My KI Review

Like many of my KI friends on this message board, I purchased an Xbox One over a PS4 solely due to Killer Instinct. I remember watching E3 2013 and Max’s reactions when KI was announced. It was the first game I purchased for the X1 and it didn’t disappoint. To be honest, KI has become my favorite fighting game, edging out Soul Calibur. We are now moving into KI’s sixth year and I’m still running into people excited to get into this game and that is a testament to MS, IG, and DH’s work.

For the last few days I’ve been thinking critically about why I actually like this game, as well as things I haven’t liked and thus created this list.

What works…

  1. Accessibility – I love the fact that ANYBODY can get into KI. The combo system (even without Combo Assist) is fairly easy to get into. I remember playing against a friend who purchased KI just for Riptor, and he loved the fact that he could mash buttons and make cool things happen. KI is like that. It’s also deep enough to take months, years, to master everything. There isn’t a lot of fighters that are easy to get into and can be very deep at the same time.

  2. Cast of Characters – KI doesn’t have one single clone character in its roster. Every single character plays differently. While some characters do borrow traits of others, they themselves are fully fleshed out fighters with their own attitudes and styles. Whether you’re playing a werewolf, a skeleton, an assassin, or a robot, there is something for everyone. I love the fact that KI, despite having a HUGE roster, has made sure every character is unique.

  3. Music – KI rocks. The music is amazing. It built on the foundation of what made the original great and blew it out of the water.

  4. Visuals – for the most part KI is still a very pretty game.

  5. The NETCODE – KI’s netcode is the netcode that all other fighting games should be compared to. I rarely can say I lost a fight because the match was too laggy. While there are bouts of lag, for the most part, playing somebody 1000 miles away, feels like they are right next to you on an arcade cabinet.

  6. The Community – Yes yes, there are always some detractors, but I can honestly say most of the people I know in this community have been amazing. There is always going to be toxic behavior, but at least in my experience, everyone has been friendly.


What didn’t work for me…

  1. Shadow Lords – Shadow Lords is cool and it is very well made, but honestly it’s a bit grindy and for me, its not something I generally will invest my time into. As KI was made on a limited budget, I strongly feel that a standard story mode would be just fine, with the extra time and money spent on giving all characters a stage as well as everybody else getting an ultimate. I’ve never been big on story stuff in fighting games, as my main draw is well… you know… fighting.

  2. New mechanics every season – There is nothing wrong with giving characters a new move or two every few years (like SF) to shake the meta up, but with each season introducing things like Stagger, Flipout, Recapture into the mix, it always felt like I would have to relearn match ups or even my own character.

Then you have complete overhauls such as Fulgore and Spinal, both of which have been hard to balance due to those changes. To be honest, I REALLY liked S1 Fulgore as well as Spinal. They both are still amazing now, but I still wonder why those changes happened in the first place.

  1. Rash – Yes folks, I’ve devoted an entire section just for this character. Firstly, as a creative, the photo-realistic amphibian skin juxtaposed against a rather cartoony figure is just off-putting. If they had toned down just a wee bit of his wacky exterior, he’d feel more at home with the cast… but ugh. I’ll talk about his balance in a different section, but that is also a problem. C’mon IG… you could have used Joanna Dark… WHY!

  2. Balance – Balance isn’t easy and a fighting game that is truly balanced balanced would be boring. Over all, I think KI has done a good job, but there are things that make you wonder. I was never a fan of IG introducing a character as overpowered as can be and then toning them down. In fact I rather they use Aganos’ intro where he was slightly nerfed, but then later adjusted him accordingly. There are still characters that I think need to be toned down a bit (nothing huge)… Rash, Eyedol’s instinct, Rash, Kan Ra’s infinite Scorpion sheild, Rash, a slightly longer cooldown for Eagle’s bird, Rash… I think you get the point…

  3. No more support – Yes MS is still fixing bugs as they come, but it is sad that a game that is still evolving and is still being heavily played at home and at tourneys is no longer being balanced and or tweaked. It would be nice to see some of the bottom feeders get a few buffs and Kim Wu’s face fixed (she still looks like she just had a stroke) or having some slightly over powered tech toned down. Even with Rash, the only thing I really cringe about is some of his wacky hitboxes. (Nothing like being juggled by S. Big Boot and I’m standing BEHIND him).

My gripes are just minor and the positives vastly out way my complaints…

But there you go… my opinions. :smiley:


I used to really want another season, but now I’m resigned to the fact that it won’t happen. I guess it wasn’t profitable enough to keep going.

I wholeheartedly agree with the positives you’ve presented but only somewhat on the negatives. I came into this game about a month ago, and I am just so impressed with how well-designed this game is.

