Minecraft Story Mode Season Two: Episode One
If you build it…
Weaving a plot around a game that’s effectively nothing more than a vast sandbox can’t be a particularly easy task. How can a single story or character possibly encompass the countless different experiences you may have within the make-your-ownfun world of Minecraft?
If you’ve only ever played it as a sort of collaborative virtual Lego set, you might not recognize the bustling society Telltale’s writers have conjured within Minecraft’s borderless, goalless expanse. It’s an Indiana Jones-ish treasure hunt set in a kind of blocky utopia where everyone’s purpose in life seems to be to create and admire awesome builds. The entire population lives and breathes Minecraft.
As Jesse, principal architect, adventurer, savior, and leader of Beacontown, you’re the object of the citizens’ devotion/envy. It’s a strange position to be in, like you’re some sort of demigod who just happens to live next door to a bunch of ordinary folk. Some characters believe in hidden deities who direct their actions, while cameo appearances from the chunky avatars of actual prominent YouTubers only serve to hammer at the fourth wall and amp up the surreality.
Choices made in SeasonOne will carry through to the new game, while newcomers can choose which key decisions they would have made had they experienced the battle against the Wither Storm and everything else that transpired during the previous episodes. You can also opt to start without any knowledge of Jesse’s past. Either way, the game opens with a brief summary of the original party’s story, as transcribed by rival turned teammate Lukas. The party then splits up, and you’re left with Jesse, and his (or her, your choice) best buddy Petra.
Petra takes Jesse on an adventure in the mines below Beacontown, where they follow a treasure-seeking llama (don’t ask) that leads them to a secret cavern with a sinister glowing gauntlet. Being the boss, Jesse decides to try on the gauntlet, finds he’s unable to remove it, and a cavernous ‘Heckmouth’ opens up, spewing out creatures. Thus begins a new quest that introduces a couple of additional party members, a boastful rival from nearby Champion City, and a super powerful foe known only as The Admin.
As far as gameplay enhancements go, certain combat scenes give you direct control of your character, allowing you to move, dodge, and attack in realtime. It’s an action-
focused addition to the usual buttonprompt quicktime events (which are still present in abundance), although a long way short of the quality you’d expect from a ‘real’ 3D action game. Movement is sluggish, and death forces you to restart at the lengthy pre-fight cutscene. It wasn’t much fun having to sit through one of these two or three extra times because the game failed to explain how to avoid an enemy’s 360° stomp attack. For the record, the solution was to keep the enemy in the center of the playing area and walk very slowly backwards until reaching the furthest allowable distance. I’d been failing because there was an invisible wall behind my character, preventing me from retreating far enough.
Crafting tables make a reappearance, in one instance asking you to create specific types of blocks to solve a puzzle. This was actually quite promising: Examining the area, looking through the inventory, and figuring out what the crafting recipes required. However, when I inadvertently created a similarly named but incorrect item, Petra decided not to let me have another go, and instead placed the required ingredients on the table and told me exactly what to do. I know it’s aimed at a young audience, but it could at least have asked if I wanted any help.
The amount of mileage you get out of the story and the optional chats with the many incidental characters you’ll find in Beacontown depends largely on how much enthusiasm you have for their one-track Minecraft
focused lives. They can talk at great length about what kind of block a wall is made of, which is definitely an important thing in the proper
Minecraft game, but it doesn’t always make for enthralling dialogue.
The pace is slow throughout, and in stretching the first episode past the two-hour mark the script contains an awful lot of filler. There were at least a couple of times when I zoned out while the characters waffled on and on about nothing of consequence, and I ended up completely missing a timed dialogue choice, something that has never happened to me in a Telltale game before. There was a little message at the top of the screen saying so-and-so has noted your silence, or words to that effect. It’s not the hallmark of a gripping plot, that’s for sure.
Still, given that there are four more episodes to come, and knowing from experience that Telltale games tend to evolve somewhat over the course of a season, there’s potential for this one to overcome its shaky start. The foundations have been set in stone, but here’s hoping they take their time in refining the rest of the build.
far left The Admin awakes! It would have been cool if he was a giant human hand or something. left This is Radar, Jesse’s number one fan and a bit of an oddball.
ri ght Entering a spooky temple in search of the legendary Structure Block.