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Lifewire / Thomas Hindmarch
Lots of Minecraft flavor in a well-told, epic adventure
A customizable protagonist lets every player feel represented
An amazing cast of voice actors with a solid script
Buying the disc means missing chapters that require separate purchase
Choices all tend to lead to the same outcome
Story Mode contains potentially scary images for younger children
Minecraft-loving kids will enjoy Story Mode’s amazingly high production values, smart acting, and a good script. It’s enough to keep any die-hard builder satisfied.
Minecraft Story Mode is a Telltale game to its core, transferring the episodic story-based style of play to a world inspired by Minecraft, with graphics, sound, and mechanics to match. Telltale Games, which shut down in October of 2018, built its reputation off of making these kinds of fan-favorite, episodic adventure games, which all hinge on player choices and decisions. There are occasional puzzles to solve and obstacles to get around, but the meat of the game is always the player’s ability to choose the main character’s actions.
When you install Minecraft Story Mode from a disc, you only get the first of its eight episodes right away. The next four must be downloaded from its menu which requires you to connect your console to the Internet. If you’re one of the sizable majority of Xbox One owners who stay offline, you’ll need to hop on your Wi-Fi for this. The last three episodes need to be bought separately, so if you’re going for the whole thing, expect to pay an extra $15 plus tax for the last bit.
An important note is that the episodes you get with the disc are not the same store item as the ones searchable on the Microsoft Store. Select episodes two through five from the disc’s main menu, or else you may end up paying twice for them by mistake.
The best option for most users who want to play the full series is to head to the Microsoft Store and grab a digital copy of the Complete Collection. It even costs a few bucks less when you factor in the last three episodes.
A young builder named Jesse—whose gender and skin color can be set by the player, and who’s voiced by either Patton Oswalt or Catherine Taber—sets out to a local convention one day with two of his friends and his pet pig. They intend to enter a local contest to build the most impressive item, and win the grand prize, a meeting with Jesse’s hero, Gabriel.
The designers get a surprising amount of pathos and expression out of the characters.
An accident leads to Jesse being pulled into a local adventurer’s business, however, and that in turn leads all of them into a quest to find two long-lost, legendary heroes, in order to prevent disaster.
As Jesse, the player gets to make choices throughout the game which affect their personal relationships, their courses of action, and the route the game takes overall. Each choice is labeled and timed, forcing you to pick one within a short window, and many can have significant aftereffects. You can deepen friendships or drive your allies away, opt for kindness or cruelty, try and befriend enemies, and among other things. We were routinely surprised by how many of the smallest choices we made had an effect later, even if it was just an additional line of dialogue.
Minecraft Story Mode has a few other mechanics, such as occasional puzzles or problems to solve. You even enter into combat occasionally, using Jesse’s sword to smack characters or reflect fireballs back at ghasts, which usually takes the form of timing your hits.
We were routinely surprised by how many of the smallest choices we made had an effect later, even if it was just an additional line of dialogue.
In dangerous moments, you’re also asked to quickly hit directional commands as they appear on your screen, representing Jesse’s attempts to dodge or evade obstacles. Hit the correct button, and he’ll duck an attack or dive over a falling tree; hit the wrong one, and he’ll take a hit or fall flat on his face.
Story Mode is set in Minecraft’s world, so it looks exactly like Minecraft, the game. Everything is made up of a series of blocks, from trees to buildings to people. Even when something rips a few houses apart in the first episode, it breaks down into a series of flying blocks.
The designers get a surprising amount of pathos and expression out of the characters anyway, working just with body language and the handful of facial features that they’re able to animate. Once you get used to the visuals—and if you’re a die-hard Minecraft fanatic, you already were—it’s surprisingly deftly animated and drawn.
Minecraft Story Mode on disc (MCS X1US) retails for US $22.99, but it’s the version that doesn’t include the last three of the eight episodes. If you decide to go all in on Story Mode, those last three episodes are $4.99 each.
Alternatively, you can opt to buy the Complete Adventure pack instead, which wraps up all eight episodes into a single purchase for US$29.99. This saves you both money and a little time.
The only real advantage the disc has is that if you decide you don’t care enough to go on to play the entire story, you didn’t end up paying for the extra episodes.
There are a lot of adventure games in the Telltale mold, most notably Life is Strange, but many of them are aimed at a substantially older audience. Even most of Telltale’s own games tend to be for teenagers (Tales from the Borderlands, Batman, Sam and Max) or adults (The Walking Dead, Game of Thrones).
Some of their more kid-friendly offerings include 2008’s Strong Bad’s Cool Game for Attractive People, an adventure game based off the popular Homestar Runner web cartoon; Tales of Monkey Island, a 2009 revisiting of the popular LucasArts adventure game; and the surreal but entertaining Sam & Max games.
There’s next to no actual player-controlled building in Minecraft Story Mode, so it’s not much of a crafting game. We wouldn’t be surprised if it made a couple of players fire Minecraft up and start work on something new, though.
Fun as long as you pick the right version
Minecraft Story Mode has a slow start, but if you give it a chance, it’s a fun interactive story with a couple of good action sequences, scares, and scenes. It’s definitely aimed directly at long-time Minecraft fanatics, with a story that’s a little fantasy boilerplate, but if you’re a fan you’ll find a lot to like here.