KI is the main reason I got my Xbox one and got back into gaming (anyway, I’d never buy a PS4 since I really don’t like sony and their way of making business).
I was never really at FGS, but KI got me so hyped that I’ve put the necessary time and effort to learn it.
I play on a daily basis and love it. It’s really addicted. The game has minor flaws as any game but nothing really relevant. And it’s great to know that a lot of people is still supporting and playing the game.

A season 4 comprised of mostly newcomers would’ve been dope, but pretty risky.

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I feel like with how much specific tropes have been lobbed at them on this site specifically, there would have been plenty of support.

Hopefully we get a sequel.


Personally I thought Shadow Lords was good and I did put a lot of time into it back in its day. It had several minor problems and a few missed opportunities that were never addressed, but the core idea was solid and I’d like to see it return in a new KI. (Multiplayer version can stay dead, though.)

I understand why people liked Shadow Lords but… I didn’t. I played it once to unlock the stage but it didn’t grab me so I never played it again. As such, I would like them to abandon it and do something more like an NRS story mode in a sequel.

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Thanks @WebNRagnarok for an interesting (and I think fair) review of the game. Like you, I bought an Xbox entirely based on the desire to play KI. Everything else was an added bonus. I have offered zillions of opinions on the game over the last five years (Dang… 2013 was a while ago) so I probably don’t need to share my views on the game again. But I have some reflections on other comments in the thread.

I don’t really like story mode in games. The story mode in anime games makes me want to jump off a roof, and I am pretty meh on MK story mode - even though I wouldn’t argue that it isn’t extremely well executed. I don’t think the fighting game format makes a lot of sense in a story mode and all the efforts to organize a story around a series of one on one fights fall flat. I also hate having to switch to a new character every round or two. So my preference for a story mode would be an arcade ladder with a mid-ladder cinematic and ending cinematic. I actually really liked season 1 and the multiple ending story mode.

Having said that, Shadow Lords provides a pretty fun way of engaging the player in a meaningful and potentially terrific single player mode for a fighting game. It was almost my favorite single player fighting game mode of all Time. But it misses the mark because of a few discouraging flaws. I would love to see Shadow Lords (or something similar) return in the future if they address a few important issues:

  1. Load times - you can’t ask me to sit at menus for 45 minutes out of every hour I spend playing a single player game. The load times are so terrible that I find I don’t want to go shopping at Kan Ra’s store just so I don’t deal with the loading. This is basic functionality.
  2. AI- Shadow Lords relies primarily on “difficult” AI to make it challenging. All fighting game AI sucks and KI doesn’t have great AI even compared to other fighting games. Use Shadows AI to populate Shadow Lords. The whole way you approach a Shadow fight is different than a standard AI fight and is less like playing a completely different game when compared to multiplayer. Because Shadows are inherently easier to deal with than real humans, if additional “challenge” is needed there are plenty of ways to handicap the player. Many are already in place. But fights that aren’t even fun when you win don’t make me feel like firing up Shadow Lords amd dealing with 45 minutes of load time per hour.
  3. More of everything - lots of really good ideas on Shadow Lords just didn’t have enough content. More story branches, character specific pathways and meaningful unlockables (not just rng dossier drops) would really expand the playability.
  4. Add multiplayer - a revelation to me was Injustice 2’s multiplayer boss battle mode. For those unfamiliar, a team of up to four pick characters and sequentially fight a cheap ■■■ NRS style “boss” version of a character with stupid amounts of health and damage. I normally hate boss fights like this but the cooperation of working as a team and cheering your buddies made this really fun. Imagine a Shadow Lords mode where a team of friends pick their fighters and can then choose to either independently or cooperatively tackle missions in the games mission structure. How terrific would that be? I’m mstesd of tagging in new characters to beat Gargos just tag in new players. NRS showed it could be done. This idea could also be extended to a community cooperation level like what NRS has done with Factions and the Multiverse.

If they can address these things then I would be all for Shadow Lords in the next KI and I would probably put some real time into the mode.


I understand where you’re coming from. I happen to like NRS’s story modes and I don’t like RPGs. So Shadow Lords doesn’t really grab me. I would like to say that NRS usually does an Arcade Mode (with endings) AND a Story Mode, which is something no other fighting game does and I think is bull. So I wouldn’t be opposed to having both. I think having all three would be a waste of resources though. Maybe if Shadow Lords had more cinematics and you had the option to turn off rpg mechanics…

I’ve been playing DragonBall FighterZ Story Mode, and one of the things I don’t like is all the fights against “jobber” enemies and not the actual cast. It has, so far, lead the plot to be pretty bare bones. This is a problem that every non-NRS fighting game with a story mode has. I think that requireing each fight to be one character vs. another actual character (not a clone or a mimic) causes the plot to become more detailed. It becomes more like an actual story imo. Sure, it has lead to their stories having a lot of tropes (two characters enter a fight against two people, each one takes on the other and then the two victors fight in the next match. That happens a lot) But in my eyes it’s better then constantly fighting through genetic enemies, or fighting against soul-less clones that don’t really add anything to the plot. They’re just there to be beaten up. And they add nothing. If they can fix this in a second Shadow Lords then I’m all for it. But something tells me that if they did, it wouldn’t be Shadow Lords anymore. And a lot of people wouldn’t like that.

