Mortal Kombat 11’s Fatal Blow system still needs a lot of work

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You’re playing Mortal Kombat 11 and your Jacqui Briggs has just been force-fed her own teeth courtesy of a large hammer wielded by a skull mask-wearing tyrant in desperate need of a pedicure, leaving your character reeling on the verge of death. Not to worry though, all it takes is the flick of two buttons and you can shoot him in the chest with two giant rockets, riddle his body with high caliber automatic weapons fire that tears straight through his flesh to bounce off a force field you’ve erected behind him and right back into his body again, right before you crush his face under your bootheel as you flying kick him straight said force field, shattering it. And you can do all this without him even attempting to escape your attack because you’ve just done a Fatal Blow and it’s total crap.

As Darryn’s review stated, Mortal Kombat 11 is an amazing fighting game that improves on its predecessor in nearly every way. However, when it came to replacing Mortal Kombat X’s controversial X-Ray system, developer NetherRealm Software appears to have taken a big step backwards. Like the Fatal Blow, the X-Ray was a high-damage combo attack executed by hitting L2+R2 on your controller to trigger a rendered cutscene depicting your character unleashing hell on your opponent. It was designed as a desperation attack to level the playing field drastically when you’re busy losing. It unfortunately also severely interrupted the flow of gameplay as both you and your opponent had to basically sit and watch a little movie play out.

The Fatal Blow fills exactly the same role in MK11 and has the same issue with forcing you to stop playing to instead just watch. And watch even longer than before, as these attacks have now become far more elaborate, in some cases taking close to 10 seconds to execute. In a fast paced fighting game like MK11, that’s simply ridiculous. They may be cool the first time you see them, but after a few days, they will have grown old really fast.

These Fatal Blow attacks are also bloody. That may be a strange criticism to make in a video game franchise that has become synonymous with violence, but these are so bloody and extreme that they appear to fully live up to the “fatal” part of their title. How are enemies still standing after being gored, blown up, disembowelled, or just plain stomped on? In fact, some characters have Fatal Blows that easily appear more vicious and deadly than their actual fatalities. You remember those, right? The finishers that are actually supposed to be the most extremely violent attacks in the game?

However, the Fatal Blow system’s issues go a lot deeper than just their ridiculously brutal nature or extended running time. For one, Fatal Blows are, for all intents and purposes, free attacks that cost you nothing to throw out there.

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In the case of MKX’s X-Rays, they could only be triggered when all three bars of your Energy Meter (which is built up by offensive and defensive moves on your part) were completely full. Hitting L2+R2 to trigger an X-Ray would instantly drain all three bars of your Energy Meter to zero. You used the same meter to enhance your special attacks though, which is why you rarely saw X-Ray attacks used in the upper levels of competitive play.

Why burn all that meter on a single attack, when you could use up to three enhanced special moves to give you a frame advantage when the enemy blocks your combo, allowing you to push the attack before they can respond? Or maybe you want to end a combo string on an enhanced attack that bounces enemies in a corner, giving you the opportunity to do additional air juggle combos for huge damage? However you did it, the benefits to reserving your meter for better offensive options instead of blowing it all in one go on an X-Ray attack were numerous.

With MK11 though, the Energy Meter is gone. Instead, you now have two separate meters for offence and defense respectively. While the Defense meter is a brand new addition, giving you rather nifty escape and evasion options, the Offence meter behaves very much the same as the old Energy Meter, allowing you to enhance special moves. Each of these meters only have two bars though and – most pertinently – have nothing to do with Fatal Blows. In fact, Fatal Blows are now completely independent of any other element of the game. Their only requirement is that your health should drop below the 30% mark in a fight, triggering the Fatal Blow availability.

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NetherRealm’s way of balancing this out so that Fatal Blows don’t get spammed is by making it so that you can only use it once per flight. Hit a Fatal Blow in the first round and it won’t be available again in subsequent rounds no matter how low your health drops. But miss a Fatal Blow attack while on low health low, and you just have to wait about 5 or 6 seconds and you can try again. There’s zero penalty to just using it whenever you can. And that’s already exactly what I see happening in several online games. Even seasoned veterans the likes of SonicFox are doing it, reducing some battles of intense technical skill into a simple matter of who can press L2+R2 quicker.

In my opinion, Fatal Blows need to be scaled back in terms of how long and elaborately violent they are. Yes, they need to be more devastating than your normal attacks, but they can’t be pseudo Fatalities either. I realize that the chances of this happening are slim to none though. What is more likely is that Fatal Blows needs to be tied to a resource cost, be they your Offence\Defense Meters or something else. At the very least, whiffing your Fatal Blow attack should totally be the end of it. No second chances just a few seconds later. So much of MK11 is clearly geared towards getting people to play like the high-level pros, so why Fatal Blows have been set up this poorly is mystifying.

Last Updated: April 26, 2019

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