Minecraft: Story Mode
The Order of the Stone.
This might be the Telltale Games project I've been the least excited about, as yet - at least until they announced The Walking Dead Season 3 (words cannot describe how bored I am with zombies). While I kind of distantly enjoy Minecraft in the sense that I like watching other people play it, but could probably take or leave actually playing it myself, I don't like it enough to have been pretty hyped for a whole game based on it, especially since Minecraft has no story or anything resembling one, making it a great sandbox crafting game but poor fare for a story-driven Telltale Games game.
Set in a sort of vaguely Minecraft-y world, Minecraft: Story Mode follows Jesse, a young builder (who can be slightly customised in that you can pick their gender and skin tone, which is nice), and their friends, Olivia and Axel, as they attempt to win a yearly building contest in the hopes of meeting Gabriel, one of the legendary Order of the Stone. Things go horribly wrong when a mysterious man summons a Wither Storm, an enhanced Wither that grows endlessly, and Jesse must set out to find the other members of the Order, before the world is destroyed.
We'll start by talking about gameplay, because that's going to be a simple one: It is, more or less, more of the same - you talk to people, make choices (which you're informed that people will remember every so often) that ultimately don't really impact on the fairly railroaded plot, engaging in some light point-and-click adventuring (which, as always, is pretty easy), and do some quicktime events. It's the standard Telltale Games package, for better or worse, and the only real new addition is that you occasionally get to do some crafting. There are three instances of crafting in the first episode - two where you're told what to make, and one where you have a small set of recipes to cycle through. It's a fun addition, but it doesn't really change the formula any - it's just an extension of the aforementioned light point-and-click elements.
|You get to go to the Nether, it's lovely.|
While I am constantly hoping that Telltale Games will try to innovate a little with their games, I am also relatively resigned to the idea that any innovations they make are coming very slowly, so it isn't as if I was expecting Minecraft: Story Mode to play drastically differently from their standard output.
So, let's talk about the story. In a way, it feels like it's a story that's been dragged out of half a dozen action films, patched together, and satirised a little - in that respect, it's very LEGO Movie, although the satire in that one was certainly a lot heavier. The characters are instantly recognisable archetypes, the storyline treads some extremely familiar paths, and while Telltale Games are definitely being slightly tongue-in-cheek about it all (the 'training montage' sequence is a fine example of that), it definitely falls on the 'using these tropes seriously' side of the line.
That's not necessarily a problem - Minecraft: Story Mode is clearly intended to be the studio's funnest, fluffiest work yet, after all, and I was never distracted by how, well, cliche the plot was. While I noticed it, it didn't dampen my enjoyment in any way. Maybe that's partly because of how the game doesn't give you much time to think about it, as a large swathe of its middle is devoted to almost unbroken, actually quite frenetic and tense action. Maybe that's partly because, with the exception of monobrow'd big guy Axel, the characters are all engaging and enjoyable, even if I've seen them about a hundred times in other pieces of media.
|Customisation. Well. A choice between six options.|
(Someone I know did get a little vexed at the lack of Minecraft Accuracy in the game, incidentally. "You can't push down a stone pressure plate with an arrow," she said. "Why didn't they cover those rail tracks with cobblestone, ghasts can't get through that. And since when do ghasts die in a single hit?" "That book would be full of random sentences." I have instructed her to write a sternly worded letter to The Times, as one does in these situations.)
|That's a nice bridge. It'd be a shame if anything ... happened ... to it.|
Overall, Minecraft: Story Mode isn't breaking any molds, but it is a fun little romp of a game so far, especially if you're one of Telltale Games' small legion of fans. If you have a few hours free and enjoy episodic games, I do recommend picking it up. If you don't want to pick it up, but are still interested in seeing what happens, then never fear! I have recently completed a Let's Play of it, which can be found at this playlist. So, go check that out. Go check it out now.
The next episode of Minecraft: Story Mode should be out in about two months time, so keep an eye out for it.