Moderate spoilers follow
With the start of Season Two of Minecraft: Story Mode I was a little hyped. While the story of Minecraft:Story Mode wasn’t always the most exciting (and sometimes felt like a Saturday morning cartoon), the characters were amusing and the exploration of a Minecraft world from the perspective of adventurer inhabitants made for an interesting premise with loads of potential for interesting ideas. Telltale Games, the current leader in story-driven point-and-click style adventure games, had started to develop a reputation for good stories but lazy animations, game mechanics, etc. but Minecraft: Story Mode – Season Two seemed to be part of a turnaround point for the developer with many improvements to animations and more engaging game mechanics. They even managed to make the stories and characters more interesting. But then episode three came along, and Season Two suddenly felt like it was treading water – and episode four seems content to stay in the pool.
Jesse and his gang find themselves trapped under bedrock after their escape from the “Sunshine Institute” in episode three. Xara, previously an admin like Romeo, reveals that the land under the bed rock used to be shared between the three admins. Things went bad for them and Fred was killed by fellow admin Romeo (formerly known as ‘the Admin’). Xara reveals that Fred held a weapon capable of removing Romeo’s powers so they may stop his reign of terror in Beacontown. Romeo used his admin powers to adopt Jesse’s visage and smear his name.
Unfortunately episode four, just like episode three, is full of things we’ve seen before. Romeo doesn’t actually make an appearance to the protagonists in this episode, but his presence is made known to them – through a challenge room loudspeaker. Yep, something that was a major set-piece to episode two ends up being another major middle set piece to episode four, culminating in yet another boss fight. This time it’s a large fire-spewing villager-golem-thing. This is after Jesse and co. have already wrangled with an oversized Enderman. I know the story’s excuse is that Romeo likes to mess with the natural order by creating novel monstrosities, but all of these new monsters are starting to cheapen the lore they’ve established.
Ivor from season one finally makes a reappearance, but it ends up being just a short (but funny) cameo. His tiny stint made me long for the days of silly reoccurring characters. Petra and Jack seem to be mainstays, but both are mostly humorless and seem to be suffering from emotional issues. Petra once again has a conversation with Jesse about how she feels like everyone leaves, or she always ends up alone, or something. Jesse can reassure her in various ways – but again, even the character moments in episode four end up being things we’ve seen before.
Minecraft: Story Mode – Season Two is mainly about the story and the choices you make through dialogue and actions. Most of the actual gameplay consists of a few simple puzzles, quick-time events and simple action sequences. The previously fleshed out combat system (with stamina bar and target switching) is put to use a couple of times but it’s starting to feel like they’re added in because they should be, not because it adds anything to the game. Any choices you make supposedly change the outcome of the story, but any changes in the outcome seem of small significance. They’ve also increased the amount of building sections in this episode, but unlike before, these sections add nothing to the gameplay and they’re impossible to fail.
There are ways to play with your friends in a group, but Minecraft: Story Mode – Season Two doesn’t have conventional multiplayer. Instead, multiplayer is achieved through a web app called Crowd Play. This turns Story Mode into a social experience as everyone has a vote on Jesse’s responses to situations. Unlike Sony’s PlayLink, however, combat is still controlled by the main player. Any decisions can be made by the person playing the game, or you can let the crowd have full control over those decisions. Crowd Play is played through any supported web browser – there is no need to download an app.
Minecraft: Story Mode – Season Two seemed like the start of a new, epic adventure with a season-wide arc. Unfortunately, it feels like they had enough ideas for only two or three episodes and decided to lengthen it by the only story mechanism they know: trapping or otherwise imprisoning Jesse and his friends. I wish Minecraft: Story Mode could muster some sort of conflict or puzzle based around a novel concept, because I’m sick of busting out of jail. Minecraft: Story mode – Season Two episodes one through four are available now with the last episode scheduled to be released around the end of the year. You can play Minecraft: Story Mode- Season Two on a bunch of platforms: Windows, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 3, Xbox One, Xbox 360, iOS, Android and Nintendo Switch. There are so many formats it is worth noting that this review was done using the Steam version.