Hands-on: Mortal Kombat 11: Aftermath is a sequel packaged as DLC

Fighting games have a unique history with the concept of a “sequel.” Way back in the days of Street Fighter II, dev teams realized that fighting games would eventually need balance updates. In the pre-internet days, the only reliable way to get these out was to release the game again as a new edition. That’s why there was always a “Super” edition, an “Ultra” edition, a “Turbo” edition, and so on. Each of these editions would bring major balance changes along with a few new characters and would be sold as a full sequel.

But things have changed. Arcades have given way to home consoles and internet play and DLC has become commonplace. Now, what we used to treat as a fighting game “sequel” can and usually is packaged as a DLC pack. This is exactly what Mortal Kombat 11: Aftermath is. It’s a DLC pack that is, for all intents and purposes, a new edition of Mortal Kombat 11.

First, let’s talk about what you get for free. You’ll get new stages, all-new “friendship” finishers for the cast, a brand-new balance patch, new brutalities, new additions to training mode, new quality of life improvements in the options menu, new stage finishers, and more.

Yes, all of that is for free. No purchase necessary. Just boot up your game and enjoy it.

So if you are getting all that for free, what are you actually paying for when you get Aftermath?

The first new addition is a brand-new chapter to the game’s story mode, picking up right where it left off. Liu Kang is now a god and is being assisted by Raiden to use Kronika’s hourglass of time to create a timeline that… well... doesn’t suck. Suddenly, and conveniently, Shang Tsung appears, warning Liu Kang of a great danger.

What ensues is a three-hour epilogue that rivals the original campaign. Modern Mortal Kombat games are known for having some of the best story modes in fighting games and, to be honest, this might just be the best. Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa steals the stage as Shang Tsung, reprising his duplicitous role from the Mortal Kombat movies. Also, all the DLC characters (minus the guest characters like Terminator) get to make full appearances in this mode. I don’t mean they get to be in a fight or two, I mean they have full chapters, with motion-captured actors, playing out another chapter of the story.

Make no mistake, this is the main thing you are purchasing when you buy Aftermath. It’s clearly where the majority of the budget went. I loved it, but then again Aftermath costs $40 and $40 for a story expansion likely isn’t worth it for a lot of you. After all, you can watch all the cutscenes on YouTube for free!

So, what else does Aftermath give you?

Well, like most DLC packs, Aftermath introduces new characters to the mix. Sheeva, Fujin, and Robocop (yes Robocop) are all incredible to play. They continue the tradition of MK11’s DLC characters just being more interesting than its core cast. Sheeva in particular is a joy to play, combining elements of a big bruiser with grappling elements in a way that wasn’t quite represented in the cast prior to her inclusion.

And yes, you can pit Robocop against the Terminator. Do it. You know you want to. Shout out to Peter Weller who came back to reprise his role. For a 72-year-old, he still makes a damn fine cybernetic law enforcer.

What else does Aftermath give you…?

Well… nothing. That’s it. You get three characters and a new story mode. Netherrealm sells Kombat Packs of characters for $20, so you are effectively paying double the price for the story. Once again, the value proposition isn’t quite there.

But there’s a bit of business chicanery going on here. Remember when I said you got all those other updates for free? Those updates still cost something to make. It’s clear that Netherrealm is using the sales of this more expensive expansion to make up those development costs. When taken as a whole, the story, the characters, and all the new content really does feel like a $40 value. It’s just that you are getting a lot of that value without actually purchasing the expansion. Netherrealm could have locked them all behind a paywall, but would that really have been better?

Once again, Aftermath is what we normally would have considered a fighting game “sequel.” It’s a few new characters and a story update for a close to full price release. I will be the first to admit that this doesn’t seem like a great value, but I’ll also be the first to admit that I am the type of consumer that bought all of those “super” and “turbo” and “ultimate” editions of all the fighting games I loved.

If you are that type of consumer, then Mortal Kombat 11: Aftermath is an easy purchase. Drop the $40, enjoy the story, and begin perfecting some of the new characters. If the allure of MK11 has already passed, it’s probably not worth it right now, but the free updates are certainly worth it and will likely revitalize the game for you, at least for a while.