2015 rolled around, and so did MKX. MKX built upon MK9 but added in a bunch of new excellence.
First off, we got “interactables,” which was a concept borrowed from another NetherRealm Studios game, Injustice, which allows you to interact with the stage backgrounds at certain points on the screen. I actually thought this was an excellent implementation of the concept, and added another layer of depth to stage positioning.
This game not only had a greatly expanded roster with a bunch of cool new characters, but we got a delightful cast of returning characters as well. Furthermore, each character was almost like THREE characters, since they introduced the Variation System in an effort to solve matchup problems. Lets say, for example, that Sub Zero has a problem fighting against Kitana. Kitana’s toolset just happens to match up very well against Sub Zero, and he generally gets dominated in the fight. The variation system attempts to remedy this by giving each character 3 different “grooves” of sorts to choose from: each variation has a large standard set of moves that is common to Sub Zero, but each variation has several unique normal and special attacks that separate it from the others. This allows you be a character specialist, but hopefully find the necessary counter tools to handle bad matchups.
I liked almost everything about this game. The thing I have to give NetherRealm the most credit for, however, is not what they did to appeal to the hardcore players (though it does) – it’s what they did to appeal to casual players.
The game has SO MUCH CONTENT that keeps players coming back. There was a massive and entertaining single player story, complete with fully voice-acted in-engine cutscenes. There is a new Challenge Tower every week, which is a single-player set of pre-determined fights to challenge players. There is the online Faction War system, where you fight for your particular faction each month, then get rewards based on the overall performance of ALL online players in your faction. There are daily challenges, like Get 5 Brutalities.
Lastly, there is an entirely separate mode called The Krypt, which is where you use in-game gold (earned through simply playing the game) to unlock all finishing moves, development art, alter outfits, etc etc. This mode is a full little first person game where you’re exploring a pretty damn large world, complete with its own secrets and quests.
All in all, this was a spectacular effort by NRS, and honestly, all other game developers should take notes: THIS is how you engage casual players. The one thing that they needed to do was have an in-game way to alert players about the tournament scene, and upcoming events. That is the best way to turn casual players into tournament players, or at least eSports viewers.