Even when the road gets a little blocky.
When I was a kid, my parents bought me Legos for Christmas. I didn’t always ask for them; it was a family tradition. No matter what, there was always at least one Lego set under the tree, and my father and I would usually spend the next couple of hours putting them together. So I’ve always found it a bit strange that I never “got” Minecraft. It was essentially virtual Legos. The difference is that you had to build the pieces yourself and there are no instructions or overarching purpose. Or at least, not when I played, during the beta. Of course, the game has changed a lot since then; it has become a global phenomenon, especially among children, and sold 144 million copies, as of this writing.
So what do you do after that? Hire Telltale Games to create a story-based version for you, of course. I never played the original season of Minecraft Story Mode, so I can’t tell you if season two is better, worse, or more of the same. But as someone who never “got” Minecraft, I can tell you I had a good time.
"Along the way, you’ll meet legendary adventurers, talented map makers, and arrogant heroes from other towns, and even a treasure-sniffing llama. No, that’s not a typo. Saying any more than that would give things away, but rest assured that this is a fun and often funny story worth experiencing."
Season Two may be a sequel, but you don’t need to have played the previous season or have much of an understanding of Minecraft to understand what’s going on here. You’re dropped into the blocky shoes of Jesse (male or female, your call), the hero of the previous season. Last time out, you and your friends – Axel, Olivia, Petra, and Lukas – saved the world from the some seriously nasty stuff. The game doesn’t go into too much detail here. All you need to know is that they’ve got serious hero bonafides and a couple, including Jesse, now oversee their own towns as Hero-In-Residence.
The problem is that all of this newfound fame and success is slowly pushing the group apart. Jesse is busy running Beacon Town, Axel and Olivia have Boom Town, Petra is adventuring, and Lukas is focused on writing books. This leaves little time for the gang to get together, and many in the group, including Jesse, feel that their friendships are in danger of falling apart. This is what you’re worried about as Petra arrives and leads Jesse on what is supposed to be a simple adventure. Naturally, things escalate as mystical artifacts and undiscovered dark powers come into play and Jesse, Petra, and Radar, your anxiety-ridden intern/personal assistant, gather a team of new heroes to save Beacon Town, and the world, from certain doom.
Along the way, you’ll meet legendary adventurers, talented map makers, and arrogant heroes from other towns, and even a treasure-sniffing llama. No, that’s not a typo. Saying any more than that would give things away, but rest assured that this is a fun and often funny story worth experiencing. Minecraft’s largest demographic is young children, so it’s not surprising that everything here is intensely PG. There’s nothing remotely offensive or risqué to be found here, but a story doesn’t have to be “mature” to be good, and Telltale delivers a good yarn here. At its core, it’s about friendships, how hard it can be to maintain them, and how painful it is when people leave. It’s universal and sometimes touching stuff, and anyone who has ever lost someone, drifted apart from their friends, or felt abandoned will be able to connect with these characters.
" The stuff that Telltale typical does well, like dialogue and choices, still works well here, but other gameplay issues linger. Unfortunately, many of the problems can be traced back to Telltale being unequipped to replicate the things that make Minecraft “Minecraft” within their game engine."
Like most Telltale games, the issues here aren’t really with the story, but with the stuff around it. The stuff that Telltale typical does well, like dialogue and choices, still works well here, but other gameplay issues linger. Unfortunately, many of the problems can be traced back to Telltale being unequipped to replicate the things that make Minecraft “Minecraft” within their game engine.
The most noticeable times this happens are when the game asks you to build something. When this happens, you’re locked into a single viewpoint that you can’t change, and expected to build from one angle. This means you’ll often have to fight the controls to get blocks where you want them, and that building from the outside in is a necessity. If you start building too close to the camera, or make a mistake, you’ll likely have to delete much of what you did and start over to access the right areas. Fortunately, the game rarely forces you to build anything and when it does, it rarely matters, but it’s still an annoyance.
Crafting is also underutilized. With the exception of one scene, the resources you need are always available in the scene you need to use them in. You also won’t have to guess how to make something, as the characters come up with the solutions for you and the game always provides you with just the right amount of materials, making mistakes impossible. It’s not a bad system, and it does add to the game’s Minecraft feel, but it’s kind of sad that the creativity that defines the original game is off limits in Telltale’s world.
"Minecraft Story Mode: Season Two is a Telltale game, complete with all the highs and lows that come with the studio’s work. The storytelling, as usual, is top-notch, full of humor, meaningful choices, memorable characters, and great voice work. The faults here lie solely with the gameplay."
That said, the game itself is quite good, and up to the high standard of storytelling and voice acting that Telltale has set for itself over the past few years. It even looks like Minecraft, though whether or not you find its blocky, low-res style appealing is a matter of taste. The game could go further to capture the creative spirit that makes Minecraft unique, but what’s here is compelling. The trick, of course, is Telltale’s understanding of character. They feel like real people with dreams, insecurities, hopes and damage, and watching the characters in their games grow and build relationships is a real joy.
Ultimately, Minecraft Story Mode: Season Two is a Telltale game, complete with all the highs and lows that come with the studio’s work. The storytelling, as usual, is top-notch, full of humor, meaningful choices, memorable characters, and great voice work. The faults here lie solely with the gameplay, and while they can be annoying, there’s nothing here that seriously detracts from the game. Minecraft Story Mode: Season Two should appeal to anyone who’s a fan of the original game or Telltale’s storytelling – even if they don’t like building their own Legos.
This game was reviewed on the PC.
Telltale's trademark narrative chops. Great characters and voice acting. Nails the look of Minecraft. You don't have to play season one to know what's going on. Plenty of appeal for people who don't play Minecraft.
Terrible camera can make the building sections a chore. Crafting is extremely limited.
Strong characters and a compelling narrative overcome some lackluster design decisions in a game that should appeal to fans of both Telltale and Mojang's work.