Wow, that was quick!
I blinked, and suddenly three episodes have appeared in just over a month. Since the prior review I had begun to think about episodes 1 and 2, which I had a bad time with before, trying to further analyse the more subtle problems that just felt off to me. Considering I had previously enjoyed Telltale’s various little narrative journeys (even Game of Thrones had its moments), something must have happened to just have an altogether a non-enjoyable time. Now with episode 3 out so quickly, I expected it to be another situation of the same rushed problems rearing its head like an abomination from the depths. Fortunately, while still not as good as Telltale’s previous attempts, it looks like they’re getting back into the flow.
[There will not be any spoilers of Minecraft Story Mode – Episode 3: The Last Place You Look, but I may end up discussing Minecraft Story Mode – Episode 1: the Order of the Stone and Episode 2: Assembly Required as well as the review of both (which you can find, respectively, here and here). Although the rating at the bottom will be spoiler-free if you wish to skip there.]
Considering its been about two weeks since the prior episode, I don’t think I need to go into too much narrative depth to remind people what happened last time. You went to track down the last member of the Order of the Stone (the builder, who can hopefully build a mega-bomb to blow up the big-bad eldritch nightmare with) at his fortress. After being unable to find him you got locked in a room by Ivor, who resembles a metal fan doing a shift at the library as a favour to his grand parents.
Then there is also that weird zombie-bite subplot, as an infection has begun to take hold of the character you rescued in episode 1. It continues to work in a dramatic sense and is made to fit within the setting, but yet it feels weird in a similar way that a Disney interpretation of Cannibal Holocaust would (although it wouldn’t be the first time a Disney film showed animal cruelty).
While the narrative and humour continues down the family friendly road which feels unfocused, as if trying to please everyone and not doing too great of a job, it is fortunately better than Episode 1 and 2. This is especially true in the drama area, as the game cranks the tension up a tiny bit to create some tense dramatic moments and even some tragedy that is definitely earned (although it comes with some fridge horror).
The is only one part that did bug me about the narrative. It seems to have fallen into an awkward situation of convenience, as too many things work out in the way most suitable to the story. One such example is the final scene which ends with a convenient error that manages to continue to drag the story out longer (at least besides the zombie bite subplot that still is progressing along nicely). Another instance is the talisman will randomly decide to work when it feels like telling you someone is near. A third such moment is lucky timing of a creeper blowing up a trap moments before every part of you is crushed to a thin paste. Maybe one coincidence would have not phased me, but a bundle of them instead feels like something more narratively critical players will begin to lose their patience with.
The humour has also somewhat picked up a bit I think, either that or I’ve gone numb to the inoffensive lukewarm jokes. However, seemingly taking inspiration from Seth MacFarlane, it does seem to have one joke it loved to roll out. A lot. To the point where it almost feels like it is trying to traverse into the awkward anti-humour headspace where by beating a joke into the ground it becomes funny again.
Although there is one problem that this episode suffers with: Voice acting. I kept finding myself wondering why some lines are done with barely any emotion or a slightly awkward delivery. There isn’t a single major incident, but rather instead enough of these moments occur that it dawns on you gently. I think maybe a few more draft runs of lines really could have helped out.
There is also one other part that I should talk about: Choices. Compared to most Telltale games, there aren’t as many choices as normal. However, I believe in this case it is mostly okay. Minecraft Story Mode honestly feels less like a game designed for you to forge out a tale (akin to The Walking Dead, The Wolf Among Us and Game of Thrones) and more an adventure for you to experience. Also, despite the PEGI classification worry I still somewhat have, I think there could have been a risk of swarming younger audiences with too many narrative choices if they went with the usual system. So I think the fewer choice approach functions in this case.
The final score of Minecraft Story Mode Episode 3 is a 7 out of 10. It is easily the best episode so far, but still lags behind the standard left by Telltale’s previous games. While it does manage to execute on drama successfully, better than the previous episode with its plot holes, the humour side feels like its trying to cater to everyone. I believe it seems like the series is shaping up to be designed for those who want something easy going, the episodic equivalent of comfort food: Nothing too engaging or serious, but rather light hearted and easy-going.
Unless if it takes a bizarre quality turn, it looks like Minecraft Story Mode may shape up to be popcorn in a game form: An empty tasting game that is just easy to consume casually. Not that there is anything wrong with such a game, just it may hide in the shadows created by more dominating serious games of Telltale’s past.
a PC review code for Minecraft: Story Mode Episode 3 was provided by Telltale for the purpose of this review