NRS story modes are my absolute favorite out of ALL fighting games! i can play that shz all day! I like it so much that i bought the MKX comics just to get the prequel story line leading into MKX. And I dont even like comics!!!
If I dont play a fighting game competitively… I play its story mode if it has one and the last 4 NRS story modes were amazing and this MK11 one is going to be their best yet!


I agree all the way. The level of story telling that NRS does is light years above the other fighters. What makes it work is A. Their cinematic tone and structure, and B. The characters are engaging.

I remember watching Sub-Zero murder Scorpion’s family in MK9 and hearing the sad music play and ■■■■, I had a lump in my throat.


I guess im the only one but i think NRS story modes are not great at all. They are fun for the first time as a cheesy B side movie, but as a game they have absolute zero replayability, very small actual gameplay (MK:X story is 30 minutes of fighting, 1,2 hours of cutscenes), not variation, no creativity, nothing brings you in for a second time. I already spent more time in Shadow Lords than MK9+MK:X story mode combined, and im only at turn 21. I really loved the story cutscenes in MK9, it was not bad in MK:X but i never played them more than once, because there is absolutely no reason to do it.

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If I put my two cents regarding story modes, everyone has mixed feelings with it. I guess it’s with the fact that since MK9 introduced story mode, (I won’t say everyone), it spoiled several people to the point where most fighting games should have one that matches it. I’m guilty of wanting a story mode for KI that could rival MK, but with Shadow Lords–and given with the budget, it’s the closest to one. It’s fun to play story mode the first time, but after a while, it gets repetitive and boring.

I mean. It’s fun. I replay it because it’s fun. A good movie doesn’t change after you watch it but if you really like it you still rewatch it.

I just don’t understand the need for changing elements that make separate playthoughs different. Or the need for “variety”. If the game only does one thing, but does that one thing very well, I’ll play it over and over again.

Bottom line. The reason to replay is because it’s fun. And Shadow Lords (IMO) isn’t very fun, but NRS stories are

Great critique, man! I agree with a lot of what you say here.

I love how accessible the game is. For as difficult as it may look when you see everything that’s happening on screen, especially when it’s played at a high level, the game is great at teaching you from the ground up and it has you off and running in no time. The combo assist, the breaker help, the tutorial… All top notch additions that really make anyone feel like they can learn enough to have fun without putting in days, weeks or months of hard labbing.

The characters as well… Man, what can I say about them that hasn’t been said already? There’s really something for everyone here, and for me, the IG characters in particular are incredibly well designed and just flat out fun to use. They took some of the best qualities of other games as well as their own ideas and made some really special characters that I can’t wait to see more of in future installments.

As far as the music goes, I don’t think it can be overstated what an achievement it was. From the way it follows the action, to the tracks themselves. I don’t think any fighting game has ever done it better, and it still leaves newer games like Tekken 7, MKX, etc in the dust. It’s not even close. Soul Calibur 6 has a good soundtrack, but for my money, KI is still the best out there.

For the visuals, I think they’ve still remained in the level of higher quality, which is no small feat for a game that came out over five years ago. I know it’s the same system, same generation, etc. But it’s still a fun game to look at, and not just for the action on screen.

The netcode, for sure, is still among the best out there. No question. I don’t play online a ton and I never have played a ton, but when I do, the connections are always solid and the game rarely misses a beat. Playing this and then playing MKX online when it first came out was like night and day. I honestly couldn’t believe the difference.

I’ve run in to mostly friendly people in the community as well, though to be fair, I mainly stick around the forums here. I’ve heard the FB forum is horrendous, but I can’t say first hand, as I’ve never bothered to wade in to those waters.

One thing I’d also add to the positives is how experimental this game was. From the way the content was doled out in this near constant drip at times, which kept me engaged for years when I usually move on from a game in months, to the putting a rogue like mode in a fighting game, as well as letting players create an AI version of themselves and fighting other AI characters.

As someone that doesn’t love playing people online, there was a TON of stuff to unlock in terms of colors and accessories, but there were also these modes that I sunk a lot of time in to because I wanted to collect everything, I wanted to train up my terrible Sadira AI and I wanted to play other players AI. There were so many ways to enjoy this game, and I give MS, DH and IG endless amounts of credit for the many ideas they came up with and how they executed them.

