I recently sat down with Hans Lo, Producer on Mortal Kombat X, to talk to him about NetherRealm’s new game. Being a direct sequel to 2011’s Mortal Kombat semi-reboot, I wanted to know whether MKX would be accessible for new players.
“I think it is very accessible to a new player,” Hans told me. “While it does play on the history of Mortal Kombat and is a direct sequel to the last game, it takes place so far in the future that you could jump in as a standalone and pick up some of the wider story in the flashback sequences – enough to know what’s going on. From a gameplay standpoint I think it is quite accessible; you can pick up the controller and quickly be pulling off some simple combos. For a first timer, this is definitely something they can jump into.”
In a recent interview with GamesTM, Brian Goodman, Marketing Manager for Mortal Kombat X, likened the story to that of a film, something Hans agrees with. “Yeah I definitely agree with that. I think this is our most visually stunning game to date – we’ve really pushed the limits of the looks, of the characters, of the environments, in the story mode as well as in gameplay. The story is unique, we’ve gone off in a different direction from the story people may have known of Mortal Kombat, with the reboot that happened back in 2011 we kind of retold the story of Mortal Kombat, of the events that happened in Mortal Kombat 1, 2 and 3, but with a twist, with a slightly different ending, and because of that we’re now able to explore brand new areas that we’ve never gone through before, so it’s like creating a new chapter of lore for the universe.”
Aiming for this filmic feel has been a bit of a departure for NetherRealm, but Hans is keen to stress this is still very much an engaged experience; you won’t be sat watching hours of cutscenes. “It’s a little different from what we’ve done in the past,” he explains. “While visually it’s much more stunning, we also have some interactive cinematic moments, so it’s not just sitting back and watching a movie. You watch some movies, you have some fights, but there are moments within the story where you can change the story a little bit to your tastes, be a bit more involved, so it’s not as passive.”
Beyond the story, one of the key new elements is Factions War, where players from all versions of Mortal Kombat X pick a side and compete on a single scoreboard. According to Hans, “You can get faction points anywhere in the game, so playing the game in the way you want to play will contribute points to your faction. On mobile, on console, it’s actually all tied to your WB Play ID, so you create your WB Play ID and as long as you’re using that, on whatever devices you’re using, that will add the points to that profile.”
You’re not tied to a single faction forever though. Hans says that you can change, but there is a cost. “The player does have the ability to change faction later; you know if you find all your friends are in one faction you might want to change. So you can do it, but there will be penalties in the sense that you’ll have to start over, and plus there’re certain features and abilities that you get with a faction, so obviously if you go over to another faction you can’t take those with you – they’re specific to each faction.”
One of the headline new modes is Living Towers, an evolution of the last game’s Challenge Towers. Hans gives me some more detail about how they’re going to work. “The things you saw in the Challenge Towers are going to be there, but the Challenge Tower was static, the same couple of hundred challenges over and over, and we discovered that not everyone could go through all of them and some were tougher than others. So what we decided to do this time around is create Living Towers. Some are going to be hourly based, some will be daily, and some are special timed events. So, within that timeframe the hourly ones could be quick, simple things you can do, get through them really quick, then a couple of hours later boom, a new set of challenges and you can go through those, or it could be a daily one, and the thing is these challenges will always be constantly changing, so it’s not like ‘Oh, I’ve done these challenges before, every Tuesday’s going to be the same’ – no, it’s going to rotate different challenges, different characters to engage the player, to bring them back each time to see what’s new.”
So far only a handful of modes have been confirmed, and given the online connection needed to update the Living Towers, fans are worried that they’ll be no offline variant. Hans quickly quells those concerns. “There are some different types of Challenge Towers, there are some modes that will address that. We’re not ready to talk about it today, but there are other things you can do, there’s more to the game, more things you can do to get points and to engage the player to come back. Whether it’s the story or these challenges, or fighting online or even locally with their friends.”
I also asked Hans to explain the interconnectivity between the mobile and console versions of the game, and the various unlocks that happen between the two of them. “One of the things you’re talking about is the cross unlocks. If you do certain events or certain tasks in the game, whether on mobile or console, it can unlock things for you on the other platform. So if you’re playing on mobile, playing a couple of matches and you win, you’ll be rewarded with something, and if you go straight to your console it’ll unlock right then and there for you, it’s all done in real time. Or if you’re playing on console, and you beat a tower and unlock something, on your mobile device you’ll see a little icon in the bottom of the screen with a number in it: tap it and there you go.”
NetherRealm are remaining cagey about exactly what these unlocks are however. “It will be a variety of things – we’re not really ready to discuss anything about it – but for an example, in the mobile devices are the coins you can collect, and you can collect more by playing through on the console. So it can be multiple things you can unlock, but it’ll be determined by what you’re doing, some will be special events, timed and so forth.”
Hans is similarly quiet about the DLC. While confirming that there will be some, he can’t go into any detail. “There are DLC plans,” he tells me, coyly. “We’re planning on having a Kombat Pass that’ll have four characters, we’ll be discussing later on what those characters are as well as the timing of the releases. But we do have plans for additional downloadable characters and skins and such.”
And finally, this being God is a Geek, I ask the Ketchup question. “Being an American I keep it in the fridge. I think as American’s we’re all paranoid that everything’s going to go bad so we throw it all in the fridge and hope for the best.”
Read our hands-on preview.