Editor’s Note: Before reading this review, we highly recommend checking out our review for Episode One: The Order of the Stone, Episode 2: Assembly Required, and Episode 3: The Last Place You Look as there are spoilers ahead.
Minecraft: Story Mode has managed to surprise fans of episodic games with every episode released. While the second episode might not have proven that, both Episode 1, Episode 3 and now Episode 4 have not disappointed. Probably the best episode yet in both content and character development, Minecraft: Story Mode – Episode 4: A Block and a Hard Place will leave you emotionally defeated. Lasting a little bit over two hours, the episode gives closure to the events that Jessie and his friends are facing in saving the world from the Witherstorm. It begins right where you left off last, either Ellegard or Magnus having died (according to the decision that you make) and Gabriel having been rescued but with no recollection of what has happened (a side effect from having Wither Sickness). You all run from the storm only to find safety in a cave, still within the storm’s range.
Ellegard (for me) and Gabriel begin conversing in hopes that he would regain his memory and in doing so, mentions something about Lukas’ jacket, saying that he has seen others wearing it inside of the Witherstorm. With this comes Jessie’s first big decision, either allowing Lukas to leave in hopes of finding his friends or make him stay to help in your fight. This is only the first of many heartrending decisions that need to be made throughout the entirety of this episode. While most of these decisions are among the toughest in any of the episodes, they help dictate how the game will end and who will be standing next to Jessie when it does. This episode lets you customize your decisions a little bit more, allowing you to decide which weapon you want to create for the final battle, which armor you would like to wear, and even in what manner you will enter the Witherstorm. It isn’t much, but that’s far more customization than most Telltale games allow. While it is important to be careful with your decisions, it’s more important to learn who your real allies are and dictate how you want your destiny to unfold in your fight towards saving this blocky humanity.
The big purpose of this episode is to find Ivor’s lair out in The Far Lands to find an enchantment book that has the power to destroy the command block that is still lingering inside of the Witherstorm. In a scene with both Soren and Ivor, Jessie discovers that the storm is following the amulet that Gabriel had given him and with that, Axel takes it upon himself to hold onto the amulet while Jessie retrieves the enchantment book. The group collectively agrees that Axel and another member of the Order of the Stone will return to Soren’s lair where the Enderman that Soren has collected can help in disassembling the Witherstorm as they had all witnessed them do in an earlier scene. While they are doing that, the plan is to then forge a weapon and fuse the enchantment book with it but in Jessie’s fight to do so, he is separated from Ivor who is helping everyone escape from a few lingering witches. Alone and lost, it is up to Jessie and his friends to pass through to Ivor’s lair, which happens to be riddled with booby traps and mazes, and return in time to defeat the storm.
The story development in this episode brings out its appeal to older audiences. It’s fast paced and doesn’t leave a whole lot of room to think where it would be important to. Quick time events (QTEs) are important in the episode, as they have been in the previous three, making it known that you have to be ready for anything. When you aren’t interacting in a QTE, you are trying to solve a series of puzzles that can only be done so by following a set of clues. The previous episodes also had puzzles the solve but they were as easy as flipping a few switches and moving on. This episode stresses your ability to listen in order to solve the puzzles and makes it a little easier to screw up and start over again. The episode also follows in the footsteps of the previous as exploration continues to be an important aspect. Since these puzzles are a little bit more difficult, every room has more information and lore about the world that Telltale has created as you search for clues.
The lore also does not seem to be empty at all. In some games, you walk away feeling like you could have lived your whole life not needing to know anything about what just happened. This game, and specifically this episode, doesn’t feel that way and makes sure to utilize all the time in the episode to prove that. Nothing goes unnoticed and everything is important whether it be information that pertains to this game specifically or the base game. Battles are not too long-winded and conversations don’t make you want to skip them. Everything feels as though they are timed just right and you almost forget that you are sitting in front of your television for so long. You don’t really think about what could have happened if you did or said something differently and only look forward to seeing what comes of the decision you’ve just made, which is odd for a game that is meant to be replayed in order to make different decisions. Besides, there are some things that you wouldn’t want to see happen again and are better off just forgetting all of the decisions that you didn’t make.
Minecraft: Story Mode – Episode 4: A Block and a Hard Place is the strongest episode yet in basically every aspect. Employing emotional factors as well as hard story elements, Telltale has managed to create a story that originated from just a few blocks. Every second of this two hour episode was spent towards making the player feel as though everyone really is depending on them to save the world. Hard times fall, but Jessie and his friends make this episode an unforgettable experience that one can only hope to be transferred to next and final episode of this series.