The beginning might be the same and you might always end up at the same destination, but the most important part of any Telltale adventure is how you get there. Already, despite being set in a more family friendly world, Minecraft: Story Mode will have put you in difficult positions, forcing you to react to events quickly and, ultimately, make life and death decisions.
Yet, perhaps most interesting in the second episode of Minecraft: Story Mode, is that you can find yourself having gone to a completely different location, depending on your choice at the end of the first episode. As you endeavour to reunite the Order of the Stone, and combat the Wither Storm that is tearing up the world and leaving devastation in its wake, you had to make a call as to which of the Order you wanted to try and recruit first.
The expectation for the player is, quite naturally, that this will simply be mixing up the sequence of events, but that’s not what happens. It’s a fascinating move that I feel could come to lend this series more replay value, certainly with a younger audience taking the controls and making the decisions. This comes atop the layer of discovering that your decisions so far have already determined the survival of characters in peril, their demise having happened off screen.
Either way, Ellegard the Redstone Engineer and Magnus the Rogue join your team, bolstering the number of characters vying for your attention even further, and throw more fractious relationships into the mix. The Order of the Stone might have been a group of quite brilliant individuals, they might have been able to achieve truly great things, but ultimately, they’re also humans, and somewhere along the way their friendship was tested and broken.
Again, it’s the characters and the way that you can interact with them that shines, and the game is constantly putting you in the awkward positions and having to make decisions which massage people’s egos. It’s frustratingly difficult to just get people to get along, when their differences and deep-seated grudges see them constantly bickering. Personally, I’m always yelling at them to stop arguing in the face of a seemingly unstoppable foe, but you can just as easily pick a side in a fight or remain mute.
That’s balanced by the moments when Jesse gets to speak with others in the group one on one, letting me give them reassurance or showing compassion over the individual story arcs that are going on. In typical Telltale style, they will remember your decisions, and like as not, they will have an effect later on in the story.
Unfortunately, this episode doesn’t hang together quite as well as the first. It’s shorter, for one thing – perhaps due to creating two distinct areas, of which a player will only see one – but also, the action set pieces don’t feel quite as urgent or as well executed, and it takes a step away from the style of Minecraft inspired crafting and puzzling that regularly popped up in the first. The ending in particular had some strange and unsatisfying pacing, as it hurried towards its cliffhanger ending.
Yet I’m still fairly eager to see what happens next in the story. Though it has the outward charm and style of Minecraft, the story, though certainly more family friendly than a zombie apocalypse or Game of Thrones, still has the ability to deliver strong characters and difficult to make decisions. There are several relationships and plot lines that I look forward to seeing grow, I just hope they’re wrapped up in a better paced and more inventive episode, next time around.