Mortal Kombat 11 on PC: Here's the deal with microtransactions and performance

Mortal Kombat 11 currently has a 'Mostly Negative' user rating on Steam, with 453 positive reviews and 773 negative reviews at the time of writing. A controversial Mortal Kombat game? It's hard to believe, but it's true.

In a sampling of the positive reviews you'll find praise for the tutorials (they're great), campaign, and general fighting system. The reasons for the bad reviews include anger over microtransactions and the late PC launch, disappointment over the graphics, technical problems such as crashing, and, in some cases, "political correctness" with regards to some of the character designs. (In short, they're mad that they don't personally find the women in the game sexier, and can be ignored.)

As more reviews trickle in, the response will probably balance out a bit more. Those who experience crashing are more likely to express discontent immediately than someone analyzing the fighting systems before dropping an opinion. We'll have a review of Mortal Kombat 11 that does just that soon.

In the meantime, I won't dig into the fighting or story much here. I've only spent a few hours with MK11 to assess its surface qualities, such as performance, settings, microtransactions, and servers. Here's the good and bad of it so far:

The good

  • Built-in benchmark (standard for modern fighting games)
  • Stable 60 fps during fights (i7-6700K @ 4GHz, GeForce GTX 980, 16 GB RAM)
  • Quick matchmaking
  • My online matches have been free of noticeable lag so far
  • Great tutorials, including character-specific tutorials
  • Decent set of graphics options
  • Supports ultrawide resolutions in fights
  • Offline play for the story mode, Klassic Towers, local fights, and practice

The bad

  • Locked to 60 fps in fights (typical for fighting games), and dips to 30 fps for certain scenes (Fatal Blows, Brutalities, Fatalities), in menus, and in the non-combat Krypt mode
  • Ultrawide not supported by menus or Krypt mode
  • Must be online to play the Towers of Time mode
  • Must be online to store and retrieve character customizations (they're temporary while offline)
  • The over-complicated multi-currency system and store are a bit much
  • It's been stable for me, but some users report crashing

The microtransactions and grind

The microtransactions seem to be the primary point of pain for MK11's Steam critics. One thing that's being pointed to often is that, if you want to, you can spend $6 for the character Frost. It's a bit shady, because the in-game store doesn't mention that you can also unlock Frost for free in the story mode. 

If I'm being generous, the $6 option is for players who don't want to touch the story at all, but want to jump into online play immediately with Frost. It takes a bit of stretching to imagine that hypothetical person, though. 

You can also buy Time Krystals in the store ($5 for 500, enough for a skin), which is one of a few currencies in MK11. Time Krystals can be earned through playing, as well, and will be used to purchase cosmetic items in the Premium Shop (which is currently empty for me). It's a way to bypass the randomized loot boxes.

Koins, which are earned frequently through playing, can be spent to open up or restock those loot chests in the Krypt, which is essentially a third-person loot box environment set on Shang Tsung's Island. I've opened a bunch so far (Koins come pretty fast), though I haven't gotten anything more exciting than a new mask for Noob Saibot.

The currencies don't end there. Soul Fragments are another thing to collect, and they open new areas of the Krypt. Finally, Hearts are earned by performing Brutalities and Fatalities, as well as in the singleplayer challenges of the Towers of Time, and can also be used for special unlocks in the Krypt. At a glance, it seems just a bit grindy if you care a lot about cosmetic stuff.

Creative director Ed Boon says this is all going to be reworked to some degree. "We have a hot fix/improvements koming to address those super hard Towers of Time," he tweeted, "as well as better rewards/economy to be used in the Krypt." We'll see how that looks after the patch is here.

The performance

MK11 is certainly in a better technical place than MKX was at launch. With my GTX 980, I haven't had any problems running it at the recommended settings at 2560x1080, and I've had it running the entire time I've been writing this, popping back in now and then to play a match (lag hasn't been an issue for me so far) or explore the Crypt. It has never crashed.

Clearly, not everyone is having the same experience, as I've seen a few complaints of crashing on Steam. Aside from that, the dip to 30 fps during cinematic attacks is weird. It hasn't bothered me, but I don't see why it happens by design.

Some are also saying that the anti-aliasing (your options are FXAA, TAA, or FXAA+TAA) makes MK11 look blurry and "downgraded." I took all of the screenshots in this article myself with the settings in the image above, so if they look bad to you, then you have your answer with regards to that. It looks fine to me, but I wasn't all that worried about gore fidelity to begin with.

My early impression of Mortal Kombat 11 is that it's overstuffed with cosmetic-related activities: Collecting currency, fighting for rewards in the Towers of Time, and wandering the Krypt to unlock items.

But it's also overstuffed with good stuff. The tutorials I mentioned really are fantastic. Basic moves and strategies are covered step by step, as well as advanced tactics, character-specific movesets, and fatalities. More than just how to do moves, MK11 explains their strengths and weaknesses, and tells you the frame data. 

It's nice that specials, basic combos, and tactics aren't treated as arcane knowledge reserved only for those who figure them out on their own—or wait for fan-made FAQs—because there is a lot to learn.

We'll have a full review up soon that digs into those intricacies, which obviously can't be dissected after just a few hours with the game (another reason to maybe wait for more in-depth criticism from players before making a decision). In the meantime, if you're playing MK11, let us know how you're feeling about it so far in the comments.