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Telltale Games: master of rich interactive storytelling

Ever since the release of Back to the Future: The Game, I’ve been absolutely addicted to Telltale Games’ trademark style of episodic storytelling. They are experts at creating immersive choose-your-own-adventures that instantly hook you, and cannot be put down. From their licensed franchises such The Walking Dead and Game of Thrones, to their original properties like The Wolf Among Us, Telltale Games are truly masters of their craft.

Their latest hit franchise, Minecraft: Story Mode, combines the talented team at Telltale Games with world-renowned game developer Mojang, makers of Minecraft. Until now, this immensely popular world-building game has never had a proper story mode, so fans have largely taken it upon themselves to devise their own collective backstories for the characters and locations of this world. Minecraft: Story Mode reverentially builds upon the game’s established fan-fiction, and lets you experience this land of bricks, blocks, and brain-chomping zombies from a whole new viewpoint!

Game Details

Platform: PlayStation 4, PlayStation 3, Xbox One, Xbox 360

Developer: Telltale Games

Publisher: Telltale Games

Release Date: October 27, 2015

Genre: Graphic Adventure

Modes: Single-player

ESRB Rating: E10+ (Everyone 10+)

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A typical day in the Overworld, when…

Minecraft: Story Mode’s epic journey has humble beginnings in a quaint, quiet town in the Overworld. You’ll assume the role of Jesse, a plucky protagonist conveniently given a gender-neutral name, and for good reason: this is the first Telltale game where you can choose to be either a male or female hero (you can see all the Jesse avatar variations in the photo above-left.) The adventure kicks off with Jesse, along with his two best friends, Axel and Olivia, and his adorable pet pig Reuben, setting off to the “EnderCon Festival,” an annual event where Minecraft citizens compete to build the most impressive block structures.

The fun doesn’t last long though as a forgotten evil resurfaces and uses the necessary ingredients to craft the most fearsome creature known to Minecraft civilization—a ghastly Wither Storm. This destructive, monstrous being exists for one purpose: to tear apart the entire Minecraft world brick-by-brick, consuming all in its wake. Fortunately, Jesse and his friends cross paths with a legendary group of heroes known as the Order of the Stone, who lend their strength to help save the world from oblivion.

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Beautiful Minecraft-inspired graphics

Immediately upon beginning the game, I was so impressed with how Telltale Games captured the essence of Minecraft in the artwork. The graphics are bright, blocky and beautiful, and look as though they were generated using the Minecraft game engine itself. Take the characters for example, which all feature the familiar pixelated, retro style esthetics the franchise is known for, and as you would expect, they move about with stiff, almost robotic strides. Despite their big, blocky textures, all the main characters you’ll interact with have charming, distinct presentations, from Jesse’s jeans and suspenders, to Petra’s rogue-like outfit and bandana, to Gabriel the Warrior’s sturdy suit of armour. Special attention was also given to their facial expressions, and with simple movements of their eyes, mouths, and eyebrows, these blocky characters can convey a surprising range of emotions.

Environments and enemies look superb too. In the first two episodes of this game (more on the episodic structure later in the review), the story took me through a colourful and bustling festival, a dark, dreary forest, and eventually into the molten caverns of the Nether. Excellent lighting effects accentuate these gorgeous environments even more, totally immersing you into the story. I also loved the exquisite representations of classic Minecraft monsters such as the two-legged Creepers, floating Ghasts, ghoulish Zombies, and stick-limbed Endermans; all of which looked like they were plucked straight from the Minecraft world as well.

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A delightful choose your own adventure

Much like Telltale Games’ other franchises, Minecraft: Story Mode unfolds via a unique episodic structure. The retail edition includes the premiere episode, “The Order of the Stone,” on the disc, and a digital season-pass that will grant you access to the remaining four episodes as they become available (an internet connection is required.) The second episode, “Assembly Require,” is already released and can be immediately downloaded after you install the game.

During the story you will need to make many key decisions, which can push the narrative in different directions. Choices may be as simple as deciding what secret handshake to have with your friends, or which of two characters to save during an intense combat scene. These decisions can have a huge impact on the story, dictating not only who remains with your group at any given time, but how they feel towards each other, and interact. In at least one situation I’ve encountered so far, your decision can lead you down one of two branching paths (in completely different locations), resulting in an extremely personalized story.

One thing I should note: Minecraft: Story Mode is an all-ages story, so while you are faced with conflict often, you’re never placed in deadly situations like you would in other Telltale games, most notably The Walking Dead. While this means the stakes might seem lower to diehard Telltale fans, it feels age-appropriate for Minecraft’s younger core audience. From my perspective, the game’s family-friendly approach makes for a more fun, inviting tale that frees you from the pressure of making devastating life-or-death decisions.

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Final thoughts

Given that only two of the game’s five episodes have released, I’ll need to wait before I give my thoughts on Minecraft: Story Mode as a whole; however, based on what I’ve played thus far, Telltale Games have succeeded in creating a rich, engaging story set within the Minecraft world. Fans of Telltale Games, and Minecraft, will surely be delighted by the game’s beautiful graphics, eloquently-crafted and witty dialogue, and its lighted-hearted approach to storytelling. As someone who’s mid-way through the season’s story, I can definitely say I’m hooked, and my anticipation for the next episode couldn’t be any higher.

+ Interesting story set with in the Minecraft universe

+ Playable as both genders

+ A beautifully recreated Minecraft setting

+ Many excellent references Minecraft’s vast universe

+ Perfect for younger gamers

– Episodes are a tad short

– Choices have less consequences than in previous Telltale games

OVERALL

Gameplay: 3.5/5
Graphics: 4.5/5
Sound: 4/5
Lasting Appeal/Replayability: 4/5

Overall Rating 4/5 (80%)


Paul Hunter

By Paul Hunter, Editor Gaming


I work out of Toronto, Ontario as the Editor of Gaming here on the Plug-in Blog and as Editor-in-Chief of NextGen Player.  I am thankful for having a loving and patient wife who doesn’t mind my 40 hour a week obsession with gaming. You can follow me on Twitter @NextGenPlayer