Mortal Kombat 11 has been out for around a year, and in NetherRealm’s latest gore-packed fighting extravaganza, the attacks are even more devastating. It’s a game that will help you learn the ropes of battle before you have to go head-to-head against real human players, but if you don’t play Mortal Kombat 11 correctly, you’ll find yourself losing match after match as your enemy counters your every move and finishes you off with a ridiculous Fatality. Using our Mortal Kombat 11 beginner’s guide, you can make sure that doesn’t happen to you. This is what you need to know when you’re getting started with the game.
Mortal Kombat 11 is less combo-focused than its predecessors, relying more heavily on short strings of attacks and your ability to control the playing field with projectile attacks, jumps, and anti-air attacks. The majority of fights are best-of-three matches.
Your four standard attacks are tied to the face buttons on your controller. On Xbox One, your punches are tied to the X and Y buttons, while your kicks are tied to A and B. You can experiment with these in order to execute your favorite attacks, and by moving the directional pad in a certain direction while pressing a button, you can use a character’s special attacks.
Almost every attack you can do is dependent on the character you choose. Press the Start or Menu button during an offline battle, and you’ll see the Move List option. This gives you full access to all of your fighter’s moves, including basic combo attacks to try. One fighter may have an X-Y-X combo that does plenty of damage, but another fighter could have this button string omitted from their abilities entirely.
When you’re not attacking your enemy, you’re likely blocking their attacks. Blocks come in two varieties – high and low – and whether or not you block an incoming attack is determined by which block you do and which attack an enemy does. Unlike in some other fighting games like Dragon Ball FighterZ, blocking requires you to also hold down the right trigger, and if you time your block perfectly, you can follow with a quick counter-attack.
Block too frequently, and an enemy can counter with a grab. By standing close to an enemy’s position and pressing LB or L1, a player can grab them and perform a damaging attack before tossing them aside. You can perform a break when being grabbed by quickly pressing one of the Face buttons, pushing the enemy away in the process.
How to deal more damage
There are a few different ways that you can deal extra damage in Mortal Kombat 11 and shift the momentum of a fight back in your favor. Using all of these techniques together is crucial to success, especially in high-level play.
Fatal Blows: A new type of attack introduced in Mortal Kombat 11, the Fatal Blow attack becomes available after your health drops below 30%, and it can only be used once per round. Pull it off properly by landing a hit without an opponent blocking it, and you’ll knock off about 25% of their health in one go.
Amplified attacks: Each fighter in Mortal Kombat 11 has certain attacks that can be amplified by using a piece of the offensive meter visible in the corner of the screen. This is done by pressing RB or R1 during the course of a specific attack, and you can check the move list for each character to learn which attacks can be amplified. For Scorpion, his famous “Spear” move can lead into a quick string of blows, potentially keeping an enemy from escaping.
Environmental attacks: Every stage in the game has environmental interactivity, usually indicated by an object in the background or at the far end of either side. Some of these facilitate big jumps back to the middle of the stage, but others allow devastating attacks. If you see a sword, chainsaw, or other dangerous-looking object, hit RB or R1, and you can use it as a one-time-only weapon. These attacks can be blocked and interrupted, however, so use the same care you do for normal attacks.
Air attacks: Air-based attacks, particularly kicks, do a tremendous amount of damage. By jumping forward and hitting B or Circle, you can knock off a significant portion of your enemy’s health and send them flying backward. It’s a great option for stopping their onslaught, but you have to be careful — anti-air attacks such as Down-Y and Down-Triangle will counter your blow, allowing for your enemy to then deliver their own string of attacks.
Mortal Kombat 11 includes the series’ famous Fatalities, which can be performed in most of the game’s modes after you’ve won two out of three fights in a match. The moves are different for every character, as are the button inputs you must use to activate them.
The Fatalities for your character are available in the move list menu, but they won’t all be available from the very beginning — one can be used from the start, and it’s typically the easiest to execute.
