Review: Minecraft: Story Mode: Episode 4 – Building Blocks
Having built up (yes, pun intended) its story over the course of the season, Jesse and his gang of companions have reached their big confrontation against the Wither Storm, and in Telltale Games’ Minecraft: Story Mode, the series’ fourth episode ties up the main storyline while also introducing some hints at what may lie next for Jesse and the newly-reassembled Order of the Stone.
As the penultimate episode of the season, Telltale deviates from their typical series structure a bit with Episode 4, “A Block and a Hard Place,” acting as the “finale” to the season-long struggle against the Wither Storm.
Even with one episode technically left to go, the fourth chapter still manages to bring in some great action set-pieces and a satisfying conclusion to this particular arc of the story, though some of the series’ more nagging and persistent issues appear once more.
Following the end of Episode 3 with the reformation of the Order of the Stone and Jesse’s plan in place to take down the approaching Wither Storm, Episode 4 very much puts players into the story beats that you might expect at this point in the tale.
The Order is assembled, action is taken, and now is the time when the heroes must break apart to work together and take down their foe.
It may unfold in a manner similar to that, but to Telltale’s credit the episode also takes some unexpected turns and might make you question and the motivations, actions, and even the thoughts and sayings of the Order members that players have worked alongside with for four episodes.
With Jesse and the rest of his team heading to the infamous Far Lands to receive a powerful item that may aid in helping to stop the Wither Storm once and for all, the build up to the big confrontation is certainly fun and utilizes the world and lore of Minecraft in interesting ways.
In particular seeing the way that The Far Lands is used — an area in the series proper known for its strange, glitched-out imagery — in the context of the story is another one of the neat little touches that Story Mode has used well throughout the season.
Yet for all the build-up and action set around the big showdown with the Wither Storm, this episode in particular suffers from stilted, flat dialogue, more apparent when dialogue exchanges between two characters results in answers such as “Not too much farther” or “Long enough” when asking about how much longer it will take to get to the next area.
Given the series original source with material as (virtually) limitless as Minecraft, the smaller details and references it makes to the original title are certainly more effective than the story at large, which often falls in far more to cliche and predictable twists, with still many of the series’ characters (such as Axel or Lukas) not feeling particularly interesting beyond typical archetypes.
In particular, the episode also lacks some sufficient conclusions to some of the more interesting plot twists and developments that have passed over the previous episodes, making them seem inconsequential by this point.
What happened to one characters’ instance of amnesia? Or another’s infliction of the deadly Wither sickness? By the episode’s end, both problems merely wrap themselves up with little explanation, making their resolution feel a bit cheap by comparison to the other developments of the episode.
But for all the instances that this episode highlights some of the weaknesses of Story Mode as a whole, it makes up for it with some strong and visually elaborate action set pieces, with the Wither Storm confrontation certainly being one of the strongest action moments the series has had yet.
Likewise, the episode’s conclusion feels well-earned and satisfying for Jesse and the gang, and while I can’t reveal just what exactly goes down, suffice it to say that you’ll feel just as many tears as you will cheers for Jesse and crew by the episode’s end.
Of course, the biggest question to come is what to make of Episode 4 acting as the “conclusion” of this story arc. While the episode very clearly ties up most (if not all) of the remaining loose ends from the rest of the season, there’s still one more episode left in the season at large.
While it certainly seems to indicate that the next episode will act as the beginning of a whole new season, we’ll have to wait and see (for now) what lies ahead for Jesse and the gang for more dangers down the road.
Minecraft: Story Mode is (mostly) wrapped up by the end of this episode, and while we have one more episode left to see how the rest of the season plays out, Episode 4 offers some surprising moments and great action, but at the cost of the some of the series’ more prevalent issues of character and plot development that haven’t quite been up to the same par as some of the studios’ previous efforts.
The fourth episode leaves players with the satisfaction of one part of the adventure over (for now), though the the fifth chapter we’ll have to see what’s left in the blueprints for the series to be building towards.