|Jesse (your character) along with Reuben, Olivia and Axel|
- Review by: Mark Goninon
- Developer: Telltale Games
- Publisher: Telltale Games
- Release Date: 14 Oct 2015
- Time played: 13.7 hours
What is itThose familiar with Telltale adventures should know what to expect: a cinematic point 'n' click adventure game that is light on the puzzles but heavy on the elements borrowed from visual novels like conversation choices affecting your relationships with those around you. In Minecraft: Story Mode you play the role of a guy (or girl) called Jesse who, along with his (or her) friends Olivia and Axel, enjoys doing what most people enjoy doing in Minecraft: building things. Usually they get to show off their creations during an annual building competition at an event called EnderCon but soon become embroiled in a chain of events that risks bringing an end to the world.
I'll be reviewing the full eight episodes which make up the first season of Minecraft: Story Mode. If you don't purchase the Adventure Pass, you only get to experience five episodes instead of eight but what I find kind of dodgy is that while the first four episodes are pretty much a self-contained story, episode 5 is actually connected to episodes 6, 7 and 8: this means to see a resolution to the events that occur in episode 5, you need to dish out more money. Not a problem if you get the "Complete Adventure" experience like I have though 😊.
How I got itWhile I already had quite a few Telltale adventure games by the beginning of this year I still didn't have Batman – The Telltale Series nor did I have Minecraft: Story Mode. So when a Humble Bundle came out in July that offered these games and more for USD $15, it seemed like too good a deal to miss. I'm not much of a fan when it comes to the Minecraft franchise but since I generally enjoy Telltale adventures and since I was curious how you'd actually make an adventure game based off Minecraft work, curiosity got the better of me and that's why I'm now typing up this review.
What I like:
Branching Plot in Episode 2One thing I do like about this Telltale adventure is that episode two can actually pan out quite differently depending on which hero you choose to recruit (one's an engineer called Ellegard and another is a rogue called Magnus). Often, the choices you make in Telltale adventures are superficial and this is also the case for Minecraft: Story Mode (i.e. you still reach the same point at the end of episode two) but this time you at least get to experience an episode in an entirely different way (e.g. different supporting characters, different locales, different goals, etc.) depending on the choices you make – neat!
Most of the episodes were actually goodWhile I felt Episode 1 and Episode 3 were lacking, thankfully the rest of the episodes here are actually pretty good. As mentioned already, Episode 2 actually pans out quite differently depending on who you choose to pursue and Episode 4 which serves as an ending to the first four episodes is probably the most emotional one not to mention it also has an "Episode IV: New Hope" vibe to it (yes, I realise the coincidence).
Episodes 5-8 (episodes 6-8 are included as part of the Adventure Pass) are also all part of one story arc but what occurs during the episodes are self-contained (a bit like Star Trek episodes where a different world is visited in each episode but there's an overarching long-term storyline lurking in the background too). They also seem to be heavily inspired by film, TV and literature such as Episode 6 acting out like an Agatha Christie murder mystery (complete with Summation Gathering), Episode 7 having an uncooperative and misguided A.I. similar to "2001: A Space Odyssey" and Episode 8 bearing strong similarities to "The Hunger Games".
|It wouldn't be Minecraft without crafting tables|
Nailed the Minecraft styleFrom the animations, to the sound effects, to the user interface, Telltale has definitely nailed the Minecraft style; they even have you crafting items at a crafting table every so often in order to solve puzzles!
Character customisationThis is the first Telltale adventure game where I was able to customise the protagonist a bit like an RPG! Mind you, you only have a choice of picking three male options and three female options (giving you a total of six) but it's better than nothing 😊.
Voice actingI've found that Telltale adventures don't tend to hold back when it comes to the voice acting and Minecraft: Story Mode is no exception. You've got a mix of professional voice actors, film actors and comedians lending their voice acting talent such as Billy West (Philip J. Fry, Prof. Farnsworth and Dr. Zoidberg in Futurama) as the Narrator, Paul Reubens as Ivor (Pee-Wee Herman in Pee-wee's Big Adventure), Dave Fennoy as Gabriel (Lee in The Walking Dead: Season 1), Ashley Johnson as Petra (Ellie in The Last of Us) and Grey DeLisle as Ellegaard (Handmaiden/Brianna in Knights of the Old Republic 2, Nova in Starcraft II, Elizabeth Veronica Darling in Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon, etc. - she's done a lot!).
