Minecraft Story Mode takes Telltale Games back to its roots

first_imgAfter Telltale Games adapted The Walking Dead into an adventure game, the studio gave the same treatment to other gritty franchises, like Game of Thrones and the Fables comic books. These, combined with Walking Dead Season 2 gave many players the sense that Telltale is all about blood-soaked worlds, and gruesome life and death decisions. However, long-time fans know that Telltale cut their teeth with light-hearted games such as Sam & Max, and Back to the Future. The new Minecraft: Story Mode reminds players that Telltale has always been about child-like whimsy, and fun adventures.Telltale’s adaptation of Jurassic Park was the first game they made where it’s possible for the player’s character to die. It was a revolutionary concept for Telltale at the time. Before that, players would explore areas, talk to funny NPCs, and solve puzzles without having to worry about being eaten by zombies if they took too long to make a decision. Now, the bloody “Try Again” screen has become a staple of the adventure genre.Although it does have zombies and fighting, Minecraft is a child-friendly game, so Telltale’s adaptation keeps that audience in mind. Minecraft: Story Mode brings together two distinctly different groups of fans. There are Minecraft players who might have never played an adventure game before. Then there are Telltale fans whose love of story-driven games may have kept them away from projects like Minecraft where construction and survival take precedence over the narrative. Story Mode tries to cater to both demographics by keeping Minecraft’s aesthetics, and using Telltale’s mechanics.Early on in Story Mode, there is a sequence which spoofs the obligatory “Training Montage” scene from every action movie. While this is a funny moment on its own, it’s also a subtle way for Telltale to train new players on how to use the controls and interface of an adventure game. Players can’t go anywhere they want, or chop up every tree they see here. They’re on a much more linear path than Minecraft players will be accustomed to.Although it might seem inconceivable, some people haven’t actually played Minecraft yet! Telltale’s game will be their introduction to the franchise. The elaborate harvesting, crafting, and building mechanics are gone, but players will have to craft a few items as part of the story, and this has a simple tutorial that will get non-Minecraftians up to speed very quickly.The game looks like Minecraft, through-and-through. The characters and objects have the blocky, pixelated art style that game is known for, and the scenery always looks like something built in an actual Minecraft game. Players will use crafting tables to make objects and weapons that are instantly recognizable to anyone who has played the game.The playable character is named “Jesse” and players can choose Jesse’s gender, race and appearance from several options. This customization is a first for Telltale, who previously handed players a pre-created character with a single appearance. Tales From The Borderlands allowed some degree of customization in clothing, but this is the first time that players have the freedom to pick the gender of the protagonist.There is a different voice actor for male and female Jesse. Patton Oswalt does the male version with a sense of sweet childlike wonder, while Catherine Taber is a bit snarkier in tone, even though they have the same dialog options.As with Telltale’s previous games, players can choose what Jesse says; sometimes this is just for flavor, but it often has significant consequences for the storyline. Dialog choices will determine which of Jesse’s companions appear in certain scenes, and there are major choices near the end of the first episode that clearly affect what will happen in forthcoming episodes.In the first episode of this five-part series, Jesse and pals are trying to win a competition to see which team can build the most awesome thing. Players don’t actually do the construction or harvest the resources like in Minecraft, instead they hammer buttons while the characters automatically do the harvesting and building.Players do get to make decisions in the planning phase – one scene has the gang trapped in the wilderness at night, and they have to decide whether to make a quick shelter that isn’t very sturdy, or take the time to make something more elaborate. This is the sort of decision that players in Minecraft’s survival mode have to make all the time, and the premise rings true even if Story Mode uses drastically different mechanics.All of Telltale’s adventure games involve some degree of puzzle-solving, but Story Mode makes use of Minecraft’s established concepts. When Jesse needs to get someplace high, they can build a contraption with bouncy slimeballs. A mini-quest related to this requires Jesse to gather nine slimeballs in order to craft a “slimeblock” just like in Minecraft.Aside from these references to Minecraft, Story Mode is also riddled with pop culture jokes. Gags about E.T., Ghostbusters, and Babe all pop up – movies that younger players will certainly recognize.True to its name, Minecraft: Story Mode adds a proper plot and backstory to the world of Minecraft. It introduces The Order Of The Stone, a band of heroes who saved the world long ago, and have since become celebrities amongst the citizens. Shortly into this episode, Jesse and their friends Olivia, Axel, Petra, and Reuben the pig get caught up in a world-threatening adventure that relates to the legendary exploits of The Order Of The Stone.Often, Telltale will end the first episode of a series with a heart-wrenching choice that sends one character to face certain doom; sometimes Telltale will even kill off a character without bothering to give the Player any choice at all! Minecraft: Story Mode keeps its youthful audience in mind and avoids showing the death of human characters, but there is still some dramatic force to the story, especially near the end of the episode. It’s remains kid-friendly, and fun, while still ensuring that the cliffhanger has enough weight to make players want to see what happens next.Players who first discovered Telltale Games through The Walking Dead are in for something new. Old fans since back in the days of Strongbad and Sam & Max will be happy to see a return to Telltale’s classic style. Minecraft: Story Mode – Episode 1: The Order of the Stone is available on October 13th. Further episodes are scheduled for release in 2016.last_img read more