Beat ’em Up

Mortal Kombat X Review

Posted on Updated on

Over the next 1400 words, I’m going to show you that all of your problems can be solved by punching.

download“Beat ‘em ups”, as a young Jamie used to call them, have always had a twisted place in my heart. I have dabbled in a few Tekkens, Street Fighters and Marvel Vs Capcoms. But, deep down, I’ve always been a Mortal Kombat kinda kid. The game has come a long way since the SEGA Mega Drive days, when I very nearly weed myself in fear after accidentally performing a fatality, to create what is one of the best looking fighter games in years. You know, in a gory, intestiney kind of way.

...oops.
…oops.

Mortal Kombat X is a direct sequel to the brilliant Mortal Kombat (2011), so it’s impossible not to compare it to its predecessor. In short….it doesn’t quite weigh up. Not to the 2011 game, and also not to NetherRealm’s 2013 release, Injustice. As with many fighting games, MKX features a story mode. Now, whilst some people may argue that story modes don’t belong in fighting games, I respectfully disagree (and will fight you to defend my point). The story mode adds a bit more bang for your buck, which in this economic climate when games cost £45 you need! Story mode will only take you about three hours or so to complete, but it’s a nice way to expand on the intriguing Mortal Kombat lore. It picks up pretty much where 2011’s MK ended: pretty much everyone is dead, and the fallen Elder God Shinnok is trying to restore his power. The thing is, no one really is dead; it’s revealed pretty early on that pretty much every playable character that was brutally murdered during 2011’s story mode has essentially become a zombie working for sorcerer Quan Chi. It’s kind of ironic that, in a game that thrives on the gory deaths that it creates, death isn’t really an issue. In fact SPOILER ALERT some characters even gets un-zombified and restored to normal, rendering everything redundant. Compared to 2011 MK’s nostalgic reboot, MKX’s story certainly falls short. The whole premise, as mentioned, is trying to stop Shinnok…but, I’m sorry, I just don’t feel threatened by a bad guy that looks like the Monarch. There are some interesting, new characters, but the best ones such as mercenary Erron Black are just side-lined – instead, you are forced to play as tween hero Cassie Cage and her lame friends (apart from Takeda…Takeda is awesome).

download (1)
Quan-ChiN

Yes, four of the new characters introduced are some sort of offspring/cousin/milkman of previously existing characters. Mortal Kombat’s character birthday list is ever extensive, with now over 70 characters featured collectively throughout games. You wonder, then, why they choose to bring back characters such as Reptile but leave out fan favourites Noob Sailbot and Smoke? It seems completely ridiculous. With today’s technology, you would imagine that they could perhaps give us an even bigger roster, like that which we saw in Mortal Kombat: Armageddon. Fans who pre-purchased the game have been treated to Goro, who non-loyal fans can now buy (shame on you!), which is an issue I will cover later. Fortunately, characters are diverse enough that each one plays differently. Additionally, every character comes with three variations that alter their special skills slightly. They’re not vastly different, but offer enough to change up the flow of combat (sorry, kombat) from fight to fight. The x-ray skill also makes its return, with some very creative ways of breaking your opponents’ bones and testicles. But I find myself more reserved when using them – I’m not sure why, they still appear to do the same amount of damage as they did in the 2011 game (around 30%), but they just don’t seem as awesome. Mortal Kombat’s trade mark Fatalities make an obvious return too. Some of these are absolutely fantastic and tongue-in-cheek, full of gore and splendour. Some…not so much. Quite a few just feel bland and leave you wanting more. Additionally, you can now purchase (with both in-game and irl money) ‘easy Fatality’ passes, allowing you to input the command with one button. This results in the finishing moves being pretty pointless, apart from some aesthetic pleasure. Once, it was an achievement to pull off such a crazy move…but now, anyone with a finger can do it. It’s political correctness gone mad! Thankfully, Mortal Kombat has included Brutalities. These finishing moves require you to meet a certain number of objectives in a match, such as throw three knives or tickle your opponent’s feet, then perform a certain move, resulting in a head or arm being decapitated. These are simple, gory and surprisingly fun ways to end a match. With regards to the actual gameplay and fighting as a whole, it’s never been better. Quick paced, lots of moves and relatively intelligent AI makes this the best fighting Mortal Kombat yet. There are a few environmental interactions that can be used to decimate your opponent (such as throwing an old lady at them), but it’s a shame that we haven’t seen a progression from Injustice’s radiant arenas, allowing fighters to smash through walls or portals into a new fighting zone. There are also no stage fatalities, which was a fun addition dating all the way back to early Mortal Kombat games.

download (6)

