The new Mortal Kombat has been out for a month. The eleventh installment of the series has its pros and cons, like every installment of Mortal Kombat. However, the third release from Warner Bros/NetherRealm studios has proven to be the most controversial title yet. and not in a usual MK way either. Some critics are pointing out some of the most perverse antics used in this title and some are praising its new 2019 features. However, beyond all the hot air, and there’s a lot of it, whether you agree with some of it, all, or none of it; there’s certain things we can all agree on as fans of the series (besides everyone hating Konsumables). One of the major issues that no one is addressing right now, in spite of the fanbase mentioning it all over the place in comment sections and Reddit, is what the current roster is certainly lacking this time around, as well as what we want and expect out of the new DLC characters that are coming, with the first pack of them coming out any day now.
From its not so subtle political undertones with “Woke” Jax’s ending, to its odd AI focused battle options, five dollar skins, no more running, “create your own” variation, to the unnecessarily grindy loot chases and progression roadblocks (to encourage a mobile-game style monetization with thousands of dollars of “micro-transactions”), and mostly RNG Krypt on Shang Tsung’s island (movie-Cary-Hiroyuki-Tagawa-Shang Tsung!) To add to that, its double standard male/female costume censorship (to satisfy PC complainers), an impressive campaign that does away with quick-time events to focus on enjoying the scenes, character options in some campaign fights, the game being ALWAYS ONLINE, a return of King of Hill, an overall solid and strong netcode, Towers of Time, bad PR floating around about working conditions for the employees of NetherRealm/WB, and so on, and so forth. Many have pointed these things out and I could add five-hundred-thousand more words to this piece and still miss covering fraction of it.
Is anyone surprised? MK fans do expect controversy after all. The original 1992 MK classic title was targeted by then Democratic US Senators Herb Kohl and Joe Lieberman in Congressional committee. I can recall, as a small child and then into adulthood, that shortly after each and every installment of Mortal Kombat was released, some mainstream news media, be it CNN, FOX, MNSBC, or others, would report on whichever on title was currently out, citing the title for “promoting violence.” Then, my mother would go, “Hey, you have that game!” and we’d both smile (as we knew how ridiculous the propaganda was). We all know MK will get a mature rating and expect over-the-top, completely unrealistic FATALITIES/BRUTALITIES in every game. This MK, however, has been reeking of controversy being spread by the players themselves, not some government freak trying to control everything. Because of this, it’s been harder to focus on some of the other issues surrounding the game- one of the big ones is the roster.
The first generation of MK games (1 through 4), are arguably untouchable in terms of rosters. As a matter of the fact, the only widespread complaint was about MK3, because super-popular, key characters like Scorpion and Raiden were missing. However, MK3 Ultimate and then MK Trilogy quickly corrected those wrongs. A few of the new characters in the classic MK sequels, were not on par with Sub-Zero or Liu Kang in many players eyes at the time. Time did change that, because today Nightwolf and even Skryper have huge fan followings. If you need proof, just go the MK subreddit for a citation. An addition of any of these 1990’s characters in the DLC packs is expected and will be praised by the MK community.
The second generation of MK (Deadly Alliance, Deception, and Armageddon) is a slightly different story. On one hand, in the early 2000’s, MK took mid to low popularity characters, and elevated them to superstars. Although Frost has made a longtime comeback in MK11, Mileena and Quan Chi, originally from MK2 and MK4, became must-have characters, since 2002’s DA and 2004’s Deception are both missing from MK11. The community complained right before the release of the game to the point where MK co-founder, NetherRealm Studio Lead and Creative Director, Ed Boon, trolled fans about Mileena- in particular on Twitter. Shujinko, Havik, Kenshi, Fujin, and Drahmin are just some of the roster demands made by fans. As most fans agree, though, there are a fair share of duds, such as Kobra, and few would ask for them. 2007’s Armageddon, without any debate in terms of its roster, is the pinnacle of any MK game, featuring all 60-plus characters from the series in the same game.
Now, for the current era, with the last two NetherRealm releases: MK11 and MKX. Mortal Kombat 11 had one of the strongest rosters ever, if you disregard Armageddon. MK9 only featured 28 playable characters, later becoming the first game to add post-launch DLC characters, release 4 of them, including the first “guest” character, Freddy Krueger. Thanks to the Warner Bros. license, the Nightmare on Elm Street dream-killer had fun but mixed reactions from the MK faithful. The base roster features only characters who were in the first four games: all the ninjas, all the cyber ninjas, the Thunder God, and so on.
MKX focused on the future of MK. With the smallest roster since Deadly Alliance, of 24 characters, 8 were brand new, coming into play 25 years after the original world tournament. The descendants of Sonya, Jax, Kung Lao, Kenshi, Shao Kahn’s replacement Kotal Kahn, a cowboy-ish Outworld bounty hunter, the odd twosome Ferra/Torr, and the “buglady” D’Vorah. The tenth installment added two DLC packs, bringing the number of add-on characters to 9, with 4 of the 8 being guest characters. Jason, Alien, the Predator, and Leatherface are all fun to play, yes, but their inclusion in MKX has received mix reactions for a reason.
To put it bluntly, MK releases are once every five years and the way NetherRealm has been going, we will only see a roster of 25. It becomes less with each title and is maybe a fourth of the characters from the existing MK universe. If you considering them adding in some new characters for good measure, that reduces the current roster even further. Every DLC spot is critical to the player base and to every player who wants their character back in the game. Even if we have 3 DLC player-packs this time, we are looking at maybe 12 more characters, at best, until the next Mortal Kombat, which will probably release in 2024 or later.
Guest characters, like the Predator, arguably may be a more wanted addition than Dairou? Sure, but that doesn’t put aside or nullify the other 50 MK fighters whose absences are being felt by the community. It is impossible to make every fan content, but focusing on the MK Universe will prove fruitful and would influence MK gamers to spend even more of their money on DLC player packs, if they are getting the return of their longtime, beloved mains. The doing away of these “guests” would be a fruitful endeavor for Ed Boon and NetherRealm to prove that they do care about the player base and more people will overlook the many issues surrounding Mortal Kombat 11’s release.