Article first published as PlayStation 4 Review: ‘Minecraft: Story Mode – Episode 1: The Order of the Stone’ on Blogcritics.
Minecraft Story Mode is the latest adventure game series from TellTale Games, and marks a departure from the developer’s typically mature-rated content, at least lately. Recently purchased by Microsoft, Mojang’s Minecraft franchise is hugely popular. It’s one of the few franchises that has been able to transcend gaming and break into mainstream culture. A trip through the kids’ section of a department store is all that’s needed, to see the wide assortment of Minecraft merchandise available. Now TellTale is taking their turn with the franchise, and is offering a five-episode glimpse into the world of Minecraft.
For the last couple of years Telltale Games has catered to a mature audience. TellTale’s The Wolf Among Us, Game of Thrones, and Tales from the Borderlands have all been relative hits for the adventure game company, since their breakthrough “Game of the Year” adaptation of The Walking Dead. While it’s indisputable that kids love video games, it’s really adults that drive the macro economics of the video game industry. It will be interesting to see if TellTale can maintain their level of success while targeting the younger audience, but they’d be hard pressed to find a property any more popular with kids.
Surprisingly, Minecraft: Story Mode- Episode One: The Order of the Stone is not just another one of TellTales mature-rated title chapters toned down, and dressed up like a kids’ game. Unlike previous Telltale Games this one introduces some RPG elements like character creation and crafting. The somewhat limited character customization allows players choose the gender and racial appearance of their character. There are a total of six avatars to choose from, equally divided by gender with three different skin tones. As for the crafting, those who have played the original open-world Minecraft game will have no trouble creating items in TellTales Story Mode. Everyone else will need to consult the included recipes.
Minecraft: Story Mode- Episode One: The Order of the Stone puts players in the role of Jesse, an aspiring builder on his way to EnderCon, where he hopes to meet his hero Gabriel the Warrior. The episode actually does offer some more exploration and puzzle solving opportunities than recent TellTale adventure games. However, the game still follows the general TellTale gameplay formula. That means that this decidedly short episode is mainly filled with a lot of cutscenes, QuickTime, button pressing events, and the requisite dialogue choices. What is unusual this time around, is that from the looks of it, at least the beginning of Episode Two will be significantly altered based on a decision at the end of Episode One: The Order of the Stone.
If you’re not already a fan of Minecraft, you might have some trouble getting used to the 8-bit graphics that Minecraft is known for. Although, the longer you play the game, the primitive art does seem to be less noticeable. While the graphic fidelity might not be what you’d hope for, it does help to mask the usual TellTale adventure game technical issues. The typically jerky animations are much less noticeable with blocky characters. The cinematography is well executed, and the game does feature an impressive cast of voice talent. Minecraft: Story Mode is a no brainer for fans of the original Minecraft and probably younger adventure game enthusiasts, but it will likely turn off those accustomed to more mature storytelling.