With games like The Walking Dead and Tales From the Borderlands under their belt, one might wonder how Telltale Games could take Minecraft and turn it into an episodic story, but when you think about it, it makes sense. Minecraft is an open world sandbox game where you can literally create anything you wish. The main challenge would be incorporating Minecraft’s mechanics into an episodic story-based game. While Minecraft: Story Mode has been out on other systems for a while now, today I’m going to be taking a look at the Wii U version of Episode 1: The Order of the Stone.
As the game begins we learn about the titular Order of the Stone, four heroes who came together long ago to find and defeat the Ender Dragon. After hearing about the story of the Order of the Stone, we join our main characters Jesse, Olivia, Axel, and Reuben as they prepare for the Endercon Building Competition where the group with the best design will be able to meet Gabriel of the Order of the Stone at Endercon. However, things begin to go awry when Reuben (Jesse’s pet pig) goes running off into the woods as the group’s design is about to be sabotaged, leading into the main plot of the episode. From there we learn more about the Order and meet Ivor who plans to bring forth a huge creature to cause chaos, but his plan begins to fall apart mainly due to our heroes meddling (cue jokes about meddling kids). Of course that doesn’t mean you’re out of danger as the group sets out to put a stop to Ivor’s plans once and for all.
As stated before this is an episodic game and doesn’t play like Minecraft. Every choice you make determines how the story plays out. While it seems like all choices might just lead to the same conclusion in the end, how you get there is up to you. The game will also have five episodes with the first four already out for other systems, though only the first episode is available for the Wii U. Throughout the story you’ll occasionally be presented with up to four options to choose from as responses, depending on the situation. You can also just sit there and say nothing and usually the game will just pick a random answer for you unless it states that silence can also be an answer. You only have a few seconds to make your choice which doesn’t give you a lot of time to look over them.
Making choices isn’t the only thing you’ll have to do. Aside from wandering around various areas you’ll also engage in combat now and then against various creatures found in Minecraft including zombies and creepers. The only other Telltales game I’ve played thus far is Tales From the Borderlands and while it had its decent share of combat situations, they were generally either quickly picking a target to fire at it, or survive a quick time event. In other words, you weren’t often in any real danger. It’s a bit different in Minecraft: Story Mode. Here you’ll actually have to move in on an enemy (or just let it approach you) and swing your weapon at it. If you let it hit you, your health meter will decrease. The battles aren’t too difficult and you have plenty of hearts so there’s no real danger at this point, but I’m expecting that to change in later episodes.
Seeing as how I expect this game to at least be aimed at fans of Minecraft, Telltale did a decent job of incorporating Minecraft’s mechanics into the game to an extent. Sadly the building is kind of automatic, by which I mean you press a button over and over again while you see the group build something. That I don’t mind as otherwise it would take quite a bit of time to build something if you had to go block by block. There’s also crafting and this is where knowledge of the main game can come in handy, but isn’t required. At one point I was required to craft a sword and the game automatically gives you the necessary materials to do so. If you don’t know the crafting recipe, the game provides it for you. However, the whole crafting process is kind of trivial as there didn’t seem to be any penalty for getting it wrong. There’s even a section where you can create a few different items to get you past a trap. I didn’t think to try to make a couple of things that wouldn’t go together at all to see how the game would react, but the game does give you options.
I’ve read where some people didn’t like how the story goes or didn’t think the humor was quite there. While it’s not perfect I enjoyed it myself and understand that you can’t please everyone. Story-wise I think that the game has started off pretty good, though not perfect. Even still some of your decisions do actually make a difference. For instance, Reuben ended up getting caught by a butcher and I chose an option to give the butcher my sword in exchange for Reuben. Later on we found another sword and I had to explain how I lost mine, so I wound up with the new one. Had I still had the other sword (the one I crafted) I might not have gotten the new one. The end of the episode even presents you with a choice of where to go next which, strangely, has you leave one of your friends behind for the time being.
The only other thing to really mention are the controls…which might seem weird considering this is an episodic game, but the game actually lets you use either the game pad’s touch screen or the buttons (I’m guessing that a pro controller works just as well). After using both I tend to prefer standard controls. If using the touch screen you have to tap where you want to go, tap on enemies to attack them, and rapidly press the screen for certain quick time events. That last one is what made me go to standard controls as I can press a button a lot faster than I can tap a touch screen and have it register those hits. Thankfully you can change control styles on the fly by just hitting a button or tapping the touch screen.
Minecraft: Story Mode is off to a pretty good start in my opinion (and again, I know that the first four episodes are available on other platforms already), though it could use some improvement in a few areas. As stated, the combat starts off rather easily so I’m hoping that gets more complex in later episodes to at least give some sort of a sense that you’re really in danger and can hit a game over scenario. For puzzles, crafting is nice and all but there was really only one non-crafting puzzle which was basically flipping switches to turn on some lights which wasn’t all that difficult to figure out.
Again, this is just the first episode and if I recall, the first episode of Tales From the Borderlands was somewhat similar; nothing too difficult to help get the player into the game and nothing to really put you into a game over scenario. Later episodes became more complex with situations where you were actually put in danger, plus the story itself did nothing but improve with each subsequent episode. I’m hoping that Minecraft: Story Mode goes the same route but for now, I’d say it’s off to a pretty good start.
* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company.