Last month, Telltale Games and Mojang introduced players to an entirely new take on the beloved Minecraft universe with the story-driven Minecraft: Story Mode, and despite what some may have thought about taking a creativity-driven game and grafting a narrative on to it, Story Mode‘s first episode may have come as a surprise with its charming and fun debut, with the series’ second episode coming in a surprisingly swift new release.
Coming just a few weeks after the first episode’s debut, the story of Jesse and his companions’ quest to find each of the members of The Order of the Stone continues with the series’ second episode, titled “Assembly Required.” After running into the deadly Wither Storm and the world of Minecraft being put into peril, the second episode picks up almost immediately after the premiere as Jesse and company seek out two more members of The Order.
Bolstered by some fun, witty writing and great performances from the likes of Patton Oswalt, Brian Posehn, Ashley Johnson, and numerous others, Minecraft: Story Mode‘s debut really drew me in earlier this month by its dedication to creating a story that works well on its own while still retaining the charm and quirks of its Minecraft-inspired world.
Compared to the darker tones of The Walking Dead and The Wolf Among Us or the hilarious laughs of Tales from the Borderlands, Minecraft: Story Mode easily proves to be a more light-hearted, family-friendly affair from Telltale Games, though its debut established that it’s still a fun and engaging experience for players of any age. Coming off its strong debut, “Assembly Required” continues to establish Minecraft as a strong world and inspiration for Story Mode to utilize, though the second episode doesn’t quite use that to its full advantage in an installment that feels brief and lacking in character development.
The main storyline of “Assembly Required” follows Jesse, Axel, and his other companions as they search for Magnus, the legendary leader of the (literally) explosive Boom Town and another member of the Order of the Stone. This leads in to the highlight of the episode as Jesse and Axel try to find Magnus but run into a band of “griefers” seeking to claim their loot, resulting in a fun (and quite amusing) chase sequence that sticks in some funny references at the Minecraft community, and even throws in plentiful shouts of “Noob!” at Jesse and Axel.
The first half of Episode 2 easily stands as its most fun, with plenty of great action sequences and once Magnus arrives, an interesting and competitive fight develops as Jesse and Magnus duke it out in a challenge ripped right out of something like American Ninja Warrior, and it’s easily one of the best points of the episode.
This experience, however, can differ as Episode 2 does include one of the larger branching paths that I’ve seen coming from one of Telltale’s episodic series, as the conclusion of Episode 1 will determine which land you visit and which character you go after, with either Magnus or the alternative, Elegaard, being available to rescue next. It’s an interesting development and leads to two very different worlds, situations, and characters to encounter.
The remainder of the episode however, lacks a bit of the spark and creativity in the chapter’s first half, coming down to some repetitive sequences of running away from monsters, and culminating in another encounter with the game’s main antagonist (at this point), Ivor. While the episode has more than enough action to carry through its second chapter, Episode 2 feels lacking in character development and relevant plot progression, aside from some moments between Jesse and Petra and more comedic relief from his pet pig, Reuben.
Whether that lack of character development is a result of the episode coming so quickly or its running time being so short, Episode 2 is a noticeably brief experience: I managed to finish the episode in a little over one hour. If you included the other branching path at the beginning of the episode, it’s possible that means the episode could have been another 30-45 minutes, though requiring a second playthrough of the episode to experience the other possibility may not be something that every player is necessarily going to commit to, especially those that are more inclined to the “just roll with it” style of playing episodic games.
Telltale so far has proven well that Minecraft: Story Mode could take the open, nearly unlimited structure of Minecraft and apply a story that’s fun and full of heart to it, though Episode 2 in comparison to the premiere feels a bit too brief and lacking in meaningful character development, something that’s especially crucial in establishing its setting and providing some world-building (literally and metaphorically).
Even with some of the strongest elements from Minecraft: Story Mode‘s debut missing, “Assembly Required” is a decent follow-up to the series premiere, though it mostly serves to keep the story chugging along at a leisurely pace, rather than going full-speed ahead.