‘Minecraft: Story Mode’ shows promise with third episode


Before I started the third episode of Telltale’s “Minecraft: Story Mode,” titled, “The Last Place You Look,” I most impressed by the release date. After years of episodes with release dates spaced out by months, Telltale released episode three less than a month after the first episode, and the gameplay has seen similar improvements.

Our hero, Jesse, and the rag tag group of survivors of the Witherstorm are tasked with re-assembling a team of heroes that might be up for the task of saving the world. “Story Mode” attempts to emulate the chaotic and entertaining openings of “Tales from the Borderlands,” and comes closer with this episode to that feeling. However, the camera cuts from an awesome bit of action to a project lead or designer’s name and hover there for a few seconds, taking away from the experience somewhat.

The writing improved as well. The dialogue is witty and I laughed several times at the shenanigans on screen. However, for a Telltale game the choices are extremely weak and borderline meaningless. In one early example, you can choose to save the plot device or your friends. When I chose to save my friends, another character recovered the plot device off-screen, which made me feel like I had no agency for large parts of the story.

The combat, however, does feel more involved this time around. There are a couple great action scenes with explosions and chaos with witty dialogue sprinkled in. Telltale clearly took advantage of this opportunity to create bizarre and fun environments that wouldn’t have worked in any of their other games. An Enderman farm, a griefer-ridden city named “BoomTown” and a world made of wool are all examples of Telltale’s environment designers having fun, which translates to fun for the player as well.

The first big puzzle of the episode is a gigantic letdown. I understood what I had to do to solve it pretty quickly, but the game wouldn’t let me proceed until I found a set of blueprints attesting to what I already knew. Characters parroted information that I had gleaned from the environment minutes ago, and then I was forced to hunt around for six clay blocks before I could proceed with the story. Not exactly an exciting adventure, nor was it a brain-teaser.

Late in the episode, the writing takes a bit of a dive, as questions like, “are you my friend” are presented as major choices. Looking back, I don’t think there was a single really meaningful choice, where the player was aware of what the stakes were and what the consequences of their decision would be. That’s pretty bad for Telltale, and I hope they can correct that oversight soon, because difficult decisions that have to be made on the fly are one of the biggest draws of games like “The Walking Dead” and “Tales from the Borderlands.”

Overall, I’m encouraged by what I saw in “The Last Place You Look.” I’m most eager for the release schedule and the fact that the story is moved forward in a meaningful way. Although there’s a lot to dislike about this episode, I still maintain that “Story Mode” carries a lot of promise for the future of Telltale.

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

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