Last month, Telltale Games announced that it was prepping to launch the second season of Minecraft: Story Mode, a sequel to last year's offering. The first episode of this newly-announced season made its way to gamers last week.

Promising a perilous adventure with tough decisions, Telltale stated that players will be able to team up with familiar faces from the first game, as well as some newcomers. Additionally, the company noted that the original cast, consisting of Patton Oswalt, Catherine Taber, and Ashley Johnson, will also be returning for the sequel. Some popular Minecraft-centered YouTubers such as Stampy Cat, and StacyPlays appear for cameos in the new game as well.

Amidst all these announcements and excitement from fans of the series, the first episode of Minecraft: Story Mode Season Two, titled Hero in Residence was released on July 11, 2017.

Background

Before I fully dive into this review, it's important that you understand the mindset with which I decided to play this game, in order to better judge this review.

I am a huge fan of Telltale Games and have been playing their titles for quite a lot of time. These include nearly all major releases including The Walking Dead, The Wolf Among Us, Game of Thrones, Batman, and Jurassic Park, among others. In fact, I rated Batman 9.5/10 because I genuinely enjoyed the narrative-focused gameplay, intriguing characters and occasionally tough decisions.

However - and I believe there's no other way to put this - I'm absolutely not a fan of Minecraft. I've never understood why people find it so addictive, and haven't been able to play the game for more than 15 minutes in one sitting. When I played Minecraft: Story Mode last year, I was actually bored. I managed to complete the main game in countless sittings because it just didn't appeal to me. I found the plot uninteresting and the characters extremely bland. While user reviews on Steam rate the game around 75%, I would peg it closer to the 60% mark.

So, it was with great apprehension that I decided to purchase Hero in Residence for the purpose of this review. Read on for my full thoughts on Minecraft: Story Mode Season Two, Episode One!

Story

Minecraft: Story Mode Season Two, Episode One kicks off almost immediately after the events of the first season (which you can import by signing in to your Telltale account from both the games). Jesse and company have defeated the Wither Storm and saved the blocky world of Minecraft. Now, they are enjoying peaceful, but somewhat complicated, lives of their own. Jesse has become the mayor of Beacontown while his friends are busy in activities of their own. Being engrossed in their own busy lives has made it difficult for the group to maintain its friendly relations. To be fair, all of them are still friends, but have less time for each other as well as new adventures.

This "you don't have enough time for me anymore" situation is an integral part of the first episode of Minecraft: Story Mode's latest season, with almost every character making the same observation. While it does become a bit tiring to hear after the first couple of times, it's necessary to establish where the characters stand and add depth to their motivations.

The first episode of this season starts in a light-hearted tone, with Jesse instated as a popular leader of Beacontown. However, things soon go awry when the hunt for a missing llama leads the game's protagonist and her partner from the first season, Petra, to a mysterious gauntlet in an underground location. When Jesse approaches this glowing gauntlet upon hearing someone creepily whisper his name, the glove autonomously attaches itself to him, and refuses to come off.

If this sounds all too familiar to you, it's likely because you have watched The LEGO Movie. Indeed, the main plot of Minecraft: Story Mode Season Two is strikingly similar to the popular movie with the protagonist (Jesse / Emmet) getting some mysterious artifact (gauntlet / block) attached to themselves and finding out that they have to stop an evil villain from taking over their blocky world. I was half-expecting Will Ferrell to jump out of some block and proclaim himself the primary antagonist - but thankfully, I was mistaken.

Jesse taking the gauntlet has opened a mysterious pit, out of which creatures of all sorts are escaping. As cliché as the plot sounds, it did manage to grab my interest when it is revealed that our duo of characters have to team up with legendary treasure hunter Jack and his partner Nurm, and travel to an underwater world in order to secure a "Structure Block", while avoiding "the Admin", a humongous stone creature, that also serves as the primary antagonist of the game.

I won't give away the finer aspects of the main story, but I do have to note that a B-plot featuring Jesse and Petra traveling to Champion City to receive the latter's sword from the town's blatantly evil mayor, Stella is extremely well-done. The conflict is quite interesting and also allows players more freedom in terms of how they want to approach the mission.

Gameplay

Minecraft: Story Mode Season Two uses the same gameplay mechanics that Telltale Games has been using in its previous games for the past few years. The title is focused on the interaction between characters as well as the narrative. Players can respond to other non-playable characters by choosing from up to four different dialog options in a limited amount of time. Not all of these majorly impact your storyline but some crucial moments do matter.

