Mortal Kombat has been about roughly forever, and surprisingly for a universe in which people’s arms, legs and heads are gleefully detached from their unfortunate bodies at every conceivable opportunity, the roster hasn’t changed all that much since the franchise’s inception. Latest entry Mortal Kombat X, on the way next month, aims to shake that up a little. I spoke to senior producer Hans Lo, to try and find out what fans of the series can expect.
GameWatcher: It seems like with the Story mode you’re taking a lot of cues from Injustice, which is sort of the apex of the cinematic story structure you’ve been playing around with for the last few years.
Hans Lo: We definitely learned from our previous games, whether that’s Mortal Kombat 2011 or Injustice; we kind of see which elements work and which don’t. What we can bring to the game from those, what can we bring to the table. Yeah, we’re always building on what we’ve done in our previous games.
GameWatcher: In terms of the story, where is the MK universe at this point? Is this a major next step for the franchise?
Hans Lo: So we’re moving things along, around twenty-five years after the events of the last game (Mortak Kombat 2011). At the end of that game Shao Kahn was defeated, Mileena was on the verge of taking over the throne of Outworld, and twenty-five years has passed since then. In that time Kotal Kahn, who’s one of our new characters, has come to power, usurped the throne from Mileena, and there’s a civil war raging between those two. Earth Realm is pulled into this, and they send off their young fighters to investigate. Is this a threat to our world? Of course, they go in, get involved, and eventually they find out that there might be something more going on here, there might be a bigger threat to deal with. And it kind of builds from there.
GameWatcher: You’ve got a lot of new characters coming in this time around. There’s a definite sense that the series is moving on, that this game marks a new chapter in the franchise history. How difficult is it to balance those new characters with the classic roster that everyone is so familiar with?
Hans Lo: Some of the characters popped in very naturally, just easy fits for the storyline. The fact that we’re twenty-five years in the future means that we can experiment with a new, younger cast. These kids were born during the classic era, if you will, and they’re now in their twenties, coming into a universe that they’re not familiar with. They’re finding out things about their parents, about what they’ve experienced and been through. So that makes sense thematically, and then we wanted to have a new spin on the bad guy side too. We wanted to introduce somebody new, rather than the same old faces. Bring something to the storyline we haven’t really tried before.
GameWatcher: The fact that a lot of the new cast are younger relatives of the classic cast means you presumably get to mess around with fighting styles and different combinations, retaining some of the classic style while adding some new things in too?
Hans Lo: Yeah, we give them some of their parents’ or ancestors’ characteristics while still giving them a little of their own unique feel as well. Definitely Cassie Cage is a good example. She has moves and abilities that are very, very similar to her father, but then she has some that are much closer to her mother. She’s got a few of her own as well that are totally unique. Personality-wise she’s got a bit of her dad’s cockiness and sense of humour, and a bit of her mum’s seriousness and focus.
GameWatcher: With the QTE events that pop up in the Story mode, I noticed I could miss some of the button prompts without failing the level. Do you have to get a certain amount right to progress, or is it largely cosmetic?
Hans Lo: No, no, it’s not something you’re required to do. If you want you can play the game and complete every single one, but you can also just decide that you want to see what happens when you miss one. Maybe you hate Johnny Cage and want to see him get beaten up, or you just want to see what happens when you mess up. It just adds a bit of variety to the gameplay and the cutscenes, which can be a little dry if you just constantly throw stuff at the player without getting them involved.
GameWatcher: You’ve added Variations in fighting style for each character, which gives them each three slightly different takes on the same core style. I was wondering how much that affected your balance testing.
Hans Lo: I think it is a challenge, but it’s something we’re very conscious about. Like, we’re not just throwing this in there for the sake of it, we had an idea and we came in with an idea of how to implement it. There isn’t a whole lot of crazy balancing that needs to be done in there. There is balance, obviously, and it’s always a challenge in any fighting game to get that right, but as long as we keep a solid idea of what we want to do in mind, it doesn’t get too crazy.
GameWatcher: You’ve brought back the Challenge Towers for this edition. Are you doing anything new with those that we haven’t seen before?
Hans Lo: Well, we had Challenge Towers back in the last game, and so we’ve brought a new version called ‘Living Towers’. These are kind of the same, but they’ll change over time, sometimes hourly, sometimes daily, sometimes for a unique event. It can be spread out in various ways, like “it’s the Queen’s birthday, let’s do something special for that.” How we do it hasn’t been completely decided yet, like what events we’ll have, but the important thing is that all the events will keep changing. If you decide you want to jump in, you’ll get a completely new experience each time. It’s a lot more work on our end, but it’s not impossible.
GameWatcher: You’ve mentioned Invasion special events for your online Factions mode before – how do they work?
Hans Lo: Invasions are a little bit different, it’s part of Factions, and it’s where every single faction fights against the same enemies. Whoever does the most damage to the invaders will win. It’s a timed event, it pits your faction against all the others, and your points from playing in both multiplayer and singleplayer will help. We’re trying to encourage players to play however they want, and still help out their team.
GameWatcher: What about the PC side of things? Often PC gamers draw the short straw a bit when it comes to fighting game ports. How in-depth will our graphics options be, and will be have a rounded list of features?
Hans Lo: I can’t really talk too much about that, not because I don’t want to, but the PC game is actually being developed by the team at High Voltage Studios. They’re the guys doing that. We work with them providing our assets and so on, but they handle the development side of things. So I can’t really speak too much about that.
Many thanks to Hans for speaking to us. Hopefully that PC port will live up to the console versions when Mortal Kombat X launches on April 14, 2015.