Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Minecraft: Story Mode Episode 1 Review

Minecraft: Story Mode seemed like a really odd choice for a franchise for Telltale to tackle.  The original Minecraft game was a sandbox construction game, without a story of its own, and little lore outside of the characters and enemies from the game.  Surprisingly, Telltale manages to deliver a great experience with the license, even going as far as adding in elements that their other choices and consequences games lack.

It continues the modern Telltale formula in a good way. It has an interesting story about a beast that is unleashed, and the game's group has to track down people who can help stop it. It has choices in the dialog, with consequences that come in the form of characters changing their opinion on you based on what you choose. Plus, there are choices to make on which character to save. It expands on the idea introduced in The Wolf Among Us of choosing one path, and the other one plays out whether you are there or not. Except this time, it feels like the choice matters more, as it extends into the next episode rather than being contained in a single chapter.

The new mechanics are where the game really shines. This is Telltale's first game to have customizable characters, including gender. Male and female Jesse have the same lines, but the actors read the lines really differently, so going through for a second playthrough really is worthwhile to hear those subtle differences.  The rest of the voice cast is excellent as well, delivering performances to equal the great standard set by the voice actors for the main character.  The music is excellent as well, with an electronic style of soundtrack that really fits the tone of the game.

There's two areas of exploration here where you can just stop and look around and interact with objects and characters. The first one doesn't have a lot of character interaction though, but it's definitely good to see more areas that allow you to explore, without being led on rails through cutscenes and quick time events. Speaking of quick time events, there aren't as many of them here, which is my absolute favorite part of the game. The direct controlled action with a hit counter really shines. It's miles better than quick time events, and I really hope it becomes the standard for Telltale's action scenes from here on out.

The Minecraft art style is mimicked, but not duplicated.  The characters are still blocky, but they are presented in a style that is much more pleasing aesthetic that fits the high resolution cinematic presentation that are the cornerstone of Telltale's modern games. The game also mimics the Minecraft style of gameplay through the crafting table, which lets you collect items to craft. These items are sometimes used to craft weapons, as expected, but they can also be used to craft items for use in getting out of situations (and the item you can craft depends on the items you collect in your inventory). I was also pleasantly surprised to see the return of real puzzles, in the form of a switch puzzle at the end of the episode.

Minecraft: Story Mode succeeds in spades in melding the Telltale style with the Minecraft universe.  The Minecraft style is mimicked, albeit in a more visually pleasing fashion.  The crafting table is used to great extent as well, making good use of the inventory system.   The voice acting and music is top notch, and the choices and consequences style of gameplay is integrated into the Minecraft universe well.  Best of all, Telltale is finally evolving their gameplay here, with direct control combat rather than relying on quick time events for action scenes.  This is the most adventure style of game that Telltale has created in a long time, as there is also a switch puzzle near the end of the game. Minecraft: Story Mode is a nice blend of old Telltale with new Telltale, mixed in with mechanics that never have been in a Telltale game before.

Final Verdict:

4½ out of 5

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