Developer: Telltale Games
Publisher: Telltale Games
Platform: PC [Reviewed], Mac, PS4, Xbox One, PS3, Xbox 360, Wii U, Vita, Android, and iOS
Release Date: October 13th, 2015 (PC, Mac, PS4, Xbox One, PS3, Xbox 360), October 15th, 2015 (Android and iOS), and TBA 2015 (Wii U and Vita)
Price: $24.99 (Season Pass)
Minecraft: Story Mode is Telltale’s latest attempt at adapting their storytelling focused game formula to a popular game or series.
For anybody who has played it, learning that Telltale was making one of their adaptations using Minecraft may have sounded a little bit odd. The purpose of the game is basically yours to choose as you just get dropped in a world and start playing anyway you want. Such a directionless experience didn’t seem like it would be easily made into a standard Telltale experience. On the other hand, with how open ended Minecraft is, maybe it was the perfect candidate for telling a story using all that exists in the game with zero expectations from the story itself.
Minecraft: Story Mode opens with its first episode, taunting a legendary tale, in The Order of the Stone. This tells of a group of four heroes who adventure to defeat the Ender Dragon, largely disappearing from the public eye after the events. Shortly after the tale concludes, the game transitions to the perspective of your character, Jesse, pet pig, Rueben, and friend, Olivia. The trail then has us preparing for EnderCon in their tree house.
As the opening progresses, a friend named Axel comes in to inform you that a member of The Order of the Stone, Gabriel the Warrior, will be present at EnderCon. And, winning the building competition at the ‘Con will grant access to meet him. Eventually you meet up with Petra, a seasoned explorer, and Lukas, part of your main opposition in the building competition, and slowly discover with your entire group that more is happening than meets the eye.
It is ultimately up to you to find The Order of the Stone in order to save the world from terror.
The story itself is a decent start, even if it does play on some more common storytelling tropes. There is a nice mix of humor, action, and serious moments to keep you involved start to finish. As is the case with all Telltale adaptations from existing material, if you have actually played Minecraft and understand everything, there is more to appreciate here. Even if you aren’t a seasoned Minecraft player though, the first episode of Minecraft: Story Mode is easy to delve into.
Even in the first episode, you experience increasing conflict as it progresses, taking your ragtag group and forcing them into a bigger situation than they ever expected. Although the story progression itself feels fairly predictable, it is told in an interesting way that leaves you wanting more when the first episode ends.
The pacing for the first episode felt well done for the most part, and you’re left set up to go out and start your big mission in the next episode. There’s even a bit of mystery. Telltale definitely did a good job providing a story and direction to source material that is as directionless as it gets, building a world with established characters and ideas. They even did a good job fitting the idea of Minecraft, where you can easily download and apply new character skins, by giving you multiple options for the look of your protagonist.
You can make your protagonist male or female out of six available looks. Each male and female also having their own voice, with a more gender ambiguous name, Jesse, allows them to be used to keep things relatively simple. This is a first for the Telltale series, generally putting you in the shoes of a character you had no choice in the design of. Although it ultimately isn’t a major factor, as character design is hardly a sticking point in Telltale games, the choice does add a personal touch to the experience.
To tie it all together, of course, you have decisions you can make that people remember, and the major decisions that are tallied up at the end of each episode. As of the time I was playing, I managed to be in the minority for most of the decisions I made, but it’s always fun getting to see what everybody else decided.
Now you’re probably wondering about gameplay. As more and more details were revealed leading up to the release of the first episode, it seemed that Minecraft: Story Mode would have perhaps more gameplay than your average Telltale title. Although I can’t say for sure whether there was more gameplay than I’m used to with the standard Telltale touch, I can say that there is a fair bit.
Throughout Minecraft: Story Mode – Episode One, you’ll have the chance to walk around, explore, interact with people and objects, fight enemies, and dodge attacks. It may be one of the most exciting Telltale episodic adventures so far in terms of interactive events as you time strikes against enemies and avoid various attacks. There is even a material collecting montage that you get to take part in near the beginning of the episode.
All of that said, I would be hard-pressed to call this first episode perfect. It does start out somewhat slow, and left me wondering why I should care about these characters I was introduced to. It seemed almost problematic when the pig was the most interesting character for most of the time I spent playing. Granted, the pig is a fun addition to the cast, but I should be more involved with the characters that have actual speaking roles.
The Bottom Line
Minecraft: Story Mode – Episode One is a charming experience. The cast of characters slowly grows on you, the pig is oddly interesting, the story makes a nice move from innocent to world at large in danger, and you’ll definitely be left waiting anxiously for the next episode.
Telltale did a surprisingly good job adapting Minecraft with their game making formula, and the end result is much better than I had expected it to be. Even if it isn’t the absolute best Telltale adaptation at this point, it is also far from the worst.
I look forward to future episodes so that I can continue the tale of Jesse and friends.