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Read this before buying Mortal Kombat 11

Mortal Kombat 11 — which, as is common in video games, is not actually the eleventh game in the Mortal Kombat franchise — is not far from release. The game is scheduled to uppercut our heads off on April 23, 2019, and it is headed to PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Nintendo Switch. It is being developed by NetherRealm Studios, QLOC, and Shiver, and published by Warner Bros. Studios. Ed Boon, one of the masterminds behind the entire Mortal Kombat series, is once again seated in the director's chair.

Even if you're only knee-deep into video game culture, it seems doubtful that you aren't at least passingly familiar with Mortal Kombat. It is one of the most infamous games in history, having been the subject of Senate hearings during the early 1990s about whether or not its over the top violence was a dangerous influence on its audience.

However, there is a lot to know about a series with as long a history as Mortal Kombat has. We are diving in today to bring you up to speed before Mortal Kombat 11 releases. Pull up a chair and grab some marshmallows to roast — you've got to read this before buying MK11.

Mortal Kombat 11 has plenty to offer casual gamers

Fighting games can be absolutely daunting to learn. Combos with several dozen hits, intricate button memorization, and convoluted mechanics are all pretty standard for the genre. Especially if you are playing online, it can be difficult for newcomers to crack even fairly mainstream brawlers like the Street Fighter series, and don't even get us started on anime fighters like BlazBlue or King of Fighters. Mortal Kombat fits nicely in a space for casual gamers who still want room to grow.

That isn't suggesting that Mortal Kombat is simple — far from it — but a lot of its appeal comes from its flashy nature and over-the-top moves. A growing esports scene helps drive interest in fighting games and keep them around for longer periods, but neglecting the casual crowd (as Geek argues that Capcom has done) can ring a death knell for even extremely well-established franchises. If you look to some of the goofy fan-service guest characters (Freddy Krueger, Jason Voorhees, etc.), you know that NetherRealm has gamers of every ilk in mind.

In addition, their track record with fighting games is pretty impressive, and their cinematic story modes continue to weave some pretty fantastic yarns, with an absolutely bonkers story history to draw from. The point is, even those gamers who will barely toe the waters of online play will be able to find something to enjoy with Mortal Kombat 11.

Mortal Kombat 11 also offers a promising esports scene

While casual gamers are a key part of its target audience, there are still plenty of reasons to be excited about Mortal Kombat 11 if you see yourself as an up-and-coming or established esports star. Especially in its recent iterations, Mortal Kombat has put forth some effort to establish itself as a different style of esports fighter. It takes a bit of a different skill set than many other fighting games, and not every aspect of Mortal Kombat 11 is designed with the competitive player in mind. That doesn't mean those features will be excluded, but it shows that the fighting game community is in the front of their mind with every feature in the game.

Even though the game has not been released as of this writing, there is already considerable support for Mortal Kombat 11 as an esport. Part of that support comes from NetherRealm's history as a developer. Anyone who wants to compete seriously in Mortal Kombat 11 should probably circle August 2, 2019 on their calendar. That's the first day of EVO 2019, the world's biggest fighting game tournament, and MK11 has already been confirmed as a featured game. With just a few months between release and the world championships, it will be a good opportunity for new competitors to take the relatively unexplored metagame by storm.

With so many games, the Mortal Kombat series has a bizarre storyline

Strap yourself in, because we're going to talk about Mortal Kombat's storyline. Well, storylines — we'll get there. Anyway, here is a basic breakdown of why a bunch of ninjas are getting together to punch each others' heads off.

In the world of Mortal Kombat, there are several different realms, which are essentially different dimensions. The most important realms to the story are Outworld and Earthrealm. Earthrealm is our world, but it is in danger of being conquered by the ruler of Outworld, Shao Kahn. If one realm wins ten consecutive Mortal Kombat tournaments against another, they can invade and take control of that realm. Any attempt to defy the will of the tournament will be punished by the Elder Gods.

Fairly straightforward, but that brings us to some of the more bizarre aspects. Apparently, there is a secret tactic Shao Kahn uses to force sudden death, a single fight against him to determine the fate of the world. This all comes after his side has lost. There is also an immortal dragon king, battle robots, undead warriors, warring ninja clans, and something called a "Soulnado." Basically, you are fighting in the tournament to protect your realm from invasion.

At least, that was the full story. Then the soft reboot Mortal Kombat was released in 2011, essentially hitting the reset button on the story ... and starting up a whole new one.

There's been a recent soft reset

The release of Mortal Kombat 2011 hit a soft reset on the series timeline. Not a bad idea, as the storyline had gotten so convoluted and bizarre that it didn't seem like the writers could even keep up with it. At the start of that game, the god of thunder, Raiden, and the ruler of Outworld, Shao Kahn, were the last two fighters still standing. Just before Kahn landed a killing blow on Raiden, the thunder god sent a message back to his past self telling him that Shao Kahn needed to win the tournament. When the Raiden of the past allowed Kahn to win, the Elder Gods stepped in and struck down the Emperor for cheating and invading without winning ten consecutive tournaments.

This led to the events of Mortal Kombat X, which followed through on this new timeline, where many of the fan favorites had either switched allegiances or switched, well, states of being alive. Liu Kang and Kitana are bad guys. Shao Kahn's son, Kotal, actually wasn't so terrible. That's kind of relative, considering who we're comparing him to.

