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Wednesday, 13 April 2016

Minecraft: Story Mode E5: Order Up!



So, Minecraft: Story Mode, episode five! I have a Let's Play of it and the entire series up here, please go check that out if you're interested, and consider liking and subscribing.


Minecraft: Story Mode
Episode 5
Order Up!



It feels like we've been waiting about eighty years for this episode, and that seems to be largely due to a combination of the Christmas holidays and Telltale's slightly odd and very last minute decision to add three more episodes on to the series, in what is a more or less unprecedented move. Thus, what we thought would be the finale is actually just the start of a new arc, and I'm not sure how I feel about that. 

The Wither Storm arc was actually a fairly phenomenal piece of storytelling, and it would have been perfectly capped off by a story exploring how Jesse and the others try to be a better Order than the last (and possibly even fighting an Ender Dragon, to hammer in that parallel?) but I'm not sure if this new arc will measure up, or even if it'll be a new arc at all, or just a series of standalone episodes.

Set an undisclosed amount of time after the close of the fourth episode, episode five sees Jesse, Lukas, Petra, and Ivor travelling through a portal to a distant land in the skies, in search of 'the Eversource', an artifact that Ivor wants to get his hands on which can create unlimited quantities of any material. Before long, they encounter the Founder, ruler of Sky City, who imposes strict restrictions on building and rules the city with an iron fist. To make matters worse, they must also go up against the Blaze Rods, a group consisting of former members of Lukas' Ocelots, and led by Aiden, who has a peculiar grudge against Jesse.

It's shiny.

I'll be honest, this episode didn't really live up to the standard set by the four preceding episodes. Whereas those had a sense of consistent tension and danger, as you attempted to escape from a powerful and mysterious eldritch abomination while also attempting to find a way to stop it, everything that happens in Sky City feels - oddly pointless. There never feels like there's any real danger, it never seems like there are any real stakes, and it suffers for the lack of the series' main driving force. It feels like filler, or a side story, and while the plot was sometimes fun, it never really caught my attention or interest to any great degree.

If this was DLC, that would be all right, but it's not: It is, depending on how you look at it, either the grand finale of the series' first arc, or the beginning of the series' next arc, and neither one of those things should feel as floppy and whimsical as this episode does.

It doesn't help at all that Aiden does not make a remotely compelling villain (we've downgraded from 'a mysterious and ever more powerful eldritch abomination' to 'essentially just a school bully'), or that the cast is scaled down drastically to just Jesse, Lukas, Petra, and Ivor (although I am always glad of more Lukas, because I desire that he and Jesse form a relationship). Telltale tries to impart a great moral lesson in this episode, but unlike the moral themes running through the first four episodes, this one, which hinges around building, feels weirdly only applicable to Minecraft.

Swords.

In terms of gameplay, the episode is, as expected, pretty much exactly the same as the episodes preceding it. That's really no surprise. There are a few glitches every now and then, including the lip-syncing glitch we got in episode two, and some very long loading screens - all of which seems to point to this game coming out on a very rushed development schedule - but otherwise, the episode is functional and fine to play. The voice-acting is fine, and benefits from the addition of Melissa Hutchinson, best known from Deadly Premonition and The Wolf Among Us, playing Isa.

What even is that?

While this episode was good fun, and I did enjoy playing it, it doesn't exactly fill me with much confidence for the remainder of the series, because I'm not sure I want to see a series that started off with such a strong plot end on either a lacklustre storyline about parallel worlds or on four limp standalone episodes that feel more like filler than anything else.

Still, I would still recommend the series, and if you're getting the first four then you might as well play this one, as well, since they come as a package deal. It's a fun way to use up a couple of hours, and who knows, my fears might well end up unfounded. We'll have to wait until - well, probably until May or June to see.

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