Minor story spoilers follow:
Minecraft: Story Mode – Season Two is the follow up to 2015/2016’s Minecraft: Story Mode. Developed by Telltale Games, which is a veritable factory of story-driven adventure games, they’ve had a ton of experience with the genre – almost to the point of complacency. Season 2 follows the normal episodic format that Telltale thrives on, and as with any media that comes in an episodic format some episodes will naturally be stronger than others. Season 2 seems to be a solid start to what could potentially be an era of renewed quality from Telltale – both in writing and presentation.
If you haven’t played Minecraft: Story Mode season 1, you’ll be missing out on some of your previous choices passing over to season 2, but a short “previously on” segment will quickly bring you up to speed. Episode 1 starts a few years after the events of the previous season with Jesse (Patton Oswalt if male, Catherine Taber if female) full of responsibility as the leader of Beacontown. The Order of the Stone is somewhat broken up, with each of its members off doing their own thing, or with responsibilities of their own. Jesse is once again thrust into adventure when he comes to the aid of Petra (Ashley Johnson) chasing a treasure-finding llama in Beacontown’s mines. Their discovery of a magical gauntlet leads them on a quest that brings them past the known world while picking up a new set of companions. Episode 1 does a great job of feeling like a self-contained story while setting up a wider arc for the remainder of season 2. The storytelling has gotten a lot crisper as the Minecraft: Story Mode series went on, and season 2 starts of strong with solid story, strong voice acting, interesting characters, and less hammy dialogue. Gone are most of the more juvenile feeling moments – season 2 so far feels a little less Saturday morning cartoon and more genuine fantasy adventure for all.
Minecraft: Story Mode – Season 2 features a dynamic story that changes based on the decisions you make. Occasionally, the decisions will affect something that happens in the current episode – but sometimes your choices will not manifest a consequence until several episodes later. As with previous Telltale games, there will be a dialogue box that tells you when and sometimes how a character responds to your decision, as well as an indicator when you are making a major story decision that will have a greater effect on the story. Each of these story forks eventually intersects back to main story junctions – this is a very on-rails experience, after all. These different choices presumably mean more replayability- a chance to see how the story turns out if you choose your adventure differently – but this can often be tedious as you have to sit and listen through large chunks of un-skippable dialogue before you can even make an alternate choice.
As for gameplay, there really isn’t much in the way of mechanics here. Most action is performed through a series of quick time events, with short combat sections. Combat is a little more dynamic and fluid than the first season, but a far cry from an actual combat system. You do have a limited amount of stamina and the ability to dodge left and right, but it is barely above a quick time event. There are a few puzzles present, but in usual Telltale fashion, they are more a formality than a brain teaser.
Minecraft: Story Mode – Season 2 uses the recently introduced way to play socially with its Crowd Play option. This turns story mode into a social experience as everyone votes on what Jesse says, and the paths he or she chooses to take during crucial story moments. The player can choose to have the ultimate decision or to let the vote automatically decide. What makes this especially accessible is that it is browser based – no need to download an app. This seems to be following a trend of social gaming, where groups of friends interact with a game to decide its outcome.
Did Minecraft ever really need a story mode? No, probably not. There is little mining, crafting, and no real freedom to explore – all of the elements that define Minecraft. If you come into these looking for something like that, you’ll be disappointed. Minecraft: Story Mode – Season Two is more of what came before it: a solid adventure game that is more story than gameplay. If you come into it wanting a puzzle or combat game, you’ll be disappointed – this is an interactive show, and not a bad one. Interesting characters and a compelling episode 1 leave me excited to see what Minecraft: Story Mode – Season Two has to offer. Episode 1 is available now on Windows, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 3, Xbox One, Xbox 360, iOS and Android. There are so many formats, it is worth pointing out that this review was done using the Windows version available on Steam.