In some scenarios, players can also navigate the terrain using the WASD keys, and utilizing their mouse's pointer to interact with the environment. While Telltale Games' previous titles offer a respectable amount of exploration, I was very surprised to see that there is very little to traverse and investigate, leaving more to be wanted. But then again, I've had a chat with some other players, and they actually seem to enjoy the increased focus on narrative and dialog instead of doing mundane tasks, so it isn't entirely a bad thing.

Much like the previous season, gamers can also utilize crafting blocks - which are a staple of the real Minecraft - to produce equipment and food. These are used in both the main- and side-quests. It's not particularly difficult, seeing that the raw materials required to complete the product are usually spread within eyesight.

Additionally, the title is also abundant with quick-time events (QTEs), which have become a sort of a trademark for Telltale Games, for better or for worse. I, for one, enjoy them as a break from an occasionally boring dialog or plotline.

There's also a new mechanic that I haven't noticed in previous Telltale offerings, which is a "Your story is changing" pop-up warning. While it's not exactly subtle and I'm not a fan of it, I understand the need for it, particularly to improve the replay value, so that players know which of their decisions will impact the storyline, and so that they can fully see it change dynamically. This replay value is also improved by the addition of Crowd-Play, which is now included in almost every Telltale offering.

However, the decisions that will impact the storyline are a mixed bag; some are downright obvious, while others are quite uninteresting. That said, it was nice to know that some dialog affected the behavior of other characters as well, although not in a major way.

Presentation

I know a lot of people criticize Telltale's continued use of its current graphics engine, which makes its games look very dated. However, I don't find it bothersome, because an interesting narrative and multi-layered characters can make up for an inferior graphical experience.

However, in this particular series, Telltale Games' graphics engine perfectly matches with the setting it is offered. Let's be clear: Minecraft isn't exactly a graphically-demanding game with its pixelated environments and textures, so the presentation of Story Mode feels up-to-the-mark.

In addition, some of the locations are absolutely stunning and detailed. I found Champion City (pictured above) very reminiscent of the Emerald City from The Wizard of Oz (1939) - except for the emerald-green construction, of course. I just wish that the game allowed players to explore more of its environments rather than restricting them to tight ones where there is little to explore.

While the dialog was clunky sometimes - seriously, when your primary antagonist says "Nice dodge!" when you evade its attack, you know the dialog isn't perfect - it was absolutely hilarious at others. Coupled with some strong voice acting by the experienced cast, there were moments when I was completely hooked to the game and was enjoying myself immensely.

The new characters, even the slightly one-dimensional Stella, are neat additions as well. The llama hasn't made much of a splash yet - and I doubt that it'll be able to take the position of the lovable pig Reuben from the first season - it was given very limited screen time for me to be sure. Jesse's new assistant, Radar, is a great character too and brings light-hearted humor to otherwise-serious situations.

Final Take

While the second season of Minecraft: Story Mode offers more of the same, it definitely ups its game in terms of presentation and some humorous dialog. Although I felt that the first season was catered only towards a younger audience or for fans of Minecraft, I appreciate that the title has introduced new characters and a nice side-plot, that should hopefully appeal to other players like myself too.

However, there are some aspects that Minecraft: Story Mode Season Two needs to improve upon, namely adding more layers to the otherwise-cliché main plot, and cohesive dialog, along with tougher decisions. The first episode offered its fair share of action, but there was little to change story-wise. Moving forward, this needs to be improved.

For now, I feel confident in saying that the first episode of Minecraft: Story Mode Season Two is vastly superior to its predecessors, but still has some work to do in order to establish itself as a major series for Telltale. With the company apparently working on multiple titles simultaneously, it sure has its work cut out.

The first episode costs $4.99 and is now available for purchase digitally on PC, Xbox One, PlayStation 4, as well as mobile devices. The Season Pass, which unlocks all the episodes, costs $24.99. You can check out the title on the digital store of your choice below:


Minecraft: Story Mode Season Two, Episode One was reviewed via a copy purchased from the Windows 10 Store by the reviewer himself. The game was played on a Dell Inspiron 15-5558 with the following specifications:

  • Display: 15.6" non-touch, 1366x768 resolution
  • OS: Windows 10, 64-bit
  • RAM: 8GB
  • Processor: Intel Core i5-5200U CPU, ~2.20 GHz
  • GPU: Intel HD Graphics 5500, NVIDIA GeForce 920M (2GB VRAM)

 

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