Minecraft: Story Mode – Episode 1: The Order of the Stone Review — A Blocky Beginning (PS4)
Minecraft has become a household name, not only in the gaming industry, but for many others on the outside looking in. The game can be whatever you want it to be, with a survival mode that tasks you with surviving the night and building/crafting things with resources you find out in the wild. It also has everything a gamer could ask for, except for a story of any kind. Telltale Games, masters of storytelling, have been tapped to provide this missing link in the form of Minecraft: Story Mode. We’ve made our way through the first chapter, and have our review for your reading pleasure below.
You start the game as Jesse, who is either male or female depending on which avatar you pick. If you choose the female version, she is voiced by Catherine Taber, best known as the voice of Padme in the Star Wars: The Clone Wars television series. The male Jesse is voiced by comedian Patton Oswalt. Voices in general are professionally performed, though it will appear weird for any Minecraft fan to see those blocky avatars talking.
If you’ve played any of Telltale’s games, you already know how to play — when you can control your character, you use the left stick to move, the right stick to move the cursor, and a few face buttons to interact with the environment and other characters. When a cinematic is playing, you’d best pay attention, because at any moment you’ll be tasked to make a decision, sometimes steering the story one way or another. It’s familiar fare for those familiar with the developer’s previous works, and easy to get into even if you’re not familiar with Telltale’s games.
One new mechanic introduced for Story Mode includes functioning crafting tables. While you have a set inventory as in previous Telltale games such as The Walking Dead, you can craft required items at certain points in the story. Crafting is done in-world, on top of the actual crafting table, using the familiar 3×3 grid. I actually think this would be a cool alternative (if not less efficient) method to craft in the real Minecraft game, since it includes rather slick animations when an item is crafted. If you’re not a veteran of crafting, the game does include recipes that show you exactly how you need to place items in order to craft the required item(s).
It should be noted that this appears to be the smoothest version of Telltale’s game engine yet. I could not discern any noticeable lag whenever an action sequence occurred. This was a major problem in previous Telltale games, but has thankfully been rectified and should be a good sign of things to come when other games release from the developer.
Short Silly Storytelling
Story-wise, The Order of the Stone is Telltale’s lightest offering since the Sam & Max series. It’s fairly light-hearted, with core story tenets such as standing up to bullies, and judging people without knowing them, playing themes throughout the adventure. This is targeted towards a younger demographic, and you can rest assured that you’ll likely find the story just fine for any youngster to watch. The worst word that has been uttered thus far is “crap.” There’s a good-versus-evil theme as well, though things are not as clear-cut as they first appear by the time you reach the end of the episode.
Speaking of endings, it feels like Episode 1 comes to a close a bit too soon. You’d be hard-pressed to not finish this one in under two hours. In line with the lighter story, puzzles are also very easy to solve, and don’t require much, if any, looking around in order to be solved. It makes sense when you consider the game’s target demographic. However, I would have liked to see more challenging puzzles, because it’s easy to imagine that a parent could be playing Minecraft: Story Mode for their children, and adults certainly enjoy a good challenge.
If you’ve been looking for an official story set place in the Minecraft universe, this is as official as it’s going to get. There’s no denying the charm of the world that Story Mode takes place in, especially with the number of in-jokes that are thrown fans’ ways. The story may not be particularly deep, but it is age-appropriate and will make for a great time to be shared with the younger Minecraft fans out there (and there are millions of them!). However, even for young, attention-deficit minds, The Order of the Stone feels like it ends a bit prematurely. If you or your child are fans of Minecraft, then this is an easy buy.
Review code for Minecraft: Story Mode – Episode 1 provided by publisher. Reviewed on PlayStation 4. For more information on scoring, please read our Review Policy here.