Outside of story mode and single battles, you can also complete various ‘tower’ modes. The most basic is your classic arcade, in which you select a fighter, beat your way through ten rounds, fight the overpowered final boss, then get a quite badly written story ending. As well as this, other towers include ‘test your luck’ (returning the amusing feature from 2011’s Mortal Kombat), survival and the return of the ‘test your might’ mini-game – though once the latter has been completed once, there doesn’t seem to be any reason to do it again. The absence of Injustice’s challenge mode or, more so, 2011’s challenge tower, is very apparent. The challenge tower in Mortal Kombat added hours more gameplay with interesting twists and requirements, forcing you to alter your playstyle to meet them. Unfortunately, nothing like that really exists in Mortal Kombat X.

download (5)

There is also an online mode, which I briefly ventured onto. Naturally, I got destroyed, because these people can input kombos quickly and don’t need to look up moves like I do…losers. It’s not really my domain, so I haven’t explored very far. However, one of the first things you do in MKX is choose a faction. Ooh interesting! Not really. Factions earn points over the week, due to player achievements, and at the end the winning faction gets some koins. Maybe this has a bigger impact if you delve into the depths of online, I don’t know. Koins are used to unlock various things in the Krypt, which thankfully has gotten rid of the terrifying jump-scare monster from 2011’s game. You can unlock various alternate costumes, player cards, and concept art – the latter of which is actually really detailed and interesting if you’re into that kind of stuff. You can also unlock new fatalities (every character has two), though I would save your koins and just look these up online.

download (4)

The bottom line is that Mortal Kombat X is what you would expect from a Mortal Kombat game, but lacks some of the aspects that made its predecessor so great, and fails to deliver on new additions. It looks nice, but at a price: the system requirements and memory allocated are pretty extensive. If you’re uming and aring about spending the money, I recommend picking up the Komplete Kollection of 2011’s Mortal Kombat to sate your appetite until this comes down in price. OH SPEAKING OF MONEY! So we have entered an age where day 1 DLC, or at least, DLC announced, has become a regular thing. Upon purchasing Mortal Kombat X, you have the option to buy the season pass. This will allow you to download four additional fighters when they are released (at time of writing, I believe one of them is coming out very shortly). This, on top of pre-purchase Goro, just creates a greedy image of the game’s developers, especially considering there were so many bugs on release.  Pre-purchase incentive should be something small and ultimately meaningless, like some alternate costumes or maybe an additional fatality or two. Not a whole character WHO IS INCLUDED IN THE GAME ANYWAY. Speaking of, there are also some characters that you actually fight in the story mode, with full move sets ‘n’ all, who don’t appear as playable fighters. NetherRealm, what is this? Will you be releasing more characters after these initial four? Will you require me to give you another £20? When will it end, NetherRealm? When?!

download (3)

Dust: An Elysian Tail review

Posted on Updated on

Back in the days of early generation consoles, the 2D platformer was the pinnacle of technology and the staple design for many iconic games – think Sonic, Golden Axe, Earthworm Jim! With today’s modern graphics and technological developments, the humble 2D platformer is more often than not swept under the rug like an easy to conceal bag of incriminating evidence, save for prevalent series such as Mario. Dust: An Elysian Tail (yes, ‘tail’, not ‘tale’) is a game that revamps the 2D platformer dynamic and thrusts it salaciously into the modern day. It falls under the umbrellaing category of Metroidvania (or Castleroid) – action/adventure with RPG elements. This is a game done right.

236090_screenshots_2014-09-11_00009When I first booted up Dust on the ol’ PC, I thought that I’d wandered into some sort of My Little Pony/furry fan’s wet dream. This was largely due to all of the characters being anthropomorphic animals, drawn in an anime fashion. Fortunately, as I began to play, my initial worries were quickly cast aside like yesterday’s ham.

236090_screenshots_2014-09-12_00002Playing Dust feels a bit like you’re watching an anime film. The cutscenes look remarkably like a 90s Studio Ghibli film, which is a compliment when (aside from the voice acting, soundtrack and a bit of the writing), Dust was developed by ONE PERSON. According to various online sources (Wikipedia), Dust’s lone developer, Dean Dodrill, is a self-taught illustrator and animator. It’s outstanding, then, to think that this one person not only developed this entire game, but also drew it. Anime is one of those genres that retains a certain magic when it’s hand drawn, and Dust definitely brings this magic to life. Both the character models and settings are truly beautiful and well imagined. The world feels alive, buzzing, and full of fleshed out characters.

