Mortal Kombat X – Android
Release Date (NA): May 4th, 2015
Developer: NetherRealm Studios
Publisher: Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment
Nerd Rating: 7 out of 10
Update: Due to some recent updates to the app, I’ve tacked on some additional information at the very bottom in red. The review as originally written is previewed below!
Original review from June 9th, 2015
Normally I don’t pay all that much attention to tie-ins and gimmicks such as these, but after hearing of a number of unlockable costumes that could only be accessed via the “MKX App,” I decided to give it a shot. Besides, I just recently got myself a brand new Galaxy Tab A to replace my aging (and honestly, quite shoddy) Galaxy Tab 3 and it seemed as though this memory-intensive program would be the perfect test of the tablet’s abilities.
I’m giving Mortal Kombat X on the Android a soft 7 – not compared to today’s console games but compared to today’s mobile games. It’s definitely a companion piece to the console version, though it could be seen as a relatively decent “poor man’s MKX” and the two games are different enough from each other that you won’t feel like you’re wasting your time with a scaled down version on your mobile device. It’s structured like a collectible card game. It starts the player off with a few random “cards” and one must build their collection from there.
Each card represents a character or variation thereof of an actual MKX character, with a few “grunts” added such as a Lin Kuei solider, Shirai-Ryu ninja, Saurian, etc. The cards have stats like health and power, as well as associated special moves, themselves at levels 1, 2, and 3, each of which can be upgraded several times. There are also support cards to augment the character cards, increasing things like health, recovery, and strength, as well as equipment cards that can be moved from character to character. The character cards themselves are ranked as either bronze, silver, or gold, ultimately determining their starting attributes. For instance level 10 gold card could easily hold its own against a level 20 silver card.
Cards can be bought with the money earned in-game from fighting matches. Many of the support cards can be found randomly, and cards can be bought at random using another form of currency, “alliance koins.” Ideally, one uses cheaper bronze cards to begin with, levels them up, and earns enough money for silver cards, and then they are leveled up and used to earn money, resulting in the purchase of gold cards. It’s advantageous to procure as many gold cards as possible as quickly as possible; it takes the same amount of time to level up a gold card as it does a bronze card, but a gold card is far more powerful.
So what does this plethora of stats, upgrades, leveling, support cards, and more actually do? They all act to determine the results of actual combat. Unlike a real world card game, results are not determined purely by card statistics or randomizers such as dice. No, the players are able to engage in an actual fighting game! MKX does a nice job at balancing the strategic and collecting aspects with physical combat. Stronger characters often best weaker characters in battle, though there is a significant range where combat prowess matters – for instance a level 38 card versus a level 41 card does not automatically mean that the latter will win. Besides ancillary aspects like special moves and their upgrades and any attached support cards, the outcome is also dependent on how well one can “fight,” in an albeit limited but functional form.
Fighting is done through tapping one’s fingers on the screen. Blocking is done by holding 2 fingers down. It’s a tricky balance scoring hits on your opponent without letting them score hits on you and it’s actually a good deal more fun than it sounds. It takes some time to figure out the best strategy when it comes to making the most hits and blocking your opponents’ hits. Special moves and their timing also play a crucial role in combat (often inflicting significant damage or doing things such as draining their special move meter, stunning them, or setting them on fire) and are themselves composed of small events to determine the percentage of damage dealt (such as quickly tapping circles, swiping a certain area rapidly, and so on).
Matches themselves are conducted between 2 groups of 3 cards. This leads to an interesting situation where one can “tag out” and “tag in” partners; tagged our partners have the chance to charge their special move meters and regain some lost health, dependent on that card’s stats and supplemental abilities. Although the gameplay itself is fairly basic, it is set up in such an intricate way that loads of possibilities are available and the outcome is often determined by more than just who has the most powerful cards. The 3 card system also has the advantage of leveling up new cards. One can stick a new and/or weak card with 2 powerful ones, fight a match that can be won using those 2, and quickly level up the new card. This makes the transition from bronze to silver to gold much more feasible and results in a lot less needless backtracking.
Currently there are 2 main modes of play, Battle Mode and Faction War, though more are expected in future updates.
Battle Mode acts as the single player campaign, taking the player through ever increasing towers of difficulty. Occasionally one will confront a “boss” and even get to perform fatalities straight out of the console versions of MKX. It’s a good chance to level up your own “main team” of characters and pick up new cards along the way.
Also available for matches in Battle Mode is the chance to use an ally. The app presents the player with a list of allies before the match begins, along with basic information like what sort of attack is their strongest and how much damage it will yield. These allies can be tagged in a single time during the fight, usually inflicting massive damage against an opponent’s fighter if not outright killing them. There’s a whole system of “adding friends” to go along with these allies; basically it all boils down to awarding everyone with a steady supply of “alliance koins” which can be used to regularly buy a random card.
However, even if one sticks with the same team, they won’t quite find themselves leveling up as quickly as the towers increase in difficulty, so some extraneous kombat becomes necessary. Supplemental cards and a healthy supply of money will help, but there’s no substitute for leveling up, except the occasional “level up” card. The good news is that one can go back and play previously beaten towers in Battle Mode. One can also enter into the Faction War and “play against” human opponents. I’m not really sure how this is set up since there are a variety of indicators that the play is not happening in real time (no waits to find matches, no countdowns until the match begins, things like that) though “the human fighters” definitely fight differently than the 1-player opponents, so I guess it’s using real human data somehow.
