GamingReview: Minecraft Story Mode Episode 1

Review: Minecraft Story Mode Episode 1

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You would have to travel pretty far to find someone who has never heard of the video game ‘Minecraft’. It is played by millions of people across almost every platform and many YouTube channels showcase all the wondrous builds that fans have created. Being honest, I have never been able to get into Minecraft as there is no story to it as such and I lack the patience to spend the time crafting materials to build anything nearly as impressive as the structures built by its community.

So when I learned that the newest episodic series by TellTale games was to be set in the world of Minecraft, I was both intrigued and puzzled. Telltale are the masters of the point and click style episodic series but up until now have taken graphic novel series such as ‘The Walking Dead’ and ‘The Wolf Among Us’, TV smash hit ‘Game of Thrones’ and video game series ‘Borderlands’ and adapted already established stories and characters. So TellTale would be creating a brand new experience set in the world of Minecraft. Can they create a believable story universe that Minecraft fans would not only accept but be happy with?

Minecraft Story Mode will be a five episode series just as previous TellTale game series and will use the same formula of a blend of point and click adventuring and puzzle solving gameplay with player choices that will shape the story around those decisions. Episode 1 ‘The Order of the Stone’ opens by telling the legend of the four heroes Gabriel, Magnus, Soren and Ellegard as they defeated the evil Ender Dragon. This was a great first step into creating a universe for the story to exist in and provides a good frame of reference for players.

For the first time in a TellTale game, the player has the opportunity to tailor the main character. You are not only able to choose the gender of the main character called Jesse, but you can also choose the ethnicity too. This adds a new level of giving players an even more unique experience that already will be more a personal one depending on what player choices are made.

minecraft story mode 5

Visually the game stays faithful to Minecraft in every detail with the character models and environments using the block styles and animated to reflect the same movements as character models in the Minecraft game. The building theme is used to give context for Story Mode as Jesse and his friends Axel and Olivia aim to win their first Building competition in order to win entry into Ender Con celebration to meet the legendary hero Gabriel. Jesse and friends are portrayed as somewhat social outcasts, mocked by rival building teams for having never won.

Little time is wasted in making the player start on using player choice to shape the relationship with Olivia and Axel via their opening conversation exchanges. You will need to be quick in selecting your answer as the timer runs out very quickly. Being the first episode it was a little too early to see what if any impact these answers will have but almost every conversation exchange felt as though my choices were setting up possible relationship factors.

Puzzles are pretty straightforward and easy to solve with the nice touch of using the Minecraft crafting tools with materials element to make the required tool if needed. Will be interesting to see if in future episodes if there will be more freedom to craft items to but for episode 1 it is simply in tutorial mode so the player will be provided with the right materials and told what to craft.

One of my initial reservations about this series sadly became more evident as Episode 1 played out. The tone of each TellTale game is often a reflection of the source material’s original tone which is usually quite grown up and use of mature content. As a result of the family friendly tone of Minecraft, the story just lacked that edge most TellTale games tend to have and I just felt that very little actually happened other than the setting up of a rather clichéd story. It suffered from a lack of any real ‘Big Moments’ that so many TellTale games have in the first episode to grab the player and have them emotionally invested in the new characters. Not even the use of a cute pet pig in Reuben, who serves as best friend and companion to Jesse, made me care about their quest.

I found the pace of this episode far too slow as very little happens in between cutscenes. Most of the action revolved around the standard TellTale QTE (quick time events) of pressing the correct button or direction on movement stick when prompted to. The slow pace also highlights the character dialogue sections that definitely suffer from the more family tone with the humour that is usually injected into the writing by TellTale sadly now missing. The voice talent delivering the lines of dialogue do a great job in giving the characters personality but the content is just too wooden.

Minecraft_JessesGroup_Screenshot.jpg

I am a big fan of TellTale games and was unsure what to expect from Minecraft Story Mode in its opening episode. Not being a fan or player of Minecraft, this episode will have nods and references that players that are will get and enjoy but for those like me, it succeeds in doing enough to bring you into its world. With four more episodes the story has a chance to find another gear for pacing and putting more into the story to broaden it more but sadly this introduction failed to grab me.

Fans of Minecraft will get to enjoy a story set in their favourite game but for me, too much of what makes the TellTale game formula so effective are missing and it was a bland experience overall. There is certainly room for this series to build on this first episode but I hope that TellTale find the right materials to craft a better experience.

SUMMARY

+ Visually faithful to Minecraft
+ Personalise your own hero
- Pacing too slow
- Lacks that certain TellTale magic
- Bland
(Reviewed on Xbox One, also available on Xbox 360, PS4, PS3, iOS and Android)
Sean McCarthy
Freelance writer but also a Gamer, Gooner, Jedi, Whovian, Spartan, Son of Batman, Assassin and Legend. Can be found playing on PS4 and Xbox One Twitter @CockneyCharmer

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