Minecraft: Story Mode was the only Telltale game that was completely off my radar these past few years. Having covered everything since 2014's Game of Thrones, I always thought that an adventure game built on Mojang’s uber successful creator's playground was a step too far. Season 1 brought in average reviews, with most praising the story and voice actors, with the standard Telltale action and bugs serving as disappointments.
Season 2 came as a bit of a surprise, as well as a chance to fill in that glaring hole in my review catalog. All in all, my first foray into Beacontown went about as well as I expected, and while there are some problems, mainly in regards to pacing, I can see why Telltale wanted to explore this world and put their own stamp on it. From this point forward, as will all my Telltale reviews, I will attempt to avoid spoilers, but as there will probably be some, consider this your warning.
Season 2 picks up sometime after the end of Season 1, where Jesse and his friends have returned triumphant from their adventure and now serve as leaders and “Heroes in Residence” to their local townships. In fact, things have gone so well for Jesse in particular, that he even has an intern, Radar, to help him reign in all of his Beacontown responsibilities. With all the added on emphasis on being there for the town, Jesse is left wishing for time to go adventuring with his friends like before. Having scheduled some time to try and do just that with his friend Petra, adventure, as it almost always does, ends up finding them before they realize it.
What unfolds over the first adventure is a neat little story that explores what happens when actual responsibility is thrust upon you, how there’s more to being an adventurer then just claiming the title for yourself, and that the best way to deal with an exploding, green Heckmouth is not just to bury it in dirt blocks and put up a warning sign. Adding to that, Jesse meets a new “rival” in next door Champion City, disappoints a llama, and also finds time to settle the age old question: pie or cake?
If that sounds like a lot, you’re not wrong. The starts like a day in the life and slowly shifts into the adventure, and while every moment has something come out of it, whether it be comedy, like dealing with “rival” Stella, or plot, visiting the poor side of Beacontown to find Jack and Nurm, I couldn’t help but get bored.
I first noticed this impending feeling that this whole thing was carrying on a bit too long when, having already visited the majority of Beacontown, its subterranean mines, its rival city, and an adventurer’s shop, we traveled by map to an underwater temple. This seemed like a great time to cut away, but no. Not only did we get all the way through the temple, we made it back to Beacontown in time for the party talked about through the episode’s introduction. There were just too many points where the characters just seemed to meander, which turned any possible tension down to zero.
Despite those points, the story is packed full of wonderful moments. Patton Oswalt, as the main character Jesse, is a constant joy, as is his mirror, female Jesse, Catherine Taber. Fred Tatasciore, well known for voicing gruff, no-nonsense characters, brings a ton of heart to Jack, the adventurer who leads our intrepid hero and his friend to the sunken temple. The interactions between the characters, despite the blocky graphics and square bodies, come off as real and thoughtful, and multiple times, where other games like The Walking Dead, would have left a scene with characters holding a grudge, Minecraft is fine letting their characters act like adults instead of petulant kids.
Speaking of the graphics, I was amazed at how well Telltale translates the peculiarity of the Minecraft world into its stories. Characters quickly dig holes by punching the ground, water falls with sharp edges through square shaped holes, only spreading out when it hits the floor, and obsidian forms solid walls that protect against everything, from Creeper explosions to running rivers of lava. On top of that, the action set pieces, mainly some sword fights and a mine foot race, come off really well. The race in particular, which follows Jesse and Petra through a better portion of Beacontown’s mine, manages to be funny and tense where scenes from Telltale’s other games normally aim for either one or the other.
As it’s a Telltale game, you should expect a certain amount of game jank going in. I managed to get through an entire session with only a few frame rate drops. Naturally, your mileage will vary, and eventually, EVENTUALLY, we may one day see something new engine wise.
With only a few exceptions, Minecraft: Story Mode Season 2 looks to hold true to Telltale’s own brand of storytelling while expanding on the characters it created during the first season. Sure, we’re only one episode in, but as introduction to the whole kit and kaboodle for me, I thought it did a great job and not only showing me the world, but not making me feel bad for skipping the previous season. If the rest of the episodes can fix the small pacing issues of Episode 1, we might be in for quite the funny, heartfelt ride.
Reviewer and Editor for Darkstation by day, probably not the best superhero by night. I mean, look at that costume. EEK!