By Chris Melchin / June 10th, 2016
|Title||Minecraft: Story Mode|
|Release Date||March 29, 2016|
|Platform||Steam, PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, Xbox One, iOS, Android|
|Age Rating||ESRB – Everyone 10+|
The existence of Minecraft: Story Mode used to confuse me. After coming this far, though, I think I’ve more or less accepted that this is a thing, and it’s here to stay. And I have to say, I’m definitely warming up to it.
Gameplay is, as one would expect, the same as it has been all the way since Episode 1. Limited environment exploration and occasional crafting, but the gameplay mostly centered on quick-time events and making dialogue choices.
The story is where there’s a real departure from previous episodes. Having dealt with the Wither Storm in Episode 4, the new episode follows the exploits of the new Order of the Stone, led by Jesse, as they explore the world, go dungeon diving, and generally perform vaguely-defined heroic acts. In this particular installment, they find a strange portal in a temple in the jungle and, after going through it, find themselves in a sky dimension. It’s a nice little throwback to the sky dimension mods from beta-era Minecraft, if that is actually what it was meant to be, like the Far Lands in earlier episodes.
Episode 5 hits the ground running much more so than previous episodes. It opens with an action sequence, with the Order of the Stone fighting a horde of monsters during the title sequence, then diving into a lava-filled ruin to look for loot after solving a simple lever puzzle. Episode 5 also seems unusually light on comedy, instead taking a more serious approach to storytelling that, in my opinion, plays out remarkably well without strained attempts at making jokes in a serious situation.
Most of the story plays out in a city within the sky dimension, searching for a treasure at Ivor’s behest with Lukas and Petra. It’s up to the player to choose how to infiltrate the place where the treasure is being kept, but ultimately the only thing affected by the choice is what scenes the player sees. Both plans will be executed regardless, and the player only chooses which they want to see. This apparent lack of agency is pervasive throughout the episode, and the only thing you can really affect as a player is other characters’ opinions about you and what’s going on. As expected, I suppose, since it would take a lot of effort to have really different sequences and consequences for these radically different choices.
Episode 5 takes on a story totally separate from the earlier episodes, kicking off a new plot following the new Order of the Stone. It ends with somewhat of a cliffhanger, setting up the recently-announced following episodes of the story. Naturally, Episode 5 is not the actual last episode, it’s just the last one that comes with the base game, with Episode 6 through Episode 8 coming over the summer as paid DLC. Perhaps somewhat frustrating, but ultimately not unexpected from Telltale Games.
By this point, Minecraft: Story Mode has its audience, and that’s probably not going to change with this episode. It maintains the high production values and overall quality of the other episodes, and has a new, if also somewhat formulaic, story, as the group joins up with an underground resistance group to reform a (possibly necessarily) restrictive government. However, as before, a clichéd story does not have to mean a bad one, and even if Episode 5 does follow a somewhat predictable path, it is still enjoyable. Episode 5 is the last episode included with the $24.99 base Minecraft: Story Mode on Steam and the season pass on other platforms, with future episodes available together for $14.99.
Episode 5 on its own runs about 2 hours for a single playthrough, and as before has replay value in the form of branching paths so you can see just how much the story changes from making different choices. If you don’t find yourself liking the earlier episodes, Episode 5 isn’t worth forcing yourself through them just to see it. However, if you have finished the other episodes, and haven’t seen Episode 5 yet, it might be worth your time to give it a shot. It starts the story in a new direction. I think it has promise, and I’m looking forward to seeing where it goes. Whether the next three episodes will follow through on that promise, however, remains to be seen.
Review copy provided by publisher
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