Next to the name of the Fatality, you’ll see a word in parentheses — “close,” “mid,” or “far.” This determines where you need to be in a position in order to get the Fatality to work. For “close,” you have to be right up against your enemy, while “far” requires you to be far away. If you are having trouble determining the appropriate distance, the game’s tutorial mode includes Fatality practice that will highlight an area on the ground.
Modes to try first
Mortal Kombat 11 has several different modes to choose from on the main menu, and it can be a little overwhelming upon first loading the game. Below are the modes you should try first in order to get yourself acquainted with the game’s mechanics.
Tutorial: Yes, the tutorial is extremely helpful in Mortal Kombat 11, even if you are a fighting game veteran. Not only does this mode give you a rundown of the game’s basic mechanics as well as advanced techniques, but there are also character-specific tutorials available at the bottom of the page. These don’t teach you every one of your fighter’s moves, but they do teach you several that you can use to stay competitive in a match.
Practice: Practice allows you to try out every one of your character’s attacks against a stationary opponent. Free from the pressure of having to defend yourself, it gives you the opportunity to learn the timing of your moves and see how enemies will react to being hit. Before you try out a single fight with a new character, we recommend heading to Practice.
Story mode: Mortal Kombat 11’s story mode will take you about five hours to complete, and in addition to giving you plenty of fights against different opponents, it also forces you to try out a huge number of characters. You won’t play as everyone available in the game, but you will get a sense of what type of characters you prefer. By the end of the story mode, you’ll have to make use of every tactic and strategy you’ve learned in order to win, and you’ll be prepared to face off against other people when the credits finally roll.
Gear and customization
Mortal Kombat 11 has an extensive customization system that allows you to create the ideal version of your favorite character. Some of the changes you make will be cosmetic, while others can have an impact on how the character performs or plays.
On your character customization screen, you’ll find an Abilities page. Here, you can swap out the abilities you have equipped and change them with new ones to better fit your play style. Certain abilities take up more than one slot, so you have to pick them carefully, but this allows you to have an ideal character made specifically for you.
Alongside a skin, each character in Mortal Kombat 11 uses three pieces of gear. Generally, this consists of one headpiece and two weapons, each of which can be upgraded to allow for augmentation. As you level up each piece of gear through combat, slots for augmentation items become available, slightly altering statistics.
Gear progression is tied to specific pieces of gear — this means that if you decide you want to use Baraka’s new blades over the ones you’ve had for days, you’re going to have to level them up again. Once you unlock augmentation slots, however, you can spend coins to re-roll them and potentially get different slots that support your available augmentation items.
You’re going to unlock more gear and augmentation items in a few different ways. Some of them will be available by playing the story mode and completing Towers of Time towers, which will also reward you with coins and other currency. If you want a particular piece of gear and need to know how to get it, you can select it on the Customization page, and it will detail the mode in which it’s unlocked.
Most of your other gear will be unlocked in the Krypt, which is an exploration-based mode filled with chests. Most of these can be unlocked using the game’s standard coin currency, and the chests with higher requirements have rewards like new gear, new Fatalities, and augmentation items. Some others require specific items such as hearts, which can be acquired by performing Fatalities.
The Krypt looks small at first glance, but it can be expanded as you continue progressing. A hammer found in the first room can smash through damaged doors and walls, and you’ll discover puzzles that will eventually open up additional pathways.
You will not be able to go into the Krypt and get everything you want in one go — instead, you should go back and forth between Towers of Time or Klassic Towers and the Krypt, spending the coins you receive along the way. Once you beat the story mode, this will be your main activity whenever you’re not fighting other players.
Master a handful of fighters
It’s possible to learn the ins and outs of every fighter in Mortal Kombat 11, but it’s not practical. You’ll likely gravitate toward a specific handful of fighters based on their moveset and “feel.” Once you do find a character you like, you should double down on learning their moves and improving with them, as opposed to being moderately familiar with a large selection of fighters.
This way, you’ll likely do better against skilled opponents who are very familiar with the game. This isn’t to say you shouldn’t try out other characters — but you’ll be better off if you master a few of them.
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