Going in, Nightwolf was honestly the character I was looking forward to the least out of the announced Kombat Pack 1 characters. The second DLC addition to Mortal Kombat 11’s roster doesn’t have Shang Tsung’s flashy ability to morph into other characters, the super-iconic moveset of Sindel, nor the sheer amount of fan excitement of the upcoming Spawn. However, his extremely strong fundamentals-focused moveset, versatile playstyle, and hands down the single best outro animation in the entire game has not only made Nightwolf my favorite of the two currently released DLC characters, but he might actually be my new main.
Netherrealm did a great job of making Nightwolf’s moveset feel unique and fun, despite the fact that many of his signature moves are actually kind of plain. His shoulder charge can be enhanced – even if it’s blocked – to execute a followup overhead ax strike, which can also Krushing Blow if it hits on its own; his reflect can double as a teleport in certain variations, giving him a great counter-zoning option; his bow can be held and cancelled for mind games; and his rising tomahawk can be enhanced twice in one combo for easy big damage and tons of corner carry, at the great cost of both bars of meter.
Beyond his returning iconic special moves, Netherrealm also outfitted him with several animal spirit-related buffs that increase his damage, reduce his damage taken, and prevent the opponent from enhancing their special moves, which is great. Not many characters have that ability to buff themselves during a match, and it’s just one of those great marriages of something that makes sense within the lore of a character with something that makes an interesting fighting mechanic.
Nightwolf’s pair of competitive variations also offer a good slice of two different playstyles. My personal favorite is Matoka Warrior, which is Nightwolf’s more combo-heavy variation, focusing on the aforementioned Rising Tomahawk and bolstering it with the damage buff of Spirit of Kiba. His other variation, Ancestral Call, equips Nightwolf with a command grab that can be enhanced for extra damage and free wake-up pressure, along with a new damaging combo off a low, and a new combo that can Krushing Blow.
Speaking of those Krushing Blows, Nightwolf’s are particularly nasty, both in their visual brutality and in terms of how effective they are. He’s got Krushing Blows on both of his throws if the opponent fails a throw tech – and because his throws leave you right next to him and his wake up pressure is so intense, expect to get thrown quite a bit.
On the visual and audio side, Nightwolf looks and sounds just as good as he plays. He’s got the best-looking revenant skins in MK11, his voice acting is top notch, and the sounds his tomahawk makes as it slams into the ground, or into… other places… are incredibly satisfying. It was also a nice touch to deepen Nightwolf’s Native American lore: We learn that his real name is Grey Cloud, he’s a warrior of the fictional Matoka tribe, and that “Nightwolf” is actually a mantle passed down to those worthy, granting them supernatural powers. Beyond that, his gear and skins all feel respectfully done and avoid the pitfall of stereotypes.