Mortal Kombat 1 is adding an entirely new mode to the mix with Invasions. According to Mortal Kombat co-creator and NetherRealm Studios Chief Creative Officer Ed Boon, it's essentially "a greatest hits of [Mortal Kombat's] single-player experiences."
From my own personal experience with the new mode earlier this month at an event hosted by the developer, that's more or less an accurate summation. Mortal Kombat 1's Invasions mode is effectively the culmination of every minigame, unlock system, and tertiary game mode ever introduced in the franchise to date. It's a narrative catchall that combines all of the above into a bloody version of Super Smash Bros. Ultimate's World of Light, providing a light, gore-coated RPG dusting to what is typically considered more of a standard fighting game.
Think of it as a Mortal Kombat-themed digital board game with certain narrative flourishes. During my time at the event, I was able to play through a tutorial area made out of Johnny Cage's house that tasked me with finding out where the invaders that crashed his abode were coming from. Moving from node to node, unlocking the next one by completing the previous, meant fighting a number of different standard, straightforward fights at first, but it got more involved as time went on.
Test Your Might
In one specific instance, I had to navigate a relatively slow bullet hell of sorts in order to progress to the next node, and it seems like little minigames similar to that will be common. I also eventually ran into fights that explicitly required learning how to time attacks and block as enemies would frequently do moves that had several frames of invincibility – colored in gold – and one or two where they'd be susceptible to attack, colored in blue. That's not even getting into gear like talismans and relics or elemental opponents.
"I think of it as a combination of a number of modes," says Boon. "It has elements of Towers of Time, Konquest, some of our single-player experiences that we've had over the years, Krypt and all that, that we wanted to kind of combine in there. And I describe it as a gigantic board game that's as big as many city blocks that the player is kind of advancing through with challenges, with towers – and it is probably the most abundant place to get rewards, to get skins and palettes and all that stuff like that in the game."
It's… a lot, and NetherRealm certainly seems to know it. Derek Kirtzic, Lead Designer at NetherRealm Studios, went so far as to tell us that it's almost a "secondary campaign" of sorts.
"We have, of course, our amazing story mode that we've had in game after game, and it's just an amazing, cinematic, wonderful experience," says Kirtzic. "But then on top of that, we also complement it with Invasions. Invasions is a single-player, RPG-kind-of-lite-based experience throughout the different realms of Mortal Kombat 1. You level up, and you have multiple different challenges and opponents to overcome while leveling up and getting stats and having elemental opponents. And then there's talismans and relics and forging and shops and secrets and, ah! It's ambushes! It's just something completely new and different than we've ever done before [...] It's really something you can do on your time, and it's gonna save where you're at, and you can pick it right back up and complete your journey throughout this realm."
It Has Begun
It's meant to be a big, beefy companion to the rest of Mortal Kombat 1 with regular, seasonal updates that will see a new set of challenges to take on roughly every six weeks with new realms to explore full of new nodes. It's somewhat unclear just how different these will be, but it's known that there will be new invading forces each time – and the first one's Scorpion.
"So what you do is you basically go through the progression of all those islands of what we call 'The Golden Path.' Once you defeat the final boss, Scorpion for season one, the invading force, then you can go from Z back to A through endgame content, using all the tools and things that you've unlocked, or acquired, or whatnot through your journey," continues Kirtzic. "And then after six weeks, we shut it down, and we bring back a whole new experience – a new invading force, a new mesa, different pathing, different rewards, different bosses, all of it. A new experience for another six weeks."
If you, like me, read the words "seasonal updates" and "progression" and start thinking about live-service titles and Battle Passes and so on, have no fear as Kirtzic very politely yelled "no" in my face when I asked whether it would have one. Instead, as you're playing the game in any mode whatsoever, seasonal credits are unlocked. It can't be purchased; it can only be earned, and then you can then use those credits to unlock cosmetics.
It's a bit daunting, to say the least, to try and wrap your head around conceptually. But actually playing through Invasions, it doesn't feel quite as overwhelming. Instead, it's one node at a time, one challenge after another, until you've gotten a handle on what and how to do it. It's both refreshingly new and familiar at the same time, which makes sense given how much Mortal Kombat 1 itself feels that way too.
Mortal Kombat 1 is set to release for PC, PS5, Xbox Series X|S, and the Nintendo Switch on September 19, 2023. While you wait, you can read up on everything we know so far about Mortal Kombat 1.