Minecraft: Story Mode – Season Two is only partially released, with four of five episodes still being held by Telltale Games, but the first episode we have, “Hero In Residence” is more than enough to start analyzing. The original Minecraft was a huge success, warranting the release of the original Story Mode. After the relatively controversial release of the game, with reviews ranging from amazing to terrible, the game was able to restabilize by launching more episodes and DLC that eventually brought the game back up to par. Season Two has managed to capture some of that magic, though it also seems to be getting off to a clunky start.
The game starts with practically no introduction, which is generally to be expected from the sequel to a story based game, but rare for Telltale to not go in depth with a recap. At least, it would be, if there hadn’t been check boxes at the beginning where I explicitly stated that I hadn’t played the first game. The game kept introducing me to characters and expecting that I knew them – whether it be Petra, who may or may not be a love interest (I honestly can’t tell), strange townspeople who are obviously callbacks to the old game but have no explanations, or even old main characters who are casually mentioned, confusing the heck out of me. Numerous events are also referenced, whether it be the infamous ‘magic chicken’ event (what the heck?), previous adventures, a main character’s beloved sword, or even just the main plot of the last game. That isn’t really where the lack of intro most damages the game, though.
A main plot point in the game is that the last game clearly happened a long time ago, and that in between the characters have drifted apart. You start as the mayor of a city, which keeps you too busy to go off and have adventures with your friends. As the character and as the player, it’s often shown that your friends feel very wistful about the old days, and are sad and mildly angry that they’re over, and that you can’t make time for more. You are supposed to be feeling this same way, but with absolutely no context these emotional scenes left me feeling empty. It isn’t the worst case of missing introduction that I’ve seen, but a more robust introductory scene definitely should be in the game, considering the effects it has on the plot.
As far as the whole Minecraft tie-in goes, Telltale has done an incredible job of making the universe seem fresh and exciting while still being the classic building game we all know and love. Lots of crazy new stuff has been added in, from a real civilization to a magical artifact to the most epic interpretation of the water temple ever, but you can still see the blocks, feel the creation, and understand the world. One thing that I loved that I wished had been incorporated into more of the game was the building segment, in which you create something for your friend. It followed the real building of Minecraft beautifully, while still being original. There was only one segment, with no restrictions, no effects on the real world, and nothing to do with what you had collected/ done – I’m hoping for more of that in later chapters. The one whiff in the Minecraft aspect was definitely the crafting mechanic, though. The basic idea was captured in the game – however, it was not very appealing when you were handed a certain amount of materials, and you only needed to craft one item which would be used in one place, and you were given the crafting recipe for it. Overall, I would’ve loved to have seen more modularity and more creativity in the crafting aspect, whether it be more mine-able blocks than just the ones you need, more craft-able items, or anything like that. Again, I’m hoping this will be put into the next episodes. Overall, they captured the feel of Minecraft very well, but I wished that there had been more of the classic brick-placing, resource collecting freedom from the original game.
On to the beef of the game – the plot. As said above, the plot isn’t properly conveyed as far as background goes, but that isn’t really our main concern here. The individual story moments are some of the best I’ve seen in gaming – the little dialogues between characters, or the thought-provoking choices you must make bring life to the overall world. One thing that’s always been on my mind in games is the weight of choices – I don’t want to choose to eat a banana instead of an apple and end up getting hit by a bus, but I also don’t want complete and total forgiveness as far as my choices go. This was very well done – many of my choices didn’t seem to have much apparent effect, but that usually made sense in the context. When something was done, the story reacted as it would in the real world, which was refreshing. I do wish that there had been more important choices, but hopefully that will be brought into future episodes. Even the dialogue was well-done – generally, a single line didn’t mean life or death, but at certain intervals, the overall effects of what I had said would either benefit me or bite me in the butt. I did have two concerns with the dialogue features, though. One of them was the lack of variety when it came to options – sometimes, I just wanted to avoid talking about something, or just move along with the plot, but occasionally it seemed as though the game really wanted me to choose something, since every option was practically the same. The other protest I had was that the dialogue I selected and the words spoken by the character sometimes had discrepancies – something that I read as encouragement would be said sarcastically, or silence would be misinterpreted greatly. More clarity and variety with dialogue would be great, but overall the choices were very well done.
The actual plot of the game – or at least the parts that were not affected by my choices, but were instead in the world around me – was definitely shaky at some points. Main events and plot points were incredibly forced into the game, detracting from the lifelike feel of the choices. For instance, after getting a glove magically attached to his hand and opening a LITERAL PORTAL TO AN EVIL DIMENSION (not the Nether or the End, something entirely new), the main character seems all too eager to entirely forget about it for a while to go on some stupid side quests, rather than do the reasonable thing and panic. Another character has some crazy PTSD about a temple which killed two of his friends and almost killed him, even though he’s supposedly the greatest adventurer ever. Once we arrive at the temple, though, there were about two traps, both of which took about twelve seconds to figure out. His trauma from that temple was forced into the game, as were some other major plot points, especially the ending, which I won’t spoil. Other than that, nothing really seemed out of place in the story, so the story was still enjoyable, though I wished it was a little bit more natural and real. Forcing these moments into the story pulled me out of the immersion in the story, and whenever it was in the dialogue it just resulted in some cringing.
The actual gameplay, when it wasn’t in story mode, was mediocre at best. The actual parkour, movement, or battle moments were far and few between and with only one objective, which is pretty much exactly what the game needed – just something to fill the gaps between the story. Besides the battling, though, the platforming and motion was just too simple. There were entire levels where you literally just needed to hold down the W key. This wasn’t a fluke – this was half the gameplay. Other than that, everything involved either pressing keys in sequence, which was alright, or spamming buttons, which generally replaced things I would’ve wanted to do. There was nothing bad about the gameplay, but I wouldn’t really say there was much that was too good about it either. Of course, this isn’t anything huge in a story-based game, but it would’ve added to the experience to have richer gameplay.
Overall, the second season of Minecraft: Story Mode has gotten off to a pretty good start. It isn’t anywhere near perfect, but I’d definitely recommend checking it out if you enjoy Minecraft or story-based games. I’m definitely looking forward to Episode Two, and I’ll update you when it comes out!
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Developer: Telltale Games, Mojang
Publisher: Telltale Games, Mojang
Platform: PS4, Xbox One, Mobile, Mac, PC (Reviewed)
Released: July 11th, 2017
Copy provided by publisher