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 27, 2015 (PC, Mac, PS4, Xbox One, PS3, Xbox 360), and TBA 2015 (Android, iOS, Wii U, and Vita)
Price: $24.99 (Season Pass)
Not so long ago, the first episode of Minecraft: Story Mode came out. It was the first episode in the latest Telltale series that focuses on Minecraft, something that you likely would never associate with the Telltale game style if they hadn’t already made two episodes of Story Mode.
I thought that The Order of the Stone was a good start. The humor was decent, the characters were fun, and there was a good mix of action and ridiculousness to pull it all together. It gave me hope for future episodes. Surprisingly, although I wasn’t expecting another episode until November, Assembly Required just kind of came out of nowhere to continue the Minecraft: Story Mode adventure.
Disclaimer: Now, as always, it’s worth mentioning that this review will contain spoilers. If you haven’t already played Episode One: The Order of the Stone, I advise you to proceed through this review with caution.
At the end of the first episode, everything had kind of gone wrong. What was supposed to be a fun convention with friends turned into a threat against the world in the form of a Wither Storm. Depending on your choices, you ultimately sacrificed either Petra or Gabriel to the Wither Storm and headed into the Nether. Eventually you reach The Order of the Stone headquarters, find where two members are, and make a decision. Would you go after Ellegard the Redstone Engineer first, or Magnus, the guy who is apparently really good with explosions?
Little did I know, this choice apparently really matters.
I will admit that I haven’t played all of the Telltale games out there, but in my experience, the decision making system usually doesn’t have a substantial impact on the amount of content you actually experience. In other Telltale adventures I played, I didn’t feel like I needed two save files just so I could experience a full episode. Sure, it’s nice to maybe eventually play back through and make different choices, but I never felt like I absolutely had to.
In the second episode of Minecraft: Story Mode, you will want to have one save file selecting Ellegard, and one selecting Magnus. Depending on who you pick, it isn’t who you go after first, but rather you’re picking your gameplay section. This is not one of those scenarios where, regardless of what you pick, you’re bound to experience all the gameplay and story the game has to offer in one way or another. To top it all off, it isn’t as if each path is a two-hour journey, either.
Instead, both paths together make up two hours, which means if you decide to only pursue one path, the episode is only one-hour long. To make sure that the experience feels more like a chore this time, the last half hour is going to play out basically the same for both paths. It becomes increasingly obvious in a fairly negative way how they turned out the next episode so quickly.
Moving onto the content, I’ll start with the Ellegard path. To be blunt, it was boring. The interactions with the various characters were dull, everything felt shallow, and it felt like nobody tried with the dialogue either in writing or speaking. It was incredibly gameplay lite, and overall, I was not impressed. If this was the only path offered, I would have been incredibly disappointed. As it stands, it feels like a B-team was working on this part of the episode.
There is almost nothing noteworthy to speak of in terms of what’s unique on the Ellegard path. It’s rare that I feel like I made a wrong decision in a Telltale game. In fact, I don’t think it has ever happened. At least, that was the case until now. I deeply regret going on Ellegard’s path first. On its own, it is a complete letdown.
The Magnus specific path on the other hand feels like the team actually tried to make something enjoyable. There is a lot of gameplay as you deal with griefers and explosions, and the Magnus character is far more charming in his story path than if you just meet him at the end of the other decided route. If the Ellegard path had been even half as good as Magnus’ path, I would have almost nothing but good to say about this episode past the forced requirement of multiple save files to experience the full game. The voice acting seemed better, the characters were better, gameplay was more exciting, and it just felt like a more polished experience. It is night and day in terms of quality between the two available.
Regardless of which path you choose; the latter half of the episode basically plays out the same with slight differences as is more usual depending on which character you opted to save from the Wither Storm in Episode One. There are some decent gameplay elements including one noteworthy combat sequence, and it ends a little more decisively than the first episode that forced you to decide your second episode playthrough without knowing anything in advance.
Technically speaking, the episode ran okay for me, although I did run into some lip syncing issues with Jesse on the Ellegard path where they would finish speaking while mouth movements would continue for a second or two. It was exclusively a problem with Jesse, and although slightly annoying, it was far from game breaking.
The Bottom Line
Minecraft: Story Mode Episode Two was an interesting experience. The way that Telltale decided to split the story was somewhat unique, but very flawed. Although I understand they want to try to add replay value to their games, forcing it like this is far from an optimal solution. It would have been incredibly nice if both gameplay paths could be experienced with only one game file.
On top of this, I suppose Ellegard’s specific path is only 33% of the episode, but wow is it a lacking 33%. It dragged down the entire experience for me, and I couldn’t believe that was deemed okay to turn out. It made me unsure of whether or not the Magnus path was good, or if it was just good after I was almost bored to the point of quitting while dealing with Ellegard.
All I can say is that I hope Episode Three is much better than this. After Episode One, Episode Two felt like a huge step back for Minecraft: Story Mode.