When it was announced Minecraft was getting a “Story Mode”, at first I didn’t know how to react. I wasn’t really surprised considering how popular the franchise has become over the last several years, but I always thought that the beauty of the game was it’s lack of linearity. Minecraft’s sole purpose is to build, and from that simple concept it has evolved into the creative powerhouse that we’ve come to know and love. But as more details became apparent, the more curious I got. For starters, Story Mode isn’t actually apart of Minecraft, but actually a Telltale game using the Minecraft license. Now, if Minecraft is the leading game in its genre, then Telltale games are the leading games in the genre of episodic gaming. At first it might seem like a cash grab for Telltale to use Minecraft of all things, but considering how amazing Tales From the Borderlands has turned out it’s probably more than that. In any case, the first episode of Minecraft Story Mode was released this week. I picked up with mixed expectations and found myself looking forward to the rest of this tale.
Episode 1: The Order of the Stone, introduces us to our hero and his friends. It’s worth noting that the main character can be a girl or guy depending on player preference, however for my play-through I played him as male so I’ll be referring to him as such.. Jesse is a normal resident of this Minecraft world Telltale has set up for us. He is joined by a colourful cast of characters, including a pig that he considers his best friend. Can’t help but feel bad for his other friends. What’s cool about the setting of Story Mode is that the world is both familiar and foreign to Minecraft fans. When we play Minecraft the worlds we create are filled with materials for us to build with, but not people. In Episode 1 we clearly see that this world is bustling with its own cities and towns, even its own mythology which sets up the central conflict. There’s a lot that isn’t explained even by the end of the game, but I hope that it’s included int he story eventually. Telltale shows that there’s a lot of potential here and it would be a shame to not explore this world deeper.
One thing that won’t unfamiliar to fans of Minecraft is how the game looks. It’s a little more detailed than your typical Minecraft game, but that famous cubic aesthetic that the game is so famous for is still there. It’s definitely divisive and not everyone is going to love the look, but I think that chances are if you’re already a fan of the franchise it will look amazing. Otherwise, it’s blocky (no pun intended).
As far as gameplay is concerned it’s standard Telltale fare. The bulk of the game is the decisions that you make mixed in with some quick time events and other game specific mechanics. In this case, there is crafting (surprise), but it’s in a very controlled environment and meant to be in the form of puzzles. The issue though is that some of the puzzles are made incredibly easy if your knowledge of Minecraft recipes is top-notch. Still, it’s a really fun touch that I would like to see expanded in future episodes.
In fact, what I’ve enjoyed the most about Story Mode so far is what the future content will, or rather might bring. While pretty much all of Telltale games are decision-based, Minecraft: Story Mode’s choices feel surprisingly big considering how early we are in the story. For example; without spoiling anything, you make a choice at the end of the game which appears to drastically change the course of the next episode. Only time will tell what that means exactly but I can’t help but feel like my choices are actually making big changes, whether I want them to or not.
Minecraft: Story Mode Episode 1: The Order of the Stone was a ton of fun to play and like all Telltale games can’t wait to play a new episode. Minecraft can benefit from a creative story told using it’s universe, and while only time will tell if this is a licensed game that can be great at least Telltale has laid the foundation to build something truly great.