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Minecraft: Story Mode

We Go Hands-On With Telltale And Mojang’s Collaboration
by Brian Shea on Sep 09, 2015 at 11:40 AM
Platform PC
Publisher Telltale Games
Developer Telltale Games
Rating Everyone 10+

Exploration is a key element of Mojang’s wildly popular Minecraft. From the first moments players step into the game, they can explore the world, as well as how they can use the world’s natural resources to their advantage. Perhaps the most compelling aspect, however, is the exploration of the player’s creativity. In spite of all of this, one area remained largely unexplored in the video game: the story.

With Minecraft: Story Mode, Telltale and Mojang have worked together to fill that narrative-shaped hole in a way that is satisfying and enjoyable for fans of both studios’ work. Novelists and fan-fiction authors have attempted to chisel a story out of the rich Minecraft universe, but Telltale’s collaboration with Mojang is the first time that a cohesive arc has been attempted in any official capacity. 

During my hands-on time with a demo of Minecraft: Story Mode, I was given a highly abridged tour of the first episode. Story Mode stars stars Jesse, a reluctant hero who can take on one of six different looks across different skin tones and genders depending on what the player wants. The first scene had me tracking Jesse’s pet pig Reuben. I guide Jesse along the pig tracks, searching a large area as I close in on Reuben’s location. Unfortunately, as soon as Jesse reunites with Reuben, a group of creepers, zombies, and spiders close in on their location. 

Jesse unsheathes his wooden sword and begins defending his beloved Reuben. The zombies approach first, sending me into an action sequence where I press a button when they get close enough. After vanquishing a few zombies, Jesse’s cheap wooden sword shatters, leaving him vulnerable. With Jesse realizing that they are about to be overtaken, I’m prompted to devise a plan of escape. While the choice seems like a typical Telltale decision tree moment, the execution of the plan is interrupted as Jesse’s friend Petra swoops in and saves the two.

The next scene flashes ahead to a moment where Petra and Jesse discuss the wither skull she procured. She claims to have arranged to trade it to someone at the upcoming EnderCon in exchange for a diamond, but the whole situation seems fishy. From there, the scene demonstrates Story Mode’s take on crafting, as Jesse builds a stone sword from two cobblestones and a stick. In this situation, I was provided the ingredients, but it was up to me to arrange them in the correct way on the crafting table.

The story flashes ahead yet again. Something terrible has happened at the aforementioned EnderCon, and the entire attendee-base is fleeing in horror. It doesn’t take long for me to figure out why – a giant, three-headed beast emerges from the venue and floats menacingly toward the terrified crowd. Could this have been the result of whatever suspicious situation Petra got herself into with the wither skull? The answer isn’t clear in this demo. The beast emits a tractor beam, which pulls in anything and anyone unfortunate enough to be in its way. While it seems likely that you could face off against this beast in some capacity in the future, my only option at this juncture is to run.

Jesse and his friends see their window to escape and take it. As Jesse runs alongside the rest of the fleeing attendees, I’m tasked with guiding his path. Any obstacle I’m unable to evade in time with horizontal movement throws a quick-time event my way. I pressed each button command with no problem, causing Jesse to successfully escape.

The group reconvenes in a shelter. An inactive portal seems like the only hope for safety. Jesse lights the portal and the group eagerly jumps in. A hardened warrior named Gabriel confronts Jesse about his destiny in helping resolve the issues causing this invasion, but before the conversation ends, the monster’s giant tentacles smash through the walls and the tractor beam begins abducting Gabriel and Petra. Though both are floating away, I only have time to save one. I choose Petra, which leaves Gabriel to float off into the distance. Petra is safe, but before Jesse is able to escape, one of the monster’s tentacles whacks him hard, sending him flying into the portal as the screen cuts to black.

Even as someone with little more than a passing interest in Minecraft, Story Mode brought a smile to my face a few times over the course of my demo. The characters are well-written, and the voice cast, which features the likes of Patton Oswalt, Catherine Taber, Brian Posehn, Ashley Johnson, Dave Fennoy, Billy West, and Paul Reubens, does an excellent job of bringing the characters to life.

Minecraft: Story Mode looks to deliver the traditional Telltale experience within the constructs of the Minecraft universe. Time will show if Telltale can differentiate its latest project enough from its other licensed franchises to give it its own unique hook outside of the Minecraft name, but for now, we're optimistic. Minecraft: Story Mode is set to launch this fall.

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Minecraft: Story Mode

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