Xbox One

  News 
  Reviews
  Previews
  Hardware
  Interviews
  All Features

Areas

  3DS
  Android
  iPad
  iPhone
  Mac
  PC
  PlayStation 3
  PlayStation 4
  Switch
  Vita
  Wii U
  Xbox 360
  Xbox One
  Media
  Archives
  Search
  Contests

 

Minecraft: Story Mode - Episode 1: The Order of the Stone

Score: 80%
ESRB: Everyone 10+
Publisher: Telltale Games
Developer: Telltale Games
Media: Download/1
Players: 1
Genre: Adventure

Graphics & Sound:

For the last three years, Telltale Gamesí body of work has been almost exclusively adult-oriented. And it was in that timespan that they really started to come into their own in terms of writing. But after a long streak of dealing with such bleak fare as The Walking Dead, Fables, and A Song of Ice and Fire, some sort of respite is in order. Telltale has a one-two punch at the ready; Tales from the Borderlands was the opening jab, and Minecraft: Story Mode appears to be the follow-up haymaker. The jury is out on the story, but itís got charm and personality in spades.

Minecraftís blocky, pixelated aesthetic is replicated in full for Minecraft: Story Mode; it is precisely this visual minimalism that makes it so appealing to the eyes. Itís a very peculiar kind of faux-retro that playfully distorts the world we live in and transforms it into something that looks straight out of a Saturday morning cartoon. Mind you, a very original-looking Saturday morning cartoon. Itís colorful, itís got tons of style, and the developers at Telltale do a great job of leveraging this look to suit their world and character design.

Minecraft: Story Mode has one of my favorite ensemble casts of any recent video game. Several of the main roles are filled by big-name actors, and none of the performances are phoned in at all; you really get the sense that these people were stoked to be a part of this game. Patton Oswalt provides the voice of lead character Jesse (provided that the male version is your choice), and his delivery is pitch perfect, ably capturing the eager, earnest fan culture that has sprung up around Minecraft. The supporting cast is just as appealing, thanks in no small part to the likes of Brian Posehn, Martha Plimpton, Ashley Johnson, and in a genius stroke of casting, Paul Reubens.


Gameplay:

The Order of the Stone is a former group of legendary adventurers, each of whom has their own special skillsets. Gabriel the Warrior lives up to his namesake, as he was peerless on the field of battle. Ellegaard the Redstone Engineer comes up with marvelous inventions that assisted her comrades. Soren the Architect is a master builder, an invaluable trait in the Minecraft world. And Magnus the Griefer loves to make things explode. Together, they were able to defeat the villainous Ender Dragon, before disappearing into the pages of mythology.

But those, ladies and gentlemen, are not our present-day heroes. That distinction belongs to the likes of Jesse (Patton Oswalt), Olivia (Martha Plimpton), Axel (Brian Posehn), and Jesseís adorable pet pig, Reuben (Dee Bradley Baker). Itís time for the Endercon Building Competition, and this team of misfits is determined to beat their rivals, the Ocelots. Conflict erupts at Endercon, and through a bizarre turn of events, Jesse winds up in the company of Petra (Ashley Johnson), a tough cookie with a quick wit. It turns out, Petra has returned from the Nether with a wither skull, and has found a buyer, a strange man.

Minecraft: Story Mode Ė Episode 1: The Order of the Stone is a table-setter episode, through and through. Because of this, early adopters might be left wanting. While getting to know this world and this cast of characters is a blast, the story doesnít really kick into gear until the final moments of the episode.


Difficulty:

Telltaleís games are fundamentally incompatible with normal discussions of difficulty in games. Since their level of player agency is mostly kept to a minimum, there are segments in which poorly-timed button presses can lead to a game over screen. These episodes are designed to be completed; challenge is not really part of the experience, and looking at it thusly is kind of missing the point.

During the brief sequences in which you have active control over Jesse, you will never get lost and you will never be unclear on what it is you have to do. A puzzle at the end of the episode might have you thinking a bit, but your options on how to solve it are limited enough that you wonít spend too much time on it.


Game Mechanics:

Telltaleís simple blend of linear exploration, conversation, and quick-time events have always been a solid foundation upon which to build their stories, and such is the case in Minecraft: Story Mode. But if youíre a Minecraft fan, youíll definitely get the sense that the developers are fans, too. While there is a characteristically low amount of player involvement, Telltale has taken the necessary steps to ensure that it is, in its own way, very much a Minecraft experience.

Most of your time with Minecraft: Story Mode will be spent watching instead of playing, but it pays to be vigilant; you never know when a quick-time event will occur. Additionally, the gameís interface makes it abundantly clear which objects and people in each given play space can be interacted with. This keeps the runtime down to the brisk hour-and-a-half that these episodic adventures are now known for.

Save for a few special moments, all building done in Minecraft: Story Mode is accomplished through quick-time events. What usually takes Minecraft players more than a few moments to construct is reduced to seconds as you button-mash your way through what looks like a time-lapsed montage. Itís totally in line with the goofy tone of the series. However, a few sections hearken back to certain cornerstones of Minecraftís gameplay.

Jesse and friends will make more than one stop at a crafting table; for those of you not in the know, itís a 3X3 grid upon which you place materials in special formations to build special items. At this point, itís hard to tell whether or not this will be more than a gimmick for a few puzzles or if it will become more involving. But itís well-enough implemented that nobody will accuse the developers at Telltale of using the Friedberg-Seltzer method Ė that is, adapting a property with the least possible amount of effort.

Having gone in with maybe thirty minutes of total Minecraft play time under my belt, I had a great big goofy grin on my face throughout the majority of Minecraft: Story Mode Ė Episode 1: The Order of the Stone. But Iím pretty confident that most people will be vulnerable to its considerable charms, as well. This isnít Telltaleís strongest first episode by a long shot, but I can tell already that Minecraft: Story Mode might be yet another success story in the modern graphic adventure genre.


-FenixDown, GameVortex Communications
AKA Jon Carlos

Related Links:



Microsoft Xbox One Wasteland 2: Director's Cut Microsoft Xbox One Bedlam

 
Game Vortex :: PSIllustrated