A Telltale game based on Minecraft is probably not the most logical thing. After all, there is no main storyline or plot in Minecraft. While the world does have its own mythos and mysterious locales, much of the narrative is formed by the players’ imagination –each person who plays the game will have a different personal narrative for it. And that is why Minecraft Story Mode feels like it is on shaky ground. It feels like players will be watching and observing someone else’s story and interpretation of the world. Still, the visual style and approach of Minecraft Story Mode gives a cinematic edge to the ever familiar game. And if you are the type to spend dozens of hours building and crafting stuff in Minecraft, you might just enjoy this experience.
The game starts with the player choosing a custom character, there are not much available in terms of choices (the clothes look really bad by default), but you do at least have an option for gender and skin color. Anyway, you play the role of Jesse, a person living in the Minecraft world. Jesse has a couple of friends and a pet pig named Reuben. Together, they form a team to compete in the Endercon, which happens to be a building contest. Little do they know that their entry to the contest is just the start of an amazing journey ahead of them.
From the onset, it is pretty obvious that this game is not going to be as tragic as Telltale’s other titles, and aside from the player missing out too much on the action button prompts, there is not much danger to the player either.
For a Telltale game, decision making here is easy –while there are some moral dilemmas presented, figuring out right from wrong almost obvious and players are almost always immediately rewarded for making the ‘right’ choice. While this may seem disingenuous and insulting to some players, the fact is that Minecraft Story Mode is targeted for children, and the immediate positive reinforcement seems to be something that has been intentionally put into the game as a way to teach kids about right and wrong.
Bloom in Your Minecraft
The game looks and feels like Minecraft, but there are a lot of interesting and fun little details in the way it is delivered. First off, the visuals are outright cinematic. The camera pans, shifts, and cuts to amazingly great angles that complement the current scene. When Jesse is taking with the other characters or performing certain actions, the animations look very reminiscent of the actual game (especially the parts where you do a bit of crafting). Of course, the characters here have more animations –allowing them to interact with the environment not normally seen in the original game.
While the game textures have remained loyal to the original look of Minecraft, the lighting effects for Story Mode get a bit of an upgrade. There is some efficient use of blurring and lighting (often called a bloom effect) that as a bit of photorealistic depth to the 3D models.
Explore the Mythos
Unlike the other Telltale Games, Minecraft Story Mode requires that the player to know a bit of context with regards to the way things work in Minecraft. Unlike in Game of Thrones or The Walking Dead where you can easily jump into the first episode without knowing anything, MSM’s approach is not that newbie friendly. There is talk of the ender dragons, about building parts (launchers and crystals), the realm of the “Nether”, zombies, creepers and more. And the game does not even give much in terms of expositions to players who are new.
There is a new story that revolves around 4 lelegendary Minecraft characters that are introduced in the game, but this is a completely new thing that is not part of the actual Minecraft Game.
Not Better Than Minecraft
Unlike Tales of Borderlands which presented a completely new yet fun gameplay experience for players of the FPS action game, Minecraft Story Mode does not feel like refreshing change from Minecraft itself. There are some situations in the game that could have been fixed by simply digging around Minecraft style and rebuilding stuff –actions that Jesse and the other characters do not do despite the fact that it is established early on that they are builders. If you have a child a who really likes Minecraft, then Story Mode will be a fun experience. Otherwise, you might just want to play the normal Minecraft game instead.