We'll learn more of the world of Mortal Kombat 11 as the game approaches release, but there are some hints that someone else is trying to rewrite history. Her name is Kronika, and she appears dead set on changing the sands of time.

Early impressions are very positive

Several outlets have already gotten their hands on early builds of Mortal Kombat 11, and the reactions have been overwhelmingly positive about what the game brings to the series. 

Screen Rant calls it an "absolute blast" and lauds the game for being an "evolution" of everything that makes the Mortal Kombat series great. They mention that combos in general feel shorter, but positioning and neutral space will play a bigger role in the strategy of fights. PlayStation.Blog praises the new entry's focus on shorter, more brutal combos, as opposed to the overly complex juggle combos of its predecessor. VG247 claims that Mortal Kombat 11 "feels like the most responsive and satisfying Mortal Kombat to date." They praise the changes to the game's super meters and combos, as well as its beautiful new animation and graphics engine.

Nearly every outlet that has played MK11 so far has some variation on the same theme: it isn't revolutionary, but it seems like it takes what people like about the series and turns it up to ... well, eleven. Sorry about that terrible joke — have a present.

Preordering comes with a few nifty bonuses

Preordering games is always a gamble, which is why so many companies float out "gotta have it" bonuses to those who make the plunge. Mortal Kombat 11 is no exception, as developer NetherRealm has some pretty enticing bonuses for players who preorder the game.

The big offer is a big bad: players who preorder MK11 will get to play as Shao Kahn. This is very similar to the preorder bonus for Mortal Kombat X, which let players battle as the four-armed monster, Goro. Like Goro, playing as Kahn will probably not have an effect on the story. However, taunting your opponents and pulling out massive hammers to smash them about the face never gets old. Those who know they're going to dive deep into MK11 will probably want that bonus, since they'll likely wind up paying for it later.

The other big offer for preorder buyers is access to the open beta, which Destructoid writes will take place March 28-31. This will give competitive players a head start on learning the characters they'll be taking into battles online. If you know it's going to be one you'll invest some time in, NetherRealm has a good enough track record that MK11 seems like a pretty safe preorder.

There are a few editions to choose from

There are three editions of Mortal Kombat 11 for you to choose from when preordering. Two of them are available for all four consoles the game will be released on, while the ultra-expensive "Kollector's Edition" will only be available for Xbox One and PlayStation 4.

The standard edition will run gamers the usual cost of $59.99, and will come with very few of the bells and whistles of the other editions. It will still include the preorder bonuses, but nothing extra is included. The Premium Edition of Mortal Kombat 11, priced at $99.99, will include the Kombat Pack. In the past, Kombat Packs have included bonus characters and skins, so they are pretty standard pickups for fans of the game and competitive players.

The big kahuna is the Kollector's Edition, which is only available for the Xbox One and PlayStation 4. It comes with a steelbook to house the physical game and a lifesize replica of Scorpion's mask, complete with display stand. It will set players back a whopping $299.99, but it will allow you to look like your favorite undead ninja.

Plenty of fan-favorite characters are returning

We don't yet know the full roster of characters in Mortal Kombat 11, but several have been officially revealed so far. In addition, a few leaks have supposedly revealed the full roster. Regardless, we know that a lot of classic fighters will be returning in MK11. We'll start with those that we have confirmed so far, then take a look at the most credible leaks.

Of course, several of the most iconic Mortal Kombat characters will be a part of MK11. Sub-Zero, Scorpion, Raiden, Johnny Cage, Sonya Blade, Kano, and Liu Kang have all been confirmed through streams and videos. Other confirmed returning characters include Baraka, D'Vorah, Jade, Cassie Cage, Kabal, Shao Kahn, and Skarlet. A few other returning characters have been shown, but it is unknown if they are playable yet or just a part of the story mode. Kitana and Kung Lao seem like likely roster additions.

Finally, there are the leaks. The most credible leak comes from Reddit, and Newsweek wrote that it includes returners Erron Black (since confirmed), Jacqui Briggs, Frost, and Kotal Kahn (since confirmed). Basically, there's a pretty good mix of classic characters, fighters that are important to the relatively new storyline, and a few deep cut choices that will impress longtime fans.

A few totally new characters are entering the fray

Lastly, let's take a look at the brand new fighters that have been hinted at or leaked so far. The only character that is confirmed, playable, and brand new is a fighter by the name of Geras. Geras is a massive fighter who can control sand and time, even able to shave down the countdown timer. He fights in the service of Mortal Kombat 11's big bad, Kronika.

Kronika is basically another new character, even though she was actually introduced (albeit unnamed and appearing only briefly) way back in Mortal Kombat 9. The first ever female boss character in a Mortal Kombat game, she can control and manipulate time. She is not a playable character, however.

The same leak from Reddit and reported by Newsweek also claims two other new playable characters. According to the leak, they are named Cetrion and Kollector. We know nothing about these two yet — we don't even know if they're actually included in the game. After the information came out, MK11 director Ed Boon gave his opinion on the leaks. Despite the relatively playful reaction, Boon was clearly frustrated. Notice that he didn't deny any of the information, however.