The Mortal Kombat series has always had a strong sense of lore…until Mortal Kombat 11 came along and effectively blew everything up. Classic characters collided with their past versions, long-dead fighters re-emerged and a new era was forged. So what’s the deal with Aftermath, which takes place right after Mortal Kombat 11 ends, and what does its ending tell us about the future of the franchise? Before we go any further, keep in mind that major spoilers are included here for both Mortal Kombat 11 and Aftermath. Back out now while you can.
Mortal Kombat 11 ended in epic fashion with Raiden infusing Liu Kang with his powers. The latter opposed Kronika, who began the process of remaking time and wiping out all history up till that point. Upon defeating Kronika – and destroying the Crown of Souls in the process – Liu Kang began his process of remaking history. Raiden is by his side and depending on how efficiently Kronika is defeated, Kitana also returns to aid him.
In Aftermath, however, Kitana isn’t seen. In fact, Liu Kang stops short of using Kronika’s Hourglass when Shang Tsung, Fujin (Raiden’s brother) and Nightwolf arrive. Refusing to join Kronika, the trio had been imprisoned before being set free by her demise. Shang Tsung informs Liu Kang that the Crown of Souls is needed to remake time with the Hourglass. But the only way to obtain the Crown is to steal it from the past before Cetrion, Kronika’s mother, can grab it instead. Shang Tsung, Fujin and Nightwing are sent back by Liu Kang to do this although, once again, no one trusts the Sorcerer.
So yes, you’re essentially revisiting events from Mortal Kombat 11 but with new twists thrown in. Shang Tsung brings in Sindel to help fight off Cetrion (and eventually obtain the Crown of Souls). During the big climactic battle, he has Sindel revive Shao Kahn – who was never really confirmed dead in the base story so it’s nice to see that addressed. This leads to the duo wreaking havoc, killing Jade, Kotal Kahn, Kitana and Kung Lao. Though Raiden learns of Shang Tsung’s plot, he fails to stop him from receiving the Crown from Fujin. Shang Tsung is now in control and drains the souls from Raiden and Fujin to augment his powers, confirming his betrayal. Together with Shao Kahn and Sindel, he reaches the Hourglass to battle Kronika.
After the trio manage to take her down, Shang Tsung reveals that he wants Shao Kahn and Sindel to side with him. Upon refusing, he drains their souls and takes down Kronika as well. The stage is seemingly set for Shang Tsung to rewrite history but then, Liu Kang arrives, revealing that he – along with pretty much everyone else when the first trailer hit – knew Shang Tsung would betray him. The two proceed to battle it out. In a way, this is a nice tribute to the first Mortal Kombat – the two warriors that closed out that storyline are battling, once again, for the fate of Earthrealm (and all of time).
The main difference is that the player can decide who to side with. As a result, there are actually two endings for Aftermath. Playing as Liu Kang and defeating Shang Tsung will result in the Sorcerer being erased. Liu Kang possesses the Crown of Souls and goes about forging his new era. Afterwards, he visits the Wu Shi Academy and meets the Great Kung Lao, the ancestor of regular ol’ Kung Lao. Why? To train him and eventually make him his champion for…something.
If you choose Shang Tsung and defeat Liu Kang, then the Sorcerer absorbs his soul and begins a new campaign of terror. Raiden and Fujin – the former in his evil get-up – are now subservient to Shang Tsung. Various realms including Earthrealm and Outworld have fallen with Chaosrealm and Orderrealm next on the list. Shang Tsung is thus the ruler when everything is said and done.
It’s a given that one of these endings will be canon while the other isn’t. For the “evil” ending, we could see a spin-off of sorts where the remaining fighters find some way to oppose the all-powerful, time-manipulating Shang Tsung. Given his powers and ability to rewrite history on a whim, that’s probably not going to happen. Thus we’re left with Liu Kang’s ending which raises even more questions.
When Mortal Kombat 11‘s story ended, we assumed that this would be NetherRealm’s way of reforging the lore, so to speak. Perhaps rebooting the timeline completely and retelling classic tales but with new twists or interpretations. Aftermath seems to be hinting at this direction while keeping a lot of the established lore intact. The Great Kung Lao is the first warrior from Earthrealm to fight Shang Tsung in Mortal Kombat, defeating him to ensure that his realm was spared.
This took place 500 years before the first game. So with Liu Kang visiting the Great Kung Lao and training him to be his champion in Aftermath, the next Mortal Kombat could just be a prequel. We’ll see Kung Lao training, perhaps meeting other warriors en route to defeating Shang Tsung (who may be ancestors of current characters because why not?). This side of the story has remained relatively untold till now, though whether Mortal Kombat 12 or whatever it ends up being called goes even further remains to be seen.
Of course, it may not be that simple. Liu Kang is intent on undoing all of the terrible things that occurred thanks to Shang Tsung in Aftermath. Is there a possibility that he rewrites time even further to outright banish certain evil elements like Shao Kahn or Shinnok? Will there even be a proper Mortal Kombat tournament, much less with Shang Tsung at the helm? Will Liu Kang simply allow events in the past to proceed as normal and only intervene when necessary?
The question then arises – are we looking at yet another retread of the first game’s storyline but with time travel shenanigans thrown in? Could there be other titans out there that might want a friendly word with Liu Kang over Kronika’s defeat.
If Mortal Kombat 11 and Aftermath are any indication, pretty much anything can happen. The Great Kung Lao’s rise and eventual victory over Shang Tsung may be a mere footnote as some other tale unfolds for Liu Kang. We could see other alternate timelines, returning characters and more brand new directions for the franchise to go in. Whatever the case may be, it will be interesting to see if NetherRealm can consolidate everything back into one neat little timeline, much less find a way for the Mortal Kombat tournament to be relevant again. Then we have to hope it doesn’t just blow it all up again.