After an extended eight-episode Season One, the cast of Minecraft: Story Mode returns in a brand-new adventure. Story Mode's selectable hero Jesse, having saved the world from the Witherstorm in the first five episodes, is now the leader and de facto mayor of Beacontown. In Beacontown, intrepid builders craft their homes into the most creative shapes and forms imaginable and Jesse stands at its head. The only problem is Jesse and his authority as the “greatest hero ever” is all that keeps the town running smoothly.
The same is true for the rest of Jesse's cohort from the first season, who have all settled into their roles as the New Order of the Stone. Axel presides over Boom Town, Olivia is the head teacher in Redstonia, and Lukas is the best-selling author of the New Order's adventures. When the last adventuring member of the crew, Petra, invites everyone on a job, only Jesse takes time out of his busy schedule to answer the call.
Jesse probably shouldn't have bothered through, as the job ends up with an ancient gauntlet stuck on Jesse's hand and a giant portal spitting out charged Creepers under Boomtown. The journey to close the portal will take players from the neighboring town of Champion City to an ancient temple on the far edges of the known world map, deep under ocean.
While I enjoyed this episode overall, that's mostly down to the characters involved, not the story itself. There's a feeling that things just sort of happen here, but stepping back and thinking about it, that's because of a major divergence in the story. There's a whole section involving Champion City the feels like it just drops the main story completely. Everything improves once you get to the underwater temple, but until then it doesn't necessarily feel like the story is heading in one direction.
The larger themes of the first season of Story Mode came in two flavors. The first was “You can't do it without the help of your friends,” and the second was “Don't meet your heroes.” Those themes carry over to Season Two whole cloth. Most of this is focused around Petra this time, her attempts to find her own place away from the team end in failure and her hero, at least in my playthrough, doesn't quite live up to the hype. When it comes to these themes, Season Two just feels like it picks up right where the early part of Season One left off, which is a bit different from how Telltale handled The Walking Dead.
That's fine though. This isn't the Walking Dead, it's Minecraft. The stakes are low; it's more about the light-hearted humor and Minecraft community jokes. When Jesse and Petra try to cover the portal they've unearthed, their first attempt involves simply covering the hole with dirt, like any Minecraft player would. When you find what remains of one of Jack's original adventuring pals, you see Jack crying over a pile of inventory, not a body. This is an adventure for the whole family; it's here to make you chuckle more than make you ponder ethical dilemmas.
Minecraft: Story Mode looks to have been updated with Telltale's newer engine, meaning the graphics look better and he environments are more expansive. One of the things I enjoy about Story Mode is how the blocky Minecraft presentation actually papers over the weaknesses of the Telltale engine, which is the sparse details on the characters and their environments. Telltale Games have to be ported to wide variety of platforms and that level of detail is one of the things that goes first. In Minecraft though, it's all blocks! This seemingly saves up resources to play around and there are some scenes, like Beacontown and the Temple, that look great here.
The developers have also revamped a few mechanical aspects of Minecraft: Story Mode. Quick-time events comprise most of the action, but there's a whole new combat system, with movement, dodging, and a stamina meter. Crafting via crafting tables returns in Season Two, but there's also one section where you get to freeform build with a list of materials. As a Minecraft fan, I found that kind of fun and hope to see more of it integrated into the game's puzzles in the future.
Until the cliffhanger ending, Episode One of Minecraft: Story Mode – Season Two feels like a complete tale. This continues on from the latter half of the first season, which was a series of done-in-one episodes with distinct adventures. I felt satisfied when everything wrapped up, but it's clear the ideas here are only the tip of the iceberg in terms of Jesse's journey to solve this problem. I get the feeling that we've only scratched the surface of this Minecraft universe, so I want to see more. I want to know about how this world came to be, I want to see all the place Telltale has crafted to fill the place out. I just hope future episodes retain a strong focus on the main journey.
Episode One of Minecraft: Story Mode – Season Two draws from both halves of Season One. The episode feels like a complete journey on its own, but it also points towards a larger, grander story. Some of your cast favorites are incognito and the pacing grinds to a halt in one section, but Minecraft: Story Mode – Season Two is still off to an enjoyable start.
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