I didn’t really enjoy the second episode in Telltale’s Minecraft Story mode. Though some of the construction and physical world-building was frankly incredibly, there was a distinct lack of that hallmark Telltale emotional impact. There was very little impact at all, actually; the episode was largely flat, with just about nothing of worth really happening. Other than its lame duck cliff-hanger ending, there was very little of substance in episode 2.
It didn’t really feel like my choices had any concrete, lasting consequences, beyond the binary. That changes just a little in the third episode – but there’s far more stuff happening this time, with a dash more of that signature emotional gravitas that Telltale usually manages to inject in to its games. In fact, I – a cold and distant, emotionless husk of a human being, may have actually started caring about some anthropomorphic, pixelated blocks. Still, Episode 3 “The Last Place You Look,” seems to continue the series’ habit of pushing aside anything resembling real narrative depth in favour of blockbuster, family entertainment.
In this episode, that design choice seems to work. There’s more action, and more to do in this episode before the starting credits have even begun. Kicking off right where we left off at the end of Episode 2, with Jesse and her friends trapped by the seemingly morally bankrupt Ivor, they deal with this in the most Minecrafty way possible; by just digging underneath their feet until they find themselves elsewhere. After battling an army of spiders, zombies, skeletons and creepers, Jesse and pals find themselves in a grinder – and it’s just another way that Telltale shows off just how well it knows the source material its working with.
If you’re unaware, a grinder in Minecraft is a user construction, an in-game trick, which uses clever waterways and pathing to crush hordes of monsters – and then pillage and pilfer their resultant loot. The environments in Minecraft: Story mode are reportedly all designed in Minecraft before being moved across to Telltale’s engine – making the tunnels and pathways of this grinder so much more impressive – very nearly making me want to open up Minecraft and build something. Nearly.
A little more monster fisticuffs later, and the gang find themselves, not in The Nether, but at The End; a stark, frightening area that’s filled with Endermen, Minecraft’s creepiest of creatures. They’re still off trying to find Soren, the last unaccounted member of The Order of the Stone; hopefully they can use one of his constructions to destroy the Wither Storm that’s busy destroying the world. It all comes together in a way that not just raises the stakes – it changes them completely.
Beyond the more thrilling narrative, there’s some genuine character building on offer here. Tensions within the group start to boil up, threatening to fracture this new Order of the Stone just as happened in the past. It’s a welcome change from the previous episodes, which did little to define its characters as much as it did the world surrounding them. The tension’s frequently broken up with welcome levity, so it never becomes as overwhelming or overbearing as The Walking Dead.
I’m still not really seeing all that much to show me that my choices really matter though. A little popup keeps reminding me that a character will remember my actions, but it doesn’t, yet, show much of the weight of those actions. While this is undoubtedly the strongest episode yet, I’d love for the options available to me to cause genuine pause, consideration and even reflection – but there’s none of that complexity we’ve come to expect. With this series geared towards a younger audience, I’m not certain it’ll happen – but “The Last Place You Look,” is a step in the right direction.
Minecraft: Story Mode is a love letter to Minecraft and its worlds, but it needs to succeed beyond being a light-hearted romp coated in fan service, no matter how well realised that service is. All the pieces are now in place for Minecraft: Story Mode to really deliver, and I hope it does. This episode caps off with another cliff-hanger, but it’s one that left me actually wanting the next installment.
Last Updated: November 25, 2015