If there’s one takeaway from Minecraft: Story Mode that’s stuck with me throughout its opening two episodes, it’s that real stories can be told no matter the aesthetic. Episode 1’s story revolved around lives changing and the friends you leave behind in your wake. It was earnest and adult, offering choices in the dialog I thought I would make in the given situation, and always seemed to consider the feelings of the characters involved. This kind of story telling is in sharp contrast to Telltale’s other work, chief among them The Walking Dead, where if two characters take a moment to express a feeling other than dread, or actually communicate, you can rest assured that one of them is going to die.
Episode 2, Gigantic Consequences, continues with the theme of changing lives and changing situations, and adds to that a giant construct that refers to itself as “The Admin.” Spoken of in the same context as a god among the people of Beacontown, Jesse put no stock in the actual existence of one until it showed up in the body of a giant, prismarine statue and followed him home. The Admin challenges Jesse to a fight, which I promptly declined, given the size discrepancy between normal size Jesse and 20 stories tall statue. The Admin insisted though and proceeded to stomp his way through the town until Jesse and his pals defeated him.
It was an excellent start that led to some fine moments between Jesse and his intern Radar, as well as Lucas, a holdover from the first season who until now had been relegated to storyteller/record keeper. The wreckage also allowed Telltale to throw in the “Minecraft Moment,” a rebuilding of Reuban’s memorial. The little moments like this are fine, but for someone bereft of visual artistic ability, I never feel like I make something worthy of the rest of the town. The other block moments, when you slam on the Q button to make Jesse and pals dig, and then slam on it again to make them build staircases or landings or covers for Heckmouths, feel like a better extension of the characters and what they are capable of, having spent their lives living in this world where digging up blocks and spur of the moment building is just another thing you do.
One of the things that come up over and over again throughout the episode is whether or not Radar, your nerdy, kind of physically inept intern, belongs in the adventuring group. Each time the moment is well done, as it’s always another character that brings up that Radar really just isn’t made for this, and as Jesse, I always replied that he is more than made for it if this is what he wants to do. Each time it comes up, the reasoning is more forceful, with more and more of your friends saying that he just doesn’t belong, and each time, Jesse can be equally as forceful in his acceptance. What struck me most about these moments is Jesse’s phrasing regarding the subject. It’s never just “Radar deserves to stay,” it’s “Hey, this is not how we treat our friends.”
I also found this line of choices to be telling as it relates to the main theme of the last episode. This was not a splitting up due to time and circumstances, choices that Jesse was very happy to let his friends make. This was a forced issue, a “You don’t belong moment” and going against it felt like the harder path: it splits you up from the “seasoned adventurers,” it puts the current in group in more than a little bit of danger, and it flies in the face of the tests that the Admin spends the episode throwing at Jesse. That being said, it feels like the kind of choice that this game was built around, where as, in The Walking Dead, your choice would have led to someone’s death twice over for just letting him along.
While I don’t want to spoil any more of the story than I have too, there are certain moments that stand out as exceptional. Stella continues to be a standout; her interactions with her “rival” Jesse, the shot of her riding in side saddle on Lluna the Llama, everything about her is just fantastic. The Admin does fantastic work, most of it in the form of a talking snowman that manages to be menacing and insane instead of just silly, and Patton Oswalt’s Jesse provides an earnest and positive outlook even when the chips are stacked against him.
Episode 2 proved excellent all the way around. I really appreciated the points they chose to hit, the themes of friendship and change, as well as the fantastic trip the Admin takes the group on. I never thought that these kinds of stories would be possible with Minecraft as the background, but it just proves to show that a good story can take place anywhere. Even an exploding Heckmouth.
Reviewer and Editor for Darkstation by day, probably not the best superhero by night. I mean, look at that costume. EEK!