I don’t know how they did it, but they did it. Telltale actually did Minecraft justice and created a surprisingly fitting story. We all know the studios has done some great work in the past, but the fact that it pulled a story out of a game completely devoid of narrative still feels like some sort of dark magic. To any writers who traded their souls for the power to make this game, I give my condolences.
The best thing about Minecraft: Story Mode is that it doesn’t feel like some vanilla story shoehorned into a blocky setting; it actually feels like legitimate Minecraft lore. Episode 1: Order of the Stone begins by introducing a fully fleshed-out world, one where building is an everyday activity and Ender Dragons are stuff of legend. The episode relies a lot on world building, spending the better part of its runtime introducing protagonist Jesse and the world he lives in. It’s a slow start but not a slog, as the writing is charming and quirky, albeit a bit corny at times. There’s a large cast of fun characters to meet, all performed well by the all-star cast. The story eventually does pick up, as we get some great moments involving giant beasts and the horrors of The Nether. It’s a light and fun adventure that would work perfectly as an old Saturday morning cartoon.
Story Mode doesn’t just work as a Minecraft story; it even works as a Minecraft game. While most of the game is still pure Telltale, with branching dialogue, decision making and quick-time events, a few small, extra mechanics were mixed in that work really well. There’s a simplified version of combat where you lock onto targets, strafe and swing your sword. Enemies behave exactly as they always have, making the whole system feel like a cinematic extension of traditional fighting. There’s also a few moments where you have to use a crafting table, complete with the familiar interface and recipes. You usually only have enough resources to build the one item the story wants, but one sequence near the end opens things up and gives you enough stuff to craft a few different solutions.
The one sticking point with the episode is a little too much influence from recent Telltale games. The opening credit sequence feels like it was ripped right out of Tales from the Borderlands, and one argument-filled scene felt a little too The Walking Dead-ish. The game also seems to be fighting its own design; there are some setups that truly feel like they’re leading towards puzzles or deeper gameplay, but they are quickly pulled down the path of least resistance. It’s fine that Telltale is sticking to its formula, but it doesn’t always feel like a natural fit here.
What’s most important is that the episode did its job: prove that a story can be told within the Minecraft world. It’s a charming adventure with plenty of potential, and it ends with the feeling that the best is yet to come.
Minecraft: Story Mode Episode 1: Order of the Stone was developed and published on Xbox 360 and Xbox One by Telltale Games. It was released October 14, 2015 for $4.99. A copy was provided by Telltale Games for review purposes.
To find reviews for the other episodes (as they become available), check out the Minecraft: Story Mode review hub.