Netherrealm’s newest fighter packs quite a punch, and while I working on a review of the game we thought it might be helpful to offer some advice for newer players who may be just getting started with the series, or trying to get more involved with its competitive side. One of the hardest aspects of ‘getting good’ at a fighting game is knowing quite where to start. Do you grind ranked play or study endlessly in training mode trying to figure out the best combos for your character? Here are some tips that might help newcomers get their head around just where to start.
Simply play the game
Before getting too invested in the games theory, planning characters you may want to play and considering combos you might want to perform within the game. It’s best to give the game a once over first, play around with the roster and see whose fighting styles appear to suit your tastes, while it’s easy to look at professional players playing the game and select characters simply because they seem to do well, this may not be a character that suits you unless you give them all a go. Additionally, trying each member of the cast gives you rough experience with each of their capabilities, it’s useful to get an idea of what your opponents can do against you, for instance the range and speed of their projectiles is something that’s very useful to be aware of.
Settle on a character
Once you’ve taken the game out for a test drive it’s somewhat imperative to settle down on a specific character, or pair of characters in order to focus your efforts into learning their techniques. Fighting games are invariably, incredibly complex, and building up the muscle memory required for learning different attack combinations and other techniques is easier if your efforts are focused on just one or two characters. This limits the amount that you need to learn and prevents issues like retroactive interference (e.g. attempting to perform the wrong combo with the wrong character) interfering with your gameplay.
Sometimes it may feel like, after a little time, a certain character isn’t for you and that you should switch to another. In general this is something that should require careful consideration. It’s easy to find yourself jumping from character to character and never learning any individual one in-depth, just because you’re hitting a wall with as the higher-level techniques become more difficult to perform. For many players that might take the game less seriously, it might be more enjoyable to play the entire roster, however the old adage rings true; a jack of all trades is a master of none.
Invest in the community
Investing time in the games community can be imperative to success. Communities share combinations, techniques, discuss weaknesses, strengths, and individual matchups with your character, against others. Offering advice on different circumstances that may be difficult for you to draw alone. Communities like testyourmight.com are an especially useful source of different combination attacks with your character as community members all share these on the forum which can then take to the training room, and adopt into your gameplay. As you get better at the game utilising others advice may become less essential, but its a great starting point for getting your foot that initial understanding of the game and its systems.
Spend time training
Spending some time in training mode is essential if you want to get better at the game. It’s the most efficient means of practicing different combinations and techniques learnt from others, or discovered on your own. It’s best to start with a few ‘bread and butter’ attacks that you can utilize frequently in your gameplay, attempting to perform these consistently, then working and adapting other techniques into your game. Different characters and scenarios have different combinations and techniques that may be optimum at any individual time, and learning these can take some time. It’s important to go back and forth between training and real matches however, as performing these techniques in real matches is often much more difficult than against a stationary target, sometimes highlighting their practicality as well as weak points that you need to work on. Additionally it’s important to remember that live matches against human opponents demonstrate certain aspects of the game that really, can’t be practised in training, such your ability to control space with your attacks within a match. Training can be very helpful in honing certain skills, but it shouldn’t be treated as a substitute to playing live matches if you want to get better at the game.
Find people to play with
One of the fastest means of getting better at the game is finding people to play with. Crucially, it’s important that at least some of these people are better than you. There’s not much that you can learn from players at your own level of play, and if you continually play people worse or equal to yourself, you’ll find your taken by surprise when you encounter someone out of your league with techniques you haven’t had exposure to before. Playing people online can be useful from time to time, but there’s no substitute for local play within fighting games. If you have a local community attempt to get involved, if not, see if anyone locally would be interested in starting one. Crucially, it’s important to play a wide range of good players who play a wide range of characters. If you wish to get good at any fighting game, it’s imperative you learn how to adapt your gameplay to each individual character within the roster, and this can’t be done without experience. Don’t play the same person over and over who only plays Johny Cage. If he plays his character well, then it’s great that you get the opportunity to gain an understanding of that particular matchup, but you need to cover all of the games matchups in order to perform as a well rounded player.
If your struggling with particular matchups you can always use the communities you have invested yourself in as a means of gaining advice on how to deal with whatever’s troubling you. If you’re lucky, someone locally will be able to help you understand the matchup, but otherwise forums can be helpful as there is invariably, always someone down to fight. Even if you lose, some more experience with the character matchup’s that you struggle with can be invaluable.
Learning from your mistakes
Playing matches you’ll experience wins and losses. It’s important to study these matches and understand what you did wrong, while it’s easy to simply get frustrated at a loss and blame the game, luck, or one of it’s systems, that isn’t a good mentality to have if you wish to get better as a player. Treat every loss as if it is entirely your fault, your own failing, and seek to understand what you could have done better. Going through this process will help you get better as a player as you begin to learn more and more about the game. In this respect, a loss is far more valuable than a win. Losing a match trains you, exposes your weaknesses, and shows you means in which you can get better at the game, a win, demonstrates that you are learning, but is less likely to lead to additional growth. Value your losses and don’t get disheartened by them!
It should be noted that Mortal Kombat X has a handy replay functionality, recording both local, and online matches for you to review. This can be really helpful as on a number of occasions I’ve gone from a match merely frustrated, and it’s taken merely a little time, and an adjusted perspective to appropriately analyse the match in order to understand my mistakes and how to improve.
Rinse and repeat!
Finally, it’s important to state that these steps should be considered an iterative process. You should be going back and forth between playing real matches, training, taking information from other players, and learning from your mistakes, continually. This isn’t a step by step guide, and there’s no end to this process. Fighting games are eternally complex; every day someone discovers something new which changes the game, changes what you need to look out for in your opponent or changes how you may best play your own character. If you want to be good at the game, then it’s important to be aware of this. Of course, what you want to achieve will define how much time you want to invest here, but these steps should serve as a basic framework for anyone, whether they want to get good enough to play at professional tournaments, or simply want to get better than their friends or local community.