As for the negatives:

I actually really dug Shadow Lords. I know I’m in the minority, and while I do think that it left some potential on the table since they didn’t really follow up a ton with more character missions, content, etc beyond the stuff they put in the for the post season characters, I still see it as a template for better things in the future.

When you look at how the story was released in each season, I think having a mode like Shadow Lords from the get go would’ve been better overall, as opposed to releasing it in the third season since it largely abandoned the characters form the previous seasons, minus some dossiers and a video here or there.

There was no real sense of story progression either, which was a bit of a bummer. One of the best things about Mortal Kombat stories is that you get to play out what actually happens from start to finish. Now, I do NOT expect KI, with the budget it was given, to be able to have that many unique cutscenes. I simply don’t think it’s possible.

But I do think that there should be ways of reusing assets and writing out dossiers, etc to the point where it can form a solid, cohesive, and compelling narrative that spans the entire roster, and I’d like to see that in a sequel. The dossiers in this KI were kind of a strange mix of past info, bio info, and broken up bits of plot info, which made it hard to read or care about since they were doled out randomly and in random order.

For a sequel, I’d love to see more dossiers for every character, with more writing on them, doled out in chronological order, and tied to the character you’re playing. Plus more videos, more story missions for each character, etc.

Again, I think there’s a way to tell a great story using the Shadow Lords medium, and I think it’s one that can be expanded upon even further with DLC missions, DLC dossiers and DLC videos that con both introduce DLC characters to the story as well as further the adventures of the characters already in the game. The way this mode allows for constant expansion is a huge check in its favor, but it’s a check that really needs to be utilized.

Now, for the new mechanics every season, I think I agree with you on this. I enjoyed characters getting some new toys to play with each season, but adding new mechanics on top of that made the game feel a bit overly difficult at times and turned familiar characters in to unfamiliar characters in ways that weren’t all that great.

I’d also say that I didn’t love how many updates characters received on a near monthly basis. I can see what they were trying to do, but it did make playing the game a bit more difficult and even disorientating at times when it perhaps didn’t need to be. I think that’s probably a lesson the devs could take away and something that could be easily improved upon should they decide to go with the seasonal mode for any potential sequel.

Again, I loved having new toys to play with for characters, but some of the drastic nerfs and buffs and the added new mechanics might’ve been a bit much to ask players to deal with on a yearly or even monthly basis.

As far as the continued support goes, I’m of two minds on this. On one hand, it would’ve been nice if they could have kept working on this game. We still don’t really know why they stopped other than the fact that IG finished up what they were working on and that was that.

Maybe IG didn’t want to come back for a 4th season? Maybe MS didn’t see the point of adding more stuff to a game that had already been out that long. If it were more the latter, I’d be a bit disappointed. You create a game as a platform and you say it’s something that can be endlessly iterated on, and then you stop after four years.

Granted, four years is a long time. But when the game is that good, and you know there’s still more that you can do to the point where you even ask players what kind of characters they’d want, well… It still feels like there’s something left in the tank, but maybe MS didn’t feel that way. It’s tough to say.

What I will say though is that this game was honestly my favorite video game for four plus years. I’ve never had a game that I’ve played that long and enjoyed that much. It was a new experience for me and it’s one I’m very eager to have again. I don’t know how I’d want them to release a sequel… Perhaps start with 12 to 15 characters and have DLC seasons that up the roster to about 35 characters by the end?

Either way, I think that this turned out to be one of my all time favorite games and I really hope MS makes it a staple franchise for the Scarlet and beyond. If MS is starving for quality franchises, I think they definitely have one for the fighting genre, and now that this iteration climbed the steep mountain to respectability, it’s my hope that others will look fondly upon a sequel’s release and give it the attention it truly deserves.

Ok, I’m going to add a negative to the game: some issues with the Dojo

I’ll first put out that the Dojo is a wonderful feature, and I’ve learned so much from it. However, I hit a brick wall in Lesson 18 (Heavy Uppercut to Heavy Endokuken to Shadow Endokuken). I can hit the first two most of the time, but sometimes I hit them and it doesn’t register. I hit the uppercut and I hit the endokuken, but the dojo doesn’t think it counts (I confirmed with input display that both were Heavy). This could be a bug, or they wanted a very specific timing, but I have no idea, because they don’t make this known to the user.

The real problem is that this gates me from seeing the contents of the other lessons. I understand that these lessons build off of each other, but not being able to pull off the execution in one segment of one lesson should not block me from learning the rest of the concepts I’ll need to know. A “skip this part” option (perhaps with a warning) would have been nice, or they could just not lock you out of lessons.

I used AutoHotKey to script that input for Lesson 18, and I’m now learning a lot of critical information that would have been very helpful to know before.