Review of Minecraft: Story Mode
By Samual Cale on December 16, 2017 from Level Up
Ever since Minecraft was released, many people wished it had a story mode of some kind, and that wish was granted by Telltale Games in October of 2015 with Minecraft: Story Mode. For years I took little notice of it since it is not the sandbox kind of game that I know and love Minecraft for, but in light of reduced prices and recommendations from friends I decided to give it a try. For the most part I have been pleasantly surprised by the experience.
Minecraft: Story Mode is set in the world of Minecraft, and follows a character named Jesse, who can be either male or female, decided by the player at the beginning of the game. Jesse has few friends, all of which are viewed as losers by the rest of the community they live in.
These friends include Olivia, who has a knack for technology, Axel, a big guy that loves making mischief, Petra, a fighter and adventurer, and Reuben, your adorable best friend and pet pig. You and your companions are preparing for a building contest, the winner of which is given a ticket to a big convention being hosted by a member of the revered heroic Order of the Stone that legend says slew the ender dragon. After winning the contest, there is an accident and Reuben flees into the woods in terror as night falls, and you must go after him.
From here, the stakes of the story steadily progress and you end up being tasked with saving the world from a seemingly unstoppable horror. Minecraft: Story Mode presents a story that can be very emotionally moving at times and is generally enjoyable, however it does have flaws.
Linear stories are good, but despite the emphasis on your choices it feels like they ultimately have little impact on the overall outcome of the story. It usually does not matter if you go left or right in the long run, as you will still arrive at the same destination. The only major impacts your choices seem to have is what other characters think of you, and in some cases which ones makes it out of the adventure alive.
This feeling is especially prevalent in the last few episodes of Season One, and all of Season Two that I have experienced so far. Season Two currently only has four episodes with a fifth on the way, while Season One had eight episodes. While this element of limited choice feels a bit restricting, it does serve to keep the game from having too many possible stories, which in turn keeps the game from taking an eternity from being developed.
Another flaw I find in the story is that many characters are dim-witted, naive, or sometimes both. Jesse is a prime example of this. Some of the questions he asks make me cringe because the answer is so obvious, and he is often too trusting of others outside of your dialogue choices. In some cases I see that his obvious questions serve to help those unfamiliar to Minecraft understand the elements of the original sandbox game being used.
As far as gameplay, Minecraft: Story Mode largely consists of dialogue decisions, but also features segments of problem solving in which you explore a small area of your environment, fight scenes, chase scenes, and quick time events (events in which you must quickly press the displayed button). In dialogue, you will typically have four options, one of which is silence, which is the default response in these instances if you fail to respond within the allotted time, which simulates a real conversation but adds difficulty especially in the tricky situations you are often in. Major choices typically do not have a time restraint. Oftentimes, after making a dialogue choice a small notification will appear saying “*insert name* will remember that,” and they usually do and will bring it up in a later conversation or act a certain way because of what you said. Sometimes you are given the opportunity to walk around and interact with the world, and I definitely enjoy these segments as they offer a light mental exercise most of the time. Fight scenes unfortunately are usually rather boring, as they consist of walking back and forth and pressing the attack button. There is very little finesse or skill required to do this. Chase scenes, while thematically exciting, suffer much the same issue. You move from side to side and jump to avoid obstacles, sometimes swinging your sword at an enemy, which feels a little too easy. The quick-time events, next to the dialogue are the most exciting and stimulating element of Minecraft: Story Mode’s gameplay. Time will slow and you must react quickly to avoid the peril you are faced with.
My personal favorite is in Episode Five of Season One, where you duel the character that has been causing serious trouble that episode at the edge of a cliff. The battle is intense and makes the player feel very much involved in the action.
Minecraft: Story Mode uses the graphic style of the original Minecraft, except it has fully animated characters, whose movements, if not their physical build, is somewhat realistic. For example, unlike in the sandbox game, characters have functional knees and elbows. Also, for the sake of character interaction, they have proper faces with a range of expressions. This definitely gives the game a certain charm in my opinion, the same kind a cartoon possesses. The music is usually subtle and effectively adds to the mood and atmosphere of nearly any given scene.
With these things in mind I give Minecraft: Story Mode a seven out of ten. It tells a story with a good balance of action and emotional moments, and gives the player some control over its path. It offers fairly easy gameplay while keeping players on edge with the constant looming threat of a quick-time event and has a good focus on interacting with characters that react to your decisions and remember them. This is all conveyed through a charming graphical style that pays respects to the game from which Minecraft: Story Mode derives its themes and name. I was pleasantly surprised by the experience of playing this game and, while it is not my favorite, nor would I play it a second time, it is a game I would recommend to players of nearly all ages.