Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Minecraft Story Mode Episode 1: The Order of Stone Review

Telltale Games is known for their episodic interactive movie-esque games like the Walking Dead Season One, Wolf Among Us, Tales From the Borderlands, and others. Every mentioned game has been praised for the quality and how great the storytelling is. That said, many people (myself included) had some doubts as to how Telltale could possible make a game about Minecraft given the lack of story and primary focus of being the iconic square sandbox building game that everyone knows and loves (or hates). Despite a few issues along the way, I'd say that Telltale Games found a way to make it work and work well.

You play as Jesse (either boy or girl, its your choice). Jesse and their friends are trying to win the building competition for the upcoming EnderCon in order to meet one of the legendary heroes from the Order of the Stone. As is the song and dance of video games, things quickly go to hell in a hand basket as you uncover a conspiracy that quickly spirals out of control and threatens to destroy the entire world. It is up to you to find the remaining members from the Order of the Stone and put an end to the horror that is terrorizing the world. 

With Jesse's faithful pig companion by his side, what could possibly go wrong?  Answer: Everything
Telltale Games set out to make a story game that felt like it belonged in Minecraft, and they certainly succeeded. Just like how Tales From the Borderlands looks and felt like the Borderlands series, Minecraft Story Mode accomplishes the same thing. The menus, sounds, and even graphics fit perfectly with the idea of having a story take place in a Minecraft setting. It really feels like the events transpiring are occurring in a world that could actually be built (given enough time) by players in Minecraft, which is a great touch for the game.

Gameplay is broken up into several phases, for lack of a better term. More often than not the player will be watching cutscenes with lots of dialogue, with interaction being the ability to choose what Jesse will say or do next. Once in awhile you will have to walk around in an environment to find something or interact with an object. Then of course there is combat and quick time events in more fast pace sequences. One thing Minecraft Story Mode adds to the equation that is really interesting, and a great touch given the source material, is the ability to craft certain items that are critical to the plot. 

Most Minecraft fanatics will probably know what I am building in this screenshot.
 Unfortunately, using Minecraft's stylized graphics is working against Minecraft Story Mode. While it works for most any situation from an animation standpoint, it falls apart when it comes to lip sync and mouth movement for dialogue. Often the movement of the characters mouth does not match with what is being said and that is to be expected to some extent given that it's difficult to make a character in Minecraft style graphics look like they are actually pronouncing words. This can often be rather distracting and it mars the experience for the player.

Overall, Minecraft Story Mode is off to a great start with the first episode. The story may not be as filled with betrayal and death as other Telltale Games, but it is still interesting nonetheless. It may not be for everyone, but Minecraft Story Mode will be a memorably experience for those capable of approaching it with an open mind. 

RBFB Rating: B-

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