'Minecraft: Story Mode' building the foundation of new series

Smooth, relaxing tones come over the loading screen, and it’s hard not to take a moment to appreciate it. It’s different from the well-known “Minecraft” music, and yet it still feels familiar. This is not “Minecraft,” but rather the first episode in Telltale’s new point and click adventure game, “Minecraft: Story Mode.”

Telltale has really made a mint out of taking stories and worlds that one would never consider translating into a point-and-click adventure game and creating masterpieces. Ever since “Telltale’s The Walking Dead,” Telltale has succeeded at all but a few installments of their episodic series. “Minecraft: Story Mode” is a new level for Telltale, but I am happy to report that it mostly succeeds. 

The first thing that the player is asked to do is select the gender and appearance of the main character, Jesse. That threw me for a loop. While my choice came down to an accidental click on one of the avatars, I still felt attached to my version of Jesse. With that, the game begins.

The opening line is appropriately ominous and serious for Telltale games. “Nothing built can last forever,” an old, tired narrator warns. By the time “Story Mode” begins, quite a lot has been built, as the game is set after the endgame sequence of the original “Minecraft.” 

With that ominous introduction, the player is introduced to Jesse, who lives in a tree and dreams of being a great warrior. For Jesse, along with his friends, architecture-minded Olivia and explosives enthusiast Axel, that starts with winning the local building competition.

Before we go any further, it must be said that the lip-syncing in this game is absolutely hilarious. I genuinely cannot tell if it is intentional, but character’s mouths seem to have only two settings: open and closed. The graphics are in the same boat, basically just as awful as “Minecraft’s” but with a charm that the player eventually gets used to.

The dialogue remains witty and funny, a Telltale standard. However, it’s not all perfect. The worst jokes are basically pop culture references, while the best jokes reference the main “Minecraft” game, rather than lame Internet jokes. 

Telltale has also made an effort to blend together the best parts of previous series. For example, an effort is made to recreate the awesome title sequences from “Tales from the Borderlands,” but in “Story Mode” it falls flat. “Minecraft” just doesn’t lend itself to the over the top excitement and killer soundtrack that made those sequences so much fun to watch in “Tales.”

It is still early in the series, but most of the characters strike me as bland, with only flashes of life. After two hours with a cast of characters, my favorite is the pig, who at least displays some emotion and critical thinking skills. This might be a cheap shot, but the antagonist also looks like the spree killer from “Hatred” with better dialogue, so I found it hard to take him seriously. 

About halfway through, the main antagonist gets replaced by a gigantic monster called a “witherstorm,” a creepy mixture of Cerberus, an octopus and that thing from “Cloverfield.” The monster design is very cool as well as the way it sucks people and buildings up into the air with a beam of light. 

Infrequent though they may be, the extremely basic fight scenes get old fast, especially when they start feeling like a waste of time. After a while, zombies feel more like Telltale padding out “Story Mode’s” length than a genuine threat.

Looking back, I notice “Story Mode’s” flaws as much as its successes. No Telltale series has started off this poorly, but there’s plenty of time for “Story Mode” to pull it together. There’s just enough here in the first episode to recommend, but what’s here may not sell you on the entire series.


Edward Pankowski is life editor for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at edward.pankowski@uconn.edu.