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Character variations also help to keep things diverse. He’s part of the Lin Khuei, adversary to Scorpion, and freezes things! MKX’s X-Ray techniques, serving as a last-ditch comeback mechanic that can be activated once per match when your health is nearly depleted, adding a heightened tension when things get down to the wire. But the story is a great primer for some of the series’ more popular characters nonetheless, and the joys of Kronika’s time manipulation means that even if you’re a passing fan and aren’t up-to-date with all of the wacky stuff that’s happened in the universe lately, you can still get a kick out of seeing classic versions of familiar faces, who are just as baffled as you about what’s happened to their future selves since. Three brand new characters do their best to help the lineup branch out–Geras is an imposing heavy with the ability to rewind and manipulate time, Cetrion is an elder god with flashy elemental projectiles, the Kollector has a wonderfully unsettling and bamboozling six-armed demonic design–and they all add an inspired diversity to the familiar roster of magical ninjas and military hard-asses.

It’s valuable information and knowledge that NetherRealm has been building upon in its last few games and is presented at its best in MK11. Following the good work seen in Injustice 2, Mortal Kombat 11 features a comprehensive series of fantastic practical tutorials, with everything from teaching you basic attacks to more advanced lessons on managing the ebb and flow of a match, strategies on how to change or maintain the dynamic of a fight (like dealing with corners or projectile spam), and how to approach building your own combos.

When our review-in-progress was first published, the balance of difficulty seen in the Towers Of Time was in such a state that the odds were always stacked against you–negative environmental modifiers only affected you and not your opponent, AI difficulty was relentlessly high, opponents were more robust, and as a result the challenges often felt horribly cruel and unbalanced. Even the demanding boss fight-style challenges only ask you to endure one round before showering you with the payouts on offer.

In addition to the game’s story mode, MK11 sees the return of Klassic Towers, a more straightforward single-player mode where you fight a series of opponents before eventually facing big boss Kronika. Separate meters for offensive and defensive techniques, along with rapid recharge rates, mean they can be used more liberally, too. All of these tweaks mean there is rarely a low moment in a Mortal Kombat 11 fight. This is the developers’ first Mortal Kombat game designed under Netherrealm Studios. But the real meat of the single-player offering is the Towers Of Time, MK11’s version of the limited-time ladders seen in other NetherRealm games, which feature unique modifiers that can affect the playing field, combatants, and mechanics.