doesn't just wrap up the Mortal Kombat 11 narrative. It potentially sets up what's next for the series, period. (Warning: spoilers ahead)

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Mortal Kombat 11: Aftermath released earlier this week and added some new twists to the 2019 fighter's Story Mode. Nobody knew what to expect when the twisted sorcerer Shang Tsung made his presence felt. As it turns out, his arrival and the manner in which he's twisted the Mortal Kombat 11 story appears to set up the future of the MK franchise, but not in a way that anybody may have expected.

(The following contains spoilers for the Mortal Kombat 11: Aftermath Story Mode. If you have not played this and don't wish to have its key moments revealed, turn back now.)

What's changed?

The climax to the original Mortal Kombat 11 Story Mode changes quite a bit thanks to Shang Tsung's machinations. He convinces Fujin and Nightwolf that the only way forward is to revive Sindel from her undead revenant state, since she holds the key to defeating Cetrion and claiming Kronika's crown. But while the heroes are all concerned over how Shang Tsung plans to betray them, they don't see that his betrayal is in clear sight all along.

The revival of Sindel leads to a reunion between her and Shao Kahn and everything goes to hell from there. The planned push on Kronika's keep all goes downhill with Kahn and Sindel laying waste to the Earthrealm forces. The Cages are squarely defeated, Kitana is overthrown, Kotal is decapitated, Liu Kang's legs are broken, and Raiden and Fujin have their souls taken by Shang Tsung.

It all looks bad... assuming this all sticks, which it doesn't look like it will. Fire God Liu Kang does show up later and says that everyone will be restored in his New Era. However, that doesn't look to be where the story's going anyway, which I'll touch on in just a second.

The ending(s)

Now let's take a look at the two endings, which take place after Shang Tsung betrays Shao Kahn, defeats Kronika, and apparently conquers all. Yes, there are two endings to Aftermath, with players able to choose their destiny prior to the final battle and select between Fire God Liu Kang or Shang Tsung.

There is a "bad" or "evil" ending in which Tsung defeats Liu Kang, takes his soul, and is free to reconstruct history in his image. Raiden and Fujin are later seen reporting in to their new master. That master is Shang Tsung, who has grown into a titan himself. It's a foreboding image, but not one that lends itself to too many stories, which means it's likely not the canonical ending.

No, that would be the other "good" ending, in which Fire God Liu Kang defeats Shang Tsung and vanquishes the evil sorcerer, once and for all. Now with Kronika's crown at the ready, he can safely reconstruct history with no more concern for unexpected consequences. That's where things get interesting.

What's next?

In the middle of Liu Kang's reshaping of history, the scene cuts to the Shaolin Temple. The martial arts clan is seen practicing in the courtyard, while one lone monk is seen in a nearby shed. He is approached by Fire God Liu Kang and addressed as Kung Lao. However, the monk does not recognize the floating deity before him.

The key moment in this scene is where Liu Kang notes, "You are humble. Not like the Kung Lao I knew."

That's when it becomes clear that this is the Great Kung Lao, the original ancestor of the modern Kung Lao. The scene ends with Liu Kang choosing Kung Lao as his champion and declaring, "We have work to do."

Long-time followers of the MK lore will recognize that the Great Kung Lao was a former Mortal Kombat champion whose life ultimately came to an end against Goro, which led to the rise of Shang Tsung. There are a few different ways that Liu Kang's appearance here can be interpreted. The first one is that Liu Kang is putting time back the way it should be and that means setting every known event back into motion, including the Great Kung Lao's rise and ultimate fall against Goro.

But the more likely explanation for this scene is that it is potentially setting up Mortal Kombat 12 to be a prequel to the original series. This may be Liu Kang hoping to stop the rise of Shang Tsung before it even starts by training Kung Lao to defeat Goro. And it may set up disappointment for the Fire God, because he may learn, just as Raiden before him did, that certain events in history cannot be prevented. Some destinies just have to play out.

Regardless, the implication here is that the next Mortal Kombat game is about to enter uncharted territory. It may be leaving the modern day entirely to focus on a rarely-seen era in the series. NetherRealm may be going back to the very beginning, exploring the era of the Great Kung Lao. This offers the freedom to introduce an all-new cast of fighters, while bringing back a select few recognizable names, like Shang Tsung, an in-his-prime Goro, Fire God Liu Kang, a mortal Raiden, and maybe even the predecessors to Scorpion and Sub-Zero.

There are exciting times ahead for Mortal Kombat, but this is all speculation for the moment. We'll follow NetherRealm's endeavors in the years ahead and see if this is ultimatley how it all plays out. In the meantime, Mortal Kombat 11: Aftermath is available now on PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Nintendo Switch.

Senior Editor

Ozzie has been playing video games since picking up his first NES controller at age 5. He has been into games ever since, only briefly stepping away during his college years. But he was pulled back in after spending years in QA circles for both THQ and Activision, mostly spending time helping to push forward the Guitar Hero series at its peak. Ozzie has become a big fan of platformers, puzzle games, shooters, and RPGs, just to name a few genres, but he’s also a huge sucker for anything with a good, compelling narrative behind it. Because what are video games if you can't enjoy a good story with a fresh Cherry Coke?

From The Chatty
  • reply
    May 27, 2020 3:00 PM

    Ozzie Mejia posted a new article, How Mortal Kombat 11: Aftermath sets up the series' future

    • reply
      May 27, 2020 4:59 PM

      Oh it hadn’t occurred to me that was the OG Kung Lao, I was thinking an alternate history where Liu Kang doesn’t exist because he’s a god now and all but yes I forgot about the OG dude. Huh, yeah that would totally set up a nice sequel and prequel (of sorts). I had thought maybe they’d blend (somehow I’m not sure how) the two endings but I now doubt it and I like your theory better anyway that just disregards that ending altogether. I was wondering if maybe they’d release even more story content only in part because what the hell happened to Johnny Cage, Sonya and Cassie? Maybe it doesn’t matter anymore? That seemed kinda odd...

    • reply
      May 27, 2020 9:41 PM

      This is pretty much ow I took it as well. That wasn't "Kung Lao" aka my main /w the hat... but the "Great Kung Lao" the one MK11 Lao gets his power for his 3rd tourney spec from and the guy who was defeated and pretty much set this entire thing in motion back in the 90's. (1000 year's before the 1st MK1)

      So yes, very interesting /w where they could go with this. Another reboot, 1st since MK9 on PS3, with an entirely different story, characters, tone, etc... seeing the "olden day" precursors to Bi-Han and Hanso would be cool.

      They could make a legit action/adventure game out of this lore. Which seems to be something they've been wanting to do for a good minute. (not necessarily with MK) And have already said they finally have more in the works outside of fighting games.
      So im curious to see where this goes..

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