Coming off the first two episodes of its venture into the world of Minecraft, Telltale Games’ collaboration with Mojang for its latest episodic adventure Minecraft: Story Mode proved pretty early on it had more than energy and charm to make a narrative game based on the mega-popular construction title worthwhile, even if its second episode didn’t necessarily fulfill that promise entirely.
With its release schedule moving at a far quicker pace compared to what we’ve normally seen from Telltale Games, Minecraft: Story Mode‘s tale is already at its halfway point even after it’s debut back in October.
In Episode 3 of the story, Telltale Games has mostly set things back to a brisk and intriguing course following the series’ slightly disappointing second episode.
The third episode, titled “The Last Place You Look,” takes the adventures of Jesse and company to much darker territory (both literally and figuratively) right from the get-go, as Jesse and his companions dig deep into the End to find the last remaining member of the Order of the Stone.
Ultimately though, what they find in those regions leads to some unexpected surprises, and plenty of unforeseen consequences.
Where the second episode felt a bit lacking with its short running time and thin plot development, “The Last Place You Look” marks a big improvement in making the actions of its band of characters matter, with some genuinely surprising new revelations shown and the remainder of the season coming into a bit more focus now that we’re past the halfway mark.
In particular, many of Episode 3‘s biggest highlights not only provide some great action setpieces, but also provide some surprisingly poignant character moments, as well as some dimension to the series’ blocky, pixelated characters.
That dedication to the development of the characters and plot comes through in several points, in particular between Jesse and a character inflicted with the Wither sickness — the identity of which being dependent on a choice made during the first episode.
While Telltale’s titles sometimes come under flak for not necessarily making every decision or choice that a player has to make be meaningful, here in Minecraft: Story Mode many of the player’s past actions or decisions are already starting to provide some noticeable effects, leading to some moments that caught me off-guard based on my past actions in previous episodes.
The same goes for the narrative unfolding in Story Mode. Even with the more family-friendly presentation and world offered by its Minecraft inspiration, it often features some surprisingly touching moments and goes into darker regions than one might expect.
It’s still nowhere quite near the level of drama as The Walking Dead or Game of Thrones, and doesn’t offer the same level of hilarity or laughs as Tales from the Borderlands, but Minecraft: Story Mode still provides some surprising moments of emotion packed in between its action sequences, and “The Last Place You Look” certainly continues that.
In particular, the highlight of the episode comes in the episode’s second-half in an encounter with the creepy Enderman, as Jesse’s struggle to find materials while surrounded by the black-cloaked figures is pretty genuinely unsettling and weird, but not off-putting or intensely scary.
It’s a tense sequence that highlights the particular quirks and charm of the franchise well, and the series so far has done a pretty great (and faithful) job of introducing the elements that the series has been known for in a genuine and intriguing way.
Episode 3 also brings one portion of the series’ arc to a bit of a close as Jesse and his companions are introduced with Soren, the final member of the fabled Order of the Stone, and bouncing back a bit from the more rushed character introductions from the second episode.
Played with a wonderful performance by comedian John Hodgman, Soren quickly grew to be my favorite of the Order members with his peculiar nature and ways of dealing with Enderman.
Where Minecraft: Story Mode has continued to excel with Episode 3 in utilizing the world, characters, and charming quirks of its Minecraft inspiration, it also continues to struggle a bit in other regards and especially in comparison to some of Telltale’s other titles.
In particular, it continues the trend of Story Mode‘s over reliance on action sequences and set pieces that, ultimately, don’t feel all that necessarily engaging or meaningful, whether it’s being chased by a monstrous creature or fighting off waves of zombies or Creepers.
While they’re fun and surely children will find those moments more enjoyable to help break up the action, at points they come off more repetitious than anything else.
With Minecraft: Story Mode now in the homestretch with just two episodes to go, the accelerated pace of its release schedule compared to previous releases by Telltale Games is certainly a bit of a surprise instead of the often months-long wait that previous episode releases have offered.
Though the series has struggled in some instances with meaningful character and plot development and especially with a slightly lackluster second episode, Episode 3 of Minecraft: Story Mode successfully sets the series back on track for an engaging rest of the season.
Even if we don’t know quite where all the pieces will be falling in to place for Jesse, Petra, and the other crew members we have been following as they assemble the Order of the Stone.
The blueprint for their journey is at least becoming a little clearer, and seeing how everything comes together may just be the most exciting part of the puzzle.