Moderate spoilers follow
Developer Telltale raised the bar with Minecraft: Story Mode – Season Two. Episodes one and two were an improvement in almost every aspect over season one, from the story quality and the dialogue to the puzzles and action sequences. Episode three maintains many of these improvements, but regresses in other ways.
Jesse finds himself (or herself, depending on your choice) incarcerated as a “guest” in the Sunshine Institute after his defeat at the hands of the Admin at the end of episode two. Of course, this “institute” is just a prison where the Admin sends those he finds undesirable. Jesse, in typical fashion, plans an escape. Minecraft: Story Mode seems to use prison breaks as a story crutch. Jesse and company found themselves imprisoned or trapped in similar circumstances in a bulk of the stories in season one. The prison setting isn’t even used in a particularly novel way with almost every aspect of Jesse’s imprisonment appearing in a previous episode: from inmates having to fight each other to survive, to Jesse having to surreptitiously craft an item to bypass security. Despite the story being largely a rehash of previous ideas, the dialogue is still delivered effectively and there is some silver lining with new characters and story revelations.
There are a few interesting new characters that were introduced in episode three, but none of them are used very effectively. There are a couple of humorous moments. Jesse meets a Bob Ross- like sketch artist and someone who was jailed by the Admin for constantly narrating everything around him, but these are short gags and each of these characters quickly fades into the background. Another character, known only at first by the moniker “Prisoner X”, is important to the story, but her only function for now seems to be her revelations about the Admin. Despite these revelations being the most interesting story development in episode three, the way the character is introduced – especially with the knowledge she possesses – feels like lazy writing, and hopefully part of a larger, more clever plot.
Minecraft: Story Mode – Season Two is mainly about the story, dialogue choices, and solving a few puzzles, with actual gameplay mechanics a secondary consideration. The few combat sequences retain the improved combat system that has been in place for Season 2, with the ability to change targets while having to manage health and stamina. There is also a large action set piece near the end of the episode that is perhaps one of the biggest that has been in Minecraft: Story Mode so far, when Jesse has to fight a multi-headed Ghast – one of the Admin’s many mutated creations.
Minecraft: Story Mode – Season Two doesn’t have conventional multiplayer, but there are ways to play alongside friends with Crowd Play. This turns story mode into a social experience as everyone has a vote on what Jesse does and says. The player can choose to have the final say or let the crowd decide. Crowd Play is played through any browser – there is no need to download an app.
Overall episode three was disappointing, but contained important and interesting revelations about the Admin. I still hold out hope that Telltale has some great story moments in store in episodes four and five. I’m excited to see how Jesse and company finally overcome the threat of the Admin in the remainder of Minecraft: Story Mode – Season Two. Episodes one, two, and three are available now on Windows, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 3, Xbox One, Xbox 360, iOS, Android and more recently on Nintendo Switch. There are so many formats it is worth pointing out that this review was done using the Steam version.