In terms of the protagonists, you have Patton Oswalt (Remy in Ratatouille) voicing Male Jesse and Catherine Taber voicing Female Jesse (Mission Vao in Knights of the Old Republic along with several roles in Star Wars TV shows and games).
Funky musicIt took me a while to warm to the soundtrack by a band known as Anadel but they've done a pretty good job; it's sometimes funky, sometimes reflective, sometimes jazzy and always good background music for the game.
The only thing I didn't like was that I kind of got used to having a new intro track and credits track for every episode, similar to what's normally done in The Walking Dead or Tales from the Borderlands.
PuzzlesI found that unlike previous Telltale adventures (at least the "new" style adventures since The Walking Dead) this one actually had some puzzles to solve! Mind you, you probably only need an IQ of 80 to solve them but at least it's better than no puzzles.
Steam AchievementsThe game has 50 achievements to earn (if you happen to have the Adventure Pass) and while most of them are easy to get (like most Telltale adventures) there are a couple which are slightly obscure and one that you can only get if you replay one of the episodes.
Strangely, there are no Steam Trading Cards (for some reason).
What I dislike:
Lip synching issuesI've experienced this behaviour in previous Telltale games and sadly it rears its ugly head in Minecraft: Story Mode too.
|Episode 5 was quite buggy including blank notifications in the top left|
Labels and notifications disappearingDuring episode 5 the notifications informing you whether a character remembered your actions or not seemed to become corrupted and was just showing up blank instead. It wasn't a terribly big issue but it's often nice to know how characters feel in response to your actions: it's now a Telltale game hallmark! Also, labels which would normally indicate what you can interact with became scrambled at one stage (e.g. one time I had a "Talk to Lukas" pop up on several characters – and no, they weren't all called "Lukas")
Stupid charactersThe characters in this game seem very childish and self-centred, and everybody's motivation is to get 1337 lewt or to have the coolest looking contraptions – granted I'm sure this is what people normally do when they play Minecraft but it feels odd when the actual denizens of the virtual world are motivated by the very same things. I actually found it hard to like the protagonist at first because he ditches his friends pretty early on in the game for no apparent reason. It makes me think the game's target demographic are teens and tweens – but maybe I'm being a bit too harsh on kids nowadays by saying that – maybe the characters are just plain bad.
Weird leaps in storySometimes during the game, I felt there were some inconsistencies in the plot, such as one episode where a character tells your group to not steal anything but then she goes ahead and does it anyway – there's no conversation option to make a point of it and it's all just swept under the rug. Really? No-one's going to call her out on it?
YoutubersEpisode 6 features (apparently) famous Youtubers, at least for those who are Minecraft fans. While I'm really happy for these YouTube stars having a role based on a game they're really passionate about it, it doesn't really do much for me considering I'm not a Minecraft fan or a gamer that follows YouTube personalities (even non-Minecraft ones). Consequently, mileage may vary on this episode – although thankfully the episode isn't hindered by their inclusion.
Score – 7/10 (Good)I'm quite confident in saying that Minecraft: Story Mode is my favourite game from the Minecraft franchise – but that's not exactly saying much considering I didn't enjoy the game that it's based off. The game has all the things we've come to expect from a Telltale adventure such as Quick-Time Events, great voice acting, good music and an intriguing plot; it even adds upon the formula with some actual (albeit simple) puzzles, the ability to play as a male or female protagonist and an entire episode that plays quite differently depending on who you choose to recruit.
Despite all the things it does right though, the game is probably the weakest Telltale adventure I've played in recent years mainly because the game seems to be targeted towards tweens/teenagers resulting in two-dimensional characters, non-sensical behaviour and Youtubers I don't care about. It also doesn't help that the usual problems with Telltale adventures apply here such as lip synching issues and laggy animation.
Is the game worth $39.98 USD?: Note that this is the combined price for the base game (Episodes 1-5) and the Adventure Pass (Episodes 6-8). Considering this is $5 USD per episode (which is what Telltale usually charge for their games) it's worth it, but only just. I'd definitely recommend waiting for the game to go on sale if you're not 100% sure this is the kind of game for you.
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[ LINK: Official Minecraft: Story Mode Website ]