Published on November 17th, 2015 | by Chris Scott0
Minecraft: Story Mode – Episode One Review
Summary: Telltale has done an admirable job of making something out of nothing, kind of like Minecraft itself.
I’ve dabbled in Minecraft to the point of having once built a mud structure in the Xbox 360 version of the game. The game never grabbed me, it just seemed like a giant sandbox, that I could create (or destroy) things in. The only limitation, of course, was my own imagination. It was cool in concept but I need a little more structure to my games. Needless to say I don’t have a love for Minecraft like many do.
My 10 year old son, on the other hand, loves it. He’s put hundreds of hours into Minecraft on the 360, his iPod Touch, and his Kindle Fire. He’s set up cross platform worlds where he and his sisters go about creating stuff together, fighting off blocky zombies and skeletons with the fancy weaponry he created. He’s watched countless hours of Youtube videos giving instructions on how to make complex structures with multiple moving parts and then gone on to make those complex structures in his own game world. He shows me some of the stuff he’s made and I can only shake my head in awe. I can’t do that stuff.
The two of us obviously have differing views on Minecraft, so I was wondering where we’d fall in regards to Minecraft: Story Mode, Telltale’s latest adventure game. During my admittedly brief time playing Minecraft, I didn’t notice any strong sense of lore or driving storyline to push me forward. This was a big downfall for me because I need at least some semblance of driving purpose behind my playtime. Conversely, my son doesn’t seem to require any purpose to just play in the world. But Minecraft: Story Mode is very clearly a game designed around presenting some narrative focus to the Minecraft world. I mean, story is kind of Telltale’s thing at this point.
I sat down to play and was presented with a character selection screen, with a handful of generic Minecraft male and female options for the playable character, Jesse, an amateur builder. She and her friends are going off to a building competition hoping to win a chance to go and meet a legendary hero at Endercon. I’ve heard the term Ender dragon before playing this and they reference the beast a few times in the opening of the game. I don’t know what an Ender dragon is or why everyone is so excited to go to Endercon. It really doesn’t matter because you can dress up your pig in a cosplay costume. Do I sound insane yet? Because I feel like I’m spewing the most nonsensical goobly gook while describing this. And I say that as someone who loves the goobly gook of Star Wars and Lord of the Rings, but there aren’t cosplaying pigs in either of those epic narratives.
The funny thing is, for as silly as is all sounds, it’s a ton of fun to play. The game mixes in some rudimentary Minecraft crafting, which makes it a bit more interactive than your typical Telltale adventure game. You’ll craft swords and other weapons, as well as a couple goofy items that play towards the overall silly approach of the story.
And then there is what Telltale has latched it’s wagon to over the last few years, their choice system. While the choices you’ll make as Jesse aren’t often as grave as those in The Walking Dead, Fables, Borderlands, or Game of Thrones, they do carry some weight to them. Deciding whether to go into danger alone to rescue someone or just leave them behind adds some gravity to an otherwise goofy adventure story. Being as this is is just the first episode though, we won’t really know how weighty the choices are until later in the series and I do fear that like with past Telltale games, the choices are really just an illusion.
On the technical side of things, Story Mode seems to run a bit better than other past Telltale adventure games, and there is less hitching and stuttering as the game progresses. It’s not the best looking Telltale game but that is more on the subject matter than anything else, still it’s enjoyable enough. The game, like its Telltale siblings before it, does still suffer from rather weak mechanics when put into combat situations. Thankfully, like other Telltale games, combat isn’t overused and story remains the main focus.
My playthrough of episode one took a little under two hours and while I didn’t know much about Minecraft going in, what knowledge I did have was sufficient to pull me through the episode. My son, whom does have a deeper understanding of Minecraft, seemed to enjoy some of the Minecraft in-jokes that flew over my head, but that ingrained knowledge of Minecraft didn’t seem to help him much outside of already having an understanding of how to use the crafting system. We both seemed to be on equal footing at the end of the first episode and strangely we both made many of the same choices to get us there despite both of us playing blind to the other’s actions.
Minecraft is certainly on the same level as Telltale’s other adventure properties but it honestly felt like a weird choice due to its noticeable lack of narrative in the base. Telltale has done an admirable job of taking the sandbox that Minecraft provides and planting some decent story seeds that both fans and non-fans alike can enjoy. More importantly though, it has my son wanting to play more of it and that just might be the gateway to him trying out different adventure games down the line.
This review was written with material provided by the publisher on the Xbox One console. For more on our review process, please read here.