236090_screenshots_2014-09-12_00001Indeed, one of the game’s best features is its design. Character costumes are pretty incredible. The protagonist – the eponymous Dust – wears an iconic sedge hat, instantly setting him apart from other characters, who tend to wear more traditional casual Korean gear. He also holds his sword with his backhand, so you know he’s cool. Each character feels unique, with the exception of some enemies – but even they are palette swapped to add a bit of variety. The backdrops across the game, along with the well-designed levels, also follow this anime-esque model, and as a result create the rich, varied explorable world that Dust: An Elysian Tail is set in.

236090_screenshots_2014-09-13_00001The game opens with Dust awakening one day in a pretty little grove, lost and confused. He is quickly greeted by in-game companion Fidget (a kind of cat/bat/weasel thing, who, although very annoying, is awfully endearing…like a Tara Strong character) and a legendary talking sword, Ahrah. Together, they must thwart the malicious General Gaius, who is committing mass genocide across the country, and find out who Dust really is. The story is quite compelling, though not the game’s strongest point. It’s interesting, but predictable, and quite typically anime. Again, it reminded me of a Studio Ghibli film – mixing that wondrous feeling of magic and humour with a slightly darker, mature undertone. It touches on subjects such as war, morality and redemption, but it won’t leave you wanting to discuss the plot with your fellow comrades around the watercooler at work on Monday.

236090_screenshots_2014-09-11_00007As mentioned, the level design is another of the game’s highlights. Each explorable area is divided into several ‘rooms’, for lack of a better word. These rooms fit together like a jigsaw, clearly indicating which side access points are on. This means that you won’t just be travelling right all the time, as with games of yore, but also up, down and left. This, along with the use of height levels, secret areas and explodable walls, adds great variety to each level – nothing feels like it has been copy and pasted.

236090_screenshots_2014-09-14_00001Throughout the game you can also collect keys to unlock chests, which contain money and food. Food is used for healz, and ranges from a modest lasagne, to a slice of birthday cake, and even some Korean inspired dishes. Keys also unlock cages that contain a variety of ‘friends’. Purely Easter eggs, these ‘friends’ are characters from other indie game such as Super Meat Boy or Bastion. You can go and chill with them in the Sanctuary. Which is a nice way to take a break from killing things.

On the way to rescuing a certain 'friend'.
On the way to rescuing a certain ‘friend’.

Dust’s combat utilises both hack ‘n’ slash and RPG elements. Fidget can use her magic to help inhibit  enemies, whilst Dust attacks with the standard two button combat controls, which you can mix up to perform a handful of combos. There are only like….three, but chaining multiple attacks together, along with adding Fidget’s magic to the mix, can create a lovely dance of destruction. The flow of combat has been quite masterfully tailored, with fluid battle animations and responsive controls that you can jump, dart and dodge your way around the battlefield seamlessly. The RPG elements come into play in the form of experience, which can be used to buff Dust up and increase the damage that Fidget deals. The levelling scale is a little off, however. When you first enter an area, combat is…no exactly difficult, but slightly challenging – you have to keep on your toesies. But once you level up a couple o’ times, you obliterate anything in your path. This includes bosses. There are only four boss fights, with a handful of mini-bosses, but none really pose a threat. The last boss, who requires you to fight him four times, is the most challenging, but even then, on normal difficulty, he wasn’t a problem at all. I only died a couple of times throughout the game, and that was largely down to my own hubris when fighting a bazillion enemies at once. I have no idea what the fighting is like on a higher difficulty, but with levelling up and the various augments that you can equip to up your attack, it’s all pretty easy. Speaking of, I was disappointed that the game doesn’t feature a New Game Plus option once you complete it. Seems like it would be a good way to offer some replay value to a game that has none. Also, if you try and exit an area whilst you’re still in a fight, a little notification pops up which sounds an awful lot like the old Windows Messenger sound. That’s pretty irrelevant to this review, but I thought I should mention it. Sorry.

236090_screenshots_2014-09-11_00008TO CONCLUDE. Dust: An Elysian Tail is a good game. Not amazing, but definitely worth playing if you can cough up the dollar. I completed the game with 111% out of a possible 117% (I couldn’t be bothered to do the challenge maps) in about 8 hours or so, so add on a couple of hours for level grinding and completing the previously mentioned challenge maps, you’re looking at a lifespan of about 10 hours (IGN reckons 20 wut). It’s beautifully designed, and amazing when you think that the majority of it is one person’s work. The voice acting is pretty swish too, and you could be mistaken for thinking that you’re watching an anime film (fun fact, the game actually started off as a film called Elysian Tail). There are also plans for a PS4 version to come out soon, which is gonna look sweeeet. So yeah. If you like fun, quirky, 2D hack ‘n’ slashes, then definitely go and check out Dust. If not, well, Shadows of Mordor is out soon so…

236090_screenshots_2014-09-11_00016