The Faction War battles are a tad unpredictable as the system doesn’t always match one with comparable opponents, so this can get a little annoying, especially as one tries to complete the harder, multi-battle challenges. It is a good place to train weaker cards though. Also, each character has “stamina,” meaning they can compete in roughly 5 battles before they’re “exhausted.” Each fight takes away 2 bars of stamina, and it takes about 10 minutes to restore 1 bar. Souls, another type of in-game currency, can also be used to restore characters. However, once you’ve built up several character cards, one can go train and participate in Faction Battles/weaker Battle Mode towers with other teams of 3 cards. If you’re reasonably successful at fighting, the game will keep you well-stocked on souls, so you should have no problem re-energizing cards when you really need to.
Overall, it’s a rather complex little system that works out for the most part. The only really issue is the procurement of koins, which can really halt progress. Earning coins is slow, and upgrading characters/moves and buying new cards is quite expensive. In-app purchases are available, and while they can be useful, MKX does not rely on these purchases to be a successful player, nor do the players who have bought such items dominate the game. Not being nickel and dimed to death has really helped sustain my interest and I’m pleased at how well I’ve been able to advance. I should mention that a persistent glitch helped me progress; for a few days, I was able to claim a console reward over and over. Once this card had been maxed out, I could sell it for 1,200 koins. I was able to exploit this fact over and over again and build a substantial fortune, though the error has since been fixed, and I don’t know whether or not this was happening just on my machine or whether it was widespread.
It should be noted that occasionally (once a week, maybe?) an additional mode appears for 24 hours which will allow to one to gains lots of money through fighting. The drawback here is that none of this fighting counts towards your cards’ experience points. I can understand this mode not being available all the time, but once a week can be tricky if you’re not the kind of person who has time to sit down with the app every day.
The interactivity between the console version of MKX and the mobile MKX works out fairly well, though it does seem that there are a few kinks to work out. Actions in the console game unlock things in the mobile version (koins and cards mostly) while achievements in the mobile version unlock things in the console version, generally koins, kombat kard constituents, and most awesomely, alternate costumes! This is what got me into the app in the first place; some costumes are very easy to unlock (for example by linking the accounts) while others take a bit more work (complete 100 multiplayer matches) and there’s one that seems to defy what’s currently available in the game. Hopefully this will be resolved soon. Recent updates have already made significant improvements to the app’s connectivity and glitchiness. Best of all, the app itself includes the conditions need for both requirements – console to mobile and mobile to console – so you know exactly what needs to be done. It still looks as if some console requirements aren’t registering with the app, but this doesn’t seem to be a connectivity issue as most other cross platform requirements regularly update, usually within a mater of seconds.
Graphically, MKX looks quite nice. It isn’t nearly as detailed as the console version, but it definitely retains the same look. It feels very much like something that’s official, which is another great incentive to keep players vested. Special moves, X-ray moves, arenas, music, and even the few fatalities are lifted straight from the game; I really enjoy the “official feel” of the app. Aside from the few glitches, performance on my Samsung Galaxy Tab A is excellent – no slow down, almost 100% connectivity, and reasonable load times.
Hopefully the few small issues that plague this MKX mobile app will continue to be improved upon through future updates. Getting koins is the biggest hurdle. It would also be great if one had a way of selling off unused cards in one’s collection. When a card is “maxed out” it will be automatically sold, but until then, it remains in one’s collection. In the beginning this is great, but once one begins to settle on 2 or 3 teams and build them up, certain cards, especially character cards and support for those characters, become dead weight. I’ve got 2 teams of 2 silvers and a gold each, and a few other bronze and silvers at high levels…why am I ever going to worry about competing with another bronze card?
There’s also a yet-to-be-seen challenge mode (“finish a challenge ladder” is he only mobile-to-console unlock I haven’t achieved – and it gives us Mileena’s Klassic outfit!) that seems to be delayed due to the developers. I do hope that the developers will continue to support the game and add new features; after making a good bit of progress it can began to feel a little like endless grinding and it’d be great if there was a little more to do with these uber-beefed up cards.
I found myself enjoying this mobile version of Mortal Kombat X more that I thought I would. It’s a bit repetitive, but it’s also addictive. Even though I’ve got a “main” team that I concentrate most of my time and resources on, I’ve found myself increasingly interested in leveling up other cards. As I said, I hope the developers keep adding elements to this game; were it a little more expansive it would have a good chance of standing on its own as a “pretty cool app.”
It’s a doozy of a download (1 GB) and surely takes a good bit of processing power to run itself, but if you’ve got a decent tablet or smartphone and you’re into Mortal Kombat, this could be right up your alley. I would definitely recommend it for those with the console version of Mortal Kombat X – it’s a fun on the go version with enough depth that you won’t be putting it down too quickly!
Update: Just recently there was a substantial update to the app, adding the long awaited challenge towers! It’s still fighting and card trading as usual, but it provides an all new way to gain souls, money, experience points, and best of all, new cards. The koin challenges also seem to appear regularly now, appearing for one day per week. There’s no need to go into all that much detail (since you’re still doing the same basic things), but it’s nice to have it laid out a little differently and a new way to build up resources a little faster. I’m looking forward to what they add next…
Also check out our other Mortal Kombat X articles:
- Mortal Kombat X – PS4 – Review
- 10 Things MKX Did Right
- Top 10 MKX Fatalities (with Video)
- Top 10 MKX Brutalities (with Video)
- Top 10 Worst MKX Fatalities (with Video)
- Tanya – Video Demo
- Jason Voorhees – Video Demo
- Official MKX Wired Fight Pad
- First Impressions – Mortal Kombat X
Reviewed by The Cubist
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