At this point, its clear that while Telltale’s Minecraft: Story Mode does suffer, it is almost entirely due to the outstanding portfolio the developer has created in the past few years. There is nothing empirically wrong with the Minecraft-themed narrative adventure game. Quite the opposite, as it continues to showcase interesting people, beautifully realized places, and an unbelievable amount of love and devotion to its source material. Episode 3, “The Last Place You Look,” even goes as far as offering each of these in more hearty helpings than was found in either of the previous episodes. But overall, Minecraft: Story Mode, especially now past the half way point, seems to sideline the more nuanced narrative depth so often associated Telltale’s other titles, in place of a more family friendly experience.
Though such a choice on the design side of things may be enough to turn many gamers off of Telltale’s latest, there are still many things Minecraft: Story Mode is continuing to get right. Episode 3 opens as Jesse and friends find themselves lost within Soren’s massive fortress, and, in their search for the great builder, stumble upon his ‘grinder.’
For those not familiar with it, a grinder is a trick that was developed by Minecraft players, and rapidly spread in popularity. Using waterways, it is possible to spawn monsters and simply wash them to their deaths, allowing the player to then just collect all the dropped resources. This, and multiple other examples, point to just how thoroughly Telltale not only understands and loves the game of Minecraft, but also the community and meta-game that has grown up around it. While doing little for those that haven’t actually played Minecraft, for those that have, it is a pure joy to see just how immaculately that world has been brought to life in a narrative setting.
That aside however, Minecraft: Story Mode still has to stand on its own, and episode 3 manages that better than either of the previous episodes. While dealing with adventure and perilous odds, the pilot and second episode never fully embraced the fun aspect of the adventuring, instead focusing more on the said peril.
For the most part, “The Last Place You Look” flips this, forgoing the restrictive shuffling back and forth combat, focusing instead on just action packed, fast, fun fight scenes where the characters actually move and react. It may seem like a small difference, but ultimately changes much of the tone associated with the episode, the proceedings, while still dark, bolstered by the refreshing levity. The music swells as Jesse jumps around, creepers explode everywhere, and arrows fly past. At times the slow paced shuffling back and forth does return, but it is not as prominent as earlier in the series.
As for the meat of the episode, though still only coming in at a little-too-short-to-be-sweet hour and a half, the episode did not feel as short as the second episode, instead packing that time with multiple, varied locations and different things to do.
That said however, everything the player must accomplish never presents much of a challenge. Far from an actual argument about the game’s difficulty, I mean that more as pushing the player out of his or her comfort zone, either narratively or through puzzles.
Discounting the mature nature of Telltale’s other games, looking at it solely from a mechanics point of view, Minecraft: Story Mode is easily the most accessible Telltale game to a younger audience. The few opportunities you are given to engage in the action by moving, that movement is in almost exclusively in a straight, pre-guided path forward. The few puzzles in “The Last Place You Look” operate mostly the same way, simply requiring the clearly marked following of instructions.
Likewise, even as tensions begin to boil in our group of adventures, and a few harsh words begin to fly, there were no conversations that really made me pause or agonize over my decisions. While all the makings are there for interesting group dynamics between Jesse and the others, and especially between the former members of the Order of the Stone, none of these contentions, especially in episode 3, are given enough time to take on the complexity and pressure that could elevate Minecraft: Story Mode to the level of The Tales from the Borderlands or The Walking Dead without the mature ratings.
With only two episodes to go in the season, Minecraft: Story Mode is fun to play. It’s a good way to just relax for an afternoon, an enjoyable trip through the world of Minecraft. Episode 3 nailed that fun excitement of adventure more than the series has previously. And, while it’s easy to complain about the lack of character tension and agonizing choices now, all the pieces are in place for the series to deliver in its second half. Despite its continued flaws, above all, “The Last Place You Look” solidifies Minecraft: Story Mode as an incredibly realized look at the Minecraft universe, even if it doesn’t offer the same level of hard-choice thrills Telltale is known for.
Episode 3 of Minecraft: Story Mode, “The Last Place You Look,” is a solid entry, but only somewhat improves on the previous episodes, embracing the fun of adventure a bit more, and setting things up for some potentially great payoffs in the final two episodes.