Genre: Graphic adventure, Point-and-click
Game System: Android, iOS, Microsoft Windows, OS X, Playstation 3, Playstation 4, Playstation Vita, Wii U, Xbox 360, Xbox One
Price: $4.99 (Single Episode), $29.99 (Season Pass)
What’s the first thing you think of when you hear about indie games? That is, games that are made by a small group of people or even just one person as opposed to a huge company. There are a lot of games that come to my mind, like such masterpieces as Cave Story, Braid, Shovel Knight, and many others. But without a doubt, the most successful indie game on the market is Minecraft. First released in 2009 and still updating to this day, Minecraft is an open-world sandbox game originally created by Markus “Notch” Persson that has become the third best-selling video game of all time, being passed only by Wii Sports and Tetris. Its iconic art style that mainly consists of 16x16x16 pixel blocks has made it so that anything pixelated will instantly be assumed by most people to be from Minecraft, and it lets the players either try to survive night after night and eventually defeat a dragon by yourself or with friends in “Survival mode”, or possibly create structures more amazing than anything that could possibly build in real life in “Creative mode.” There’s so much to do inMinecraft that I couldn’t mention everything in this one article.
We aren’t talking about Minecraft today though, we’re talking about Minecraft: Story Mode, the adventure game spinoff created by the geniuses behind such games as The Walking Dead, Tales from the Borderlands, and Strong Bad’s Cool Game for Attractive People (that is seriously the real name of a game created by human beings). Like many games created by Telltale, this game comes in five different episodes that I am going to review separately. The only one released to the public already is The Order of the Stone, so that’s what we’re looking at today. Also, there will be some spoilers in this article.
This game stars Jesse, who can either be a boy or a girl based on your decision, his friends Olivia and Axel, and his/her pet pig, Reuben. They’re about to go to EnderCon, a convention held to celebrate four heroes known as “The Order of the Stone” who once set off on a quest to defeat the Enderdragon, originally the final boss of Minecraft. While at the convention, a man named Ivor decides to take revenge on Gabriel the Warrior, a member of “The Order of the Stone.” He does this by summoning a three-headed monster that does nothing except destroy everything known as The Wither, because apparently he thought that was a good idea. Unfortunately, with the Command Block added in the center of the summoning ritual, The Wither gains the ability to collect blocks and people and grow bigger and stronger with every block it takes in, becoming The Wither Storm and making it as close to indestructible as possible. Now Jesse and his friends, along with the captain of a rival team named Lukas, have to find the rest of the Order of the Stone before the entire world is destroyed.
Let’s just get it out of the way right now and say that the Wither Storm is not in the original Minecraft, but I see no problem with that. They had to do something to make this not just a retelling of the little story the source material had, and they did a great job incorporating something that is kind of in the original game and also not. I honestly hope the Wither Storm is added into vanilla Minecraft at some point, it would be awesome to try and fight it. There will probably be a mod for it in a couple months, anyway.
This game is mostly cutscenes with choices you can make in between that change the story a bit, making it feel more like an interactive movie than a video game. There are however a couple parts where you have to manually move Jesse around. There isn’t really a noticeable difference between how the cutscenes and gameplay look, so there have been a few times where I watch the scene, stay there for a few minutes and realize “Oh wait, I have to do stuff now.” The choices you make in this episode don’t affect the story of this episode too much, though based on the preview you get at the end of the episode you seem to get an entirely different Episode 2 based on one choice you make, so there’s definitely some variation there.
Another great thing about this game is the characters. They all have a distinct personality, and I love how the main characters all match with a member of the Order of the Stone, and the characters in general all represent the different kinds of Minecraft players. The more obvious ones are Olivia and Ellegaard as the Redstone engineers, who create amazing machines with the resource Redstone, and Axel and Magnus are the griefers, who basically do whatever they can to ruin the game experience for other players. It’s less obvious exactly which of the non-Order characters are the Builder and Warrior, but I’m sure it will be shown better in future episodes.
The relationship between the characters Lukas and Axel is an interesting one. Lukas was part of a building team that rivaled Jesse, Axel, and Olivia, but he’s actually a nice guy, it’s mainly his teammates that are the complete jerks. Axel still doesn’t like him though, and they’re both dragged into the same adventure and are forced to work together because, you know, a giant eldritch abomination is trying to end the world and all. I can’t wait to see how this relationship evolves over time.
The animation looks amazing. They did a great job making the game look good, while also keeping the low-quality art style Minecraft is famous for. The voice acting was also great, getting huge stars like Billy West, Scott Porter, Patton Oswalt, Catherine Taber, Paul Reubens, and many others. Patton Oswalt and Catherine Taber voice your player character depending on whether you chose a male or female, and they gave completely different performances. I recommend playing the game at least twice with the different avatars.
This game is a great experience, but it definitely feels like more of a movie than a game, which isn’t exactly a bad thing. The story is amazing and I can’t wait to see how this turns out for our heroes. The next episode is coming out sometime in 2016, and I’m looking forward to it! I give this game8½ pixelated cookies out of 10.