Minecraft: Story Mode was an intriguing prospect when it was announced earlier this year by Telltale Games. Many immediately dismissed it as a misstep from Telltale, but they might have been fools not to give this a shot.
Straight out the gate, Minecraft: Store Mode gives us an intriguing world and group to become acquainted with. The player can take on the role of either male Jesse or female Jesse (a nice new variant from Telltale) as they guide their small group of close friends through a building competition, with the hopes of meeting a fabled member of The Order of the Stone.
I’m not a fan of the original Minecraft by any means, and I get the sense that some aspects of this series will be particularly familiar to those who like the building game, while it may alienate outside players slightly. What few jokes there are in this opening episode seem to be pointed towards fans of the original game, and as such they didn’t quite resonate with me.
However the group of friends you’re immediately introduced to are all a likeable bunch, if not particularly deep or interesting. Each character seems to be fairly one dimensional: Axel has his sarcastic sense of humour and not much else, Olivia is sensible but downtrodden, and Reuben is, well, a pig. The later additions of Petra and Lukas certainly add a new layer to the group, but the script never lets any of it’s characters shine, even managing to keep Ashley Johnson firmly under wraps as Petra.
Plot wise, Minecraft: Story Mode is definitely intriguing to begin with, and only gets better from there. After arriving at Endercon from winning the building contest, the group discover a world-threatening monster, and are tasked with reuniting the legendary Order of the Stone to save the world. The characters always manage to act like the world is bearing down on them, and since you don’t have a particular emotional attachment to any of them, this certainly helps their case.
Telltale Games usually carry a trademark of highly developed characters; which just goes to help in a decision based game, and Minecraft: Story Mode somewhat fails to fulfil this. I’m not entirely sure if it’s because the characters are so cartoonishly rendered, but there definitely is an absence of any emotional attachment or feeling that one would often get from playing an episode of any other Telltale Game series.
The gameplay itself, while not stellar, is still solid. I can’t help thinking that Telltale may have slightly lowered the difficultly of the quick time events, given that a Minecraft product may generally cater to an audience of a lower age. No matter if there is a reason for the lowered difficulty, the gameplay is still entertaining enough through the opening episode, although it is used incredibly sparingly throughout, with brief one-button sword fights with zombies being the highlight.
Episode 1 of Minecraft: Story Mode is nothing special by any means, and although it has an interesting-enough bunch of characters and an intriguing story, the script languishes and never gives any character a chance to shine, while the gameplay is incredibly basic and easy. Not a bad start for the series, and I’ll be interested to see where Telltale take it from here.