Review: Minecraft: Story Mode — Episode 1: The Order of the Stone

From the same people that brought us Game of Thrones and Tales From the Borderlands comes their newest decision based game, Minecraft: Story Mode. Telltale Games is notorious for their rigorous storytelling and memorable characters and this time is no different.  You play as Jesse, regardless of which gender you choose at the beginning, who is on a mission to create the greatest build at EnderCon, (Enderman Convention if you didn’t catch on).  The winner gets to meet the great Gabriel of the Order of the Stone, a group of people who slayed the Ender Dragon years ago but have disbanded since.  Of course, the episode would be nothing without some kind of story of revenge that spirals the characters into an adventure that they would have never seen themselves in.  Someone sets out to create a Wither, a huge monster that sets out to consume everything, leaving you and your friends to seek out the Order of the Stone.  You are accompanied by your friends Olivia, confidant and trusty, Axel, large and loyal, and Reuben, a pig.  Telltale hit the nail on the head this time with a different, family-friendly take on one of their main installments.  No prior knowledge of the original building game is needed, but it would help if you had some basic terminology.

Giving life to a game that is notorious for not having any real plot or development within the story, Telltale did an incredible job capturing the world of Minecraft.  They gave insight into the inhabitants of whatever world Minecraft takes place in and what they do when they aren’t building or crafting.  Inhabitants don’t go around killing every zombie and spider in sight and in fact aren’t actually set on mining for the greatest minerals to build the biggest buildings and the greatest weapons, which makes sense.  With the decision-based mechanics of the episode, you give Jesse the opportunity to make his,(or her) own decisions that will essentially shape his personality as well as the way that others perceive him.  Though a good majority of the decisions only result in “She/He will remember that,” some are detrimental decisions that can make or break your situation. Regardless of how you play the episode, it offers a lot more than just being a TV show that you play and allows players the chance to create the story that they couldn’t play before.  For being only the first episode in this five episode series, the series gets off to an incredible start.

Clocking in at roughly two hours, this episode is one of the longer Telltale episodes right behind the first episode of Tales from the Borderlands.  Even though it’s generally long for an episode, it doesn’t mean that time was wasted. With every passing second, new lore is learned about this rendition of the Minecraft world and how characters perceive the strange world around them.  Who knew that people were pretty used to the idea of killing a dragon from another dimension and hosting a convention in honor of the heroes who slew it?

While you don’t get to explore the world, you are given the chance to look around in order to find clues that lead to the next event.  The episode doesn’t stray at all from the original and even gives you the opportunity to fight zombies and craft items to make you feel more at home, feeling a little bit like a tribute.  As stated before, you don’t have to have prior knowledge of the game in order to enjoy this but some you should have some prior knowledge to understand the terminology and some of the jokes.  ‘Ender Dragon’ and ‘Wither’ are not really words that everyone has in their everyday vocabulary but knowing about them will give you  better understanding of why they’re bad and why the situation that Jesse and his friends are in is bad.

The episode relies prettily on QTE (Quick Time Events) and gives you something next to decision making to worry about.  While a lot of the QTE are really to avoid taking damage, some are just used for the sake of being there, like to build things, but they also add to your situation and count as something else to watch out for.  You are given a set of ten hearts to have throughout the episode (and most likely throughout the series) and damage gets taken away every time you are either attacked by an enemy or fail to do a QTE.  The QTE also acts as its own decision as some events can change how a person sees you.  It isn’t as effective as a regular decision, but something like which group of people you want to run with or how long it takes you to do something might have a much more of an impact in the future.

The story also deserves notice.  Minecraft itself might not have as intense of a story, but Telltale was able to grab some of the more important factors of Minecraft and create a lore to follow and better understand what the characters with.  Previously, your goal was to mine for enough materials and minerals to make a portal to the End to slay the Ender Dragon.  Now, that story doesn’t necessarily apply to everyone, because the ones who slayed the Ender Dragon were the members of the Order of the Stone.  The members are essentially the people that you would have normally gone to the End with to help you fight the dragon, so it almost makes it seem like you were some kind of legendary hero for being able to do that if you were able to do so in the past.  Everyone else in the episode doesn’t have that same goal and, funny enough, don’t look at all like the villagers that you sometimes wander upon in the original game.  The storytelling and characters leave you with enough of an impression that leaves you waiting in anticipation for the next episode.  You begin to make connections with your friends and build a relationship with them in the span of one single episode so it leaves you wanting to know what will come next for this party of builders.

Closing Comments

Minecraft: Story Mode strays from the more mature content that Telltale normally associates themselves with and manages to create a fun, family-friendly world for one with no real story.  The episode is expertly done and gives players a perfect standalone game to the critically acclaimed game from Mojang.  With the new lore introduced in the first episode, it’s hard to believe what other new content will be available to us in the coming episodes.  By focusing on a new concept that strays from their normally mature games, this episode paves the way for what is hopefully a great series from a great developer.