Moving beyond the Wither Storm storyline that encompassed the first four episodes, the fifth episode of Minecraft: Story Mode tells a standalone story, while still opening even more doors for the future. And in the process, Telltale manages to deliver the single best episode of the series so far.
For those that don’t remember, episode 4 had a pretty neat and tidy ending, bringing a close to the ongoing conflict, and seeing Jesse and friends return home in surprisingly emotional fashion, mourning lost friends, but being praised for their hard-fought victory. Episode 5 picks up sometime later, after Jesse, Axel, Olivia, and Petra have truly made a name for themselves as the new Order of the Stone.
While Order Up could easily have fallen into the pattern of making a story centered on looking back at the time that’s passed and how things have changed, it wisely doesn’t bother. From the outset, everything is geared towards the next fun adventure. Things do start off slow, one of the episode’s only faults, but soon ramp up when the team not only finds an enchanted set of flint and steel, but also a unique portal it opens.
As the narrative unfolds, Order Up delivers a conflict and depth on par with all four of the Wither Storm episodes put together. Though the backstory of the Order of the Stone was interesting, enough of a backbone to tie the episodes together, it would be a far stretch to call it compelling from start to finish. On top of that, it was too drawn out, keeping it from having the intrigue and force necessary to really pull most players in.
Episode 5 doesn’t have that problem. Offering a new package of lore, along with a genuinely fascinating new piece of the world to explore, and doing it all in the space of a single episode, was refreshing and wholly satisfying.
Throughout my hour and 45 minutes or so playing through the episode there were multiple times a little part of me, regardless of the fact that I knew it was a standalone story, expected the episode to abruptly end and for my