Review: Minecraft Story Mode episode 1-4

Just like nearly all Telltale games, Minecraft Story Mode is an episodic one. There are five episodes out now, with at least three more on the way, but the story can already be divided into two which is why I just review the first four episodes now. Those episodes are about the old ‘Order of the Stone’ while the fifth episode starts the story of the ‘New Order of the Stone’.

You pick if you want to be a guy (voiced by Patton ‘Ratatouille’ Oswalt) or girl (voiced by Catherine Taber, as known as Padmé in Star Wars: The Clone Wars), both are named Jesse (I love that!). There are a lot of famous voices in this game, and the voice acting is amazing. You have your own little group of friends, but on your journey you will get to know new people, namely the Order of the Stone. Those are five heroes that saved the Minecraft world before. You are supposed to take this group and save the world by defeating the Witherstorm, which appears to be an alienesque weather status with scary dragon heads, magnetic laser beams and other deadly stuff.

Before you end up there though, you will be tested. Not just by the many Creepers and zombies that follow you around trying to murder you, but also by characters that all have their own agenda. One of your fellow travellers gets sick after something that seems to be a zombie bite, while another tries to screw the others by telling lies, and there even is a pig that cannot speak at all. That is not all: the key character has butter fingers and drops everything out of her hands at any incredibly inconvenient moment. This is a tough cookie.

In every episode Jesse will drop something at least once, so after a few times it gets a bit old (though it does not seem to be a running gag or anything). It is nice that it happens though, cause it brings some action to the passiveness of the game. Though the original Minecraft is full of construction possibilities and options to make your own weapons, it seems difficult for Telltale to pause the storytelling for some action. Sometimes it is very obvious that they had to put some action in it, for example when there is a conversation of many minutes and then your friend Axel suddenly feels the need to do your special greeting. There is no reason for that at all.

I mean, it is not like this is news obviously, Telltale games are not played because of their highly interesting gameplay, but in Minecraft Story Mode sometimes the pushing buttons on a logical moment seems not thought through at all. Story Mode works with arrows a lot and sometimes a button, but that is almost all action you will get. There are some rare occasions where you have to do a puzzle, but these are not very challenging. Sometimes you just end up in a room without directly knowing what to do.

The same goes for the action sequences I’m afraid, cause if you do not realise what do to swift enough (so not pushing the right button on time, which is shown very clearly on screen) you will die and the game will put you right back in the scene you died in. No consequences, that is just it. And sometimes you have a very short repetitive moment after death, but sometimes you will have to watch a whole cutscene again. On those moments you can be happy the game is not very challenging; it is hardly necessary to watch a cutscene more than two times.

Which is good for more reasons than just the one, cause it is not the nicest game to look at. Visually Minecraft takes some getting used to, and the same goes for Minecraft: Story Mode. You visit the Minecraft areas called The Nether, The End and The Far Lands. No artistic animated scenes like Telltale’s The Walking Dead, Game of Thrones and The Wolf Among Us, but just the huuuuge pixels from Minecraft. Not that it is just blocks you are looking at, because the cubes form characters. It is hard to really connect with the characters though, because they do not look human at all and they do not really get background stories.

Not everything is Minecraft Story Mode is extremely different from the other Telltale games, cause again there are conversation trees that run behind dialogues you will have. They should be changing your story and/or the game, but you hardly notice it. Which is logical, cause Telltale wanted to make this a game for the whole family, meaning death of a character or emotional dilemma’s hardly ever happen in Minecraft: Story Mode. It is just little tweaks in the friendships, that is all. So you have minimal influence on the game and that means that you will not regret any choices you might have made. And that means that the replay value won’t be that high, because you do not really wonder: what if?

More than any other Telltale game Minecraft is really targeted to the fans. There is not a lot of context about the Minecraft world or enemies. If you do not really know the franchise that well, it seems like you miss out. Plus, the childish humor has to speak to you as well, cause the game feels like a saturday morning cartoon with a lot of predictable remarks and situations. It is so obvious Telltale is targeting the whole family with this game, but that makes the game even more virtual story over a game.

Especially the first three episodes are very passive and short; in an hour you will get through every episode. The fourth one however, in which the story of the original Order of the Stone comes to an end, feels very complete. There’s lots of stuff happening, there is a big amount of action and the duration is extended by half an hour till one hour. It is a lot more emotional which make you connect to the characters a lot more. If Telltale takes this fourth episode and use that as an inspiration for the next ones, the series as a whole will improve.

 

 

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