I’ve never played Minecraft.
I know I’m probably one of about seven members of the gaming scene who’ve never even tried the wildly popular creativity tool, but just by glancing at a few videos, I knew right away that it just wasn’t for me.
Don’t get me wrong, I can totally see what people love about Minecraft, but as someone who’s always preferred narrative driven games, it’s too open ended for my taste.
Minecraft: Story Mode is in many respects the standard Telltale adventure game. It features pointing, clicking, simple puzzles that basically solve themselves and lots and lots of dialogue trees all coated with the Minecraft aesthetic, and it has a sense of humor reminiscent of the Lego Movie.
In terms of tone, Story Mode skews a lot younger than the rest of Telltales recent catalogue, being aimed at tweens and young teens as supposed to the older audience aimed Walking Dead and Tales From the Borderlands.
This makes sense, as Minecraft is ludicrously popular with tweens and young teens.
The player takes the role of Jessie, a dorky Minecraft builder with a pet pig and big dreams.
In a first for Telltale, Jessie is actually a somewhat customizable character, with gender and skin tone being selectable at the beginning. These don’t really effect gameplay beyond differing voice actors, but it’s a nice touch for a character who is essentially a player avatar.
The Order of the Stone is the beginning of a well told and well tread adventure.
It begins with a Lord of the Rings style prologue, telling the legend of Order of the Stone, a band of four heroes who did a bunch of Minecraft-esque feats of greatness, including slaying a dragon, before fading into obscurity.
Years later, Jessie and her friends are getting ready to enter a building competition and a local convention, eyes filled with stars and young hearts filled with uncertainty.
Before too long, the merry band is thrown on a wacky adventure filled with many of the best parts of young skewing adventure fiction, with a heavy theme of self discovery and feeling comfortable in your own skin.
Older players and more genre savvy youngsters will probably see most of the episodes twists and character beats coming a mile away, but they’ll still be more than enjoyable.
Admittedly, as a Minecraft virgin, there were plenty of references I didn’t get, though nothing that was game breaking. Throughout the episode, you have numerous interactions with a crafting table to forward the story.
If you’re well attuned with Minecraft, it’s possible to build a bunch of different items completely unnecessary to the story, triggering humorous dialogue exchanges.
Now, some Minecraft fans may be a bit disappointed that most of the Minecraft style gameplay elements are relegated to montage or quick time events.
However, this is very much a game made for fans of the franchise. It’s chock full of winks and nods to the fan community, and has a great sense of atmosphere.
The graphical style does a fantastic job of emulating the blocky abstraction of the Minecraft universe also serving to hide some of the cracks that are starting to show in the steadily aging Telltale tool. I was legitimately blown away by how good the purposefully simple art style looked in motion.
This first episode actually ends with a pretty big divergent story path. So much so that the “next time” message is two entirely different videos depending on your final choice.
That’s kind of a first for a Telltale game, whose choices are mostly illusions, albeit very nice ones.
Overall, I loved this first entry, and can’t wait for the rest of the series.
Minecraft and Telltale fans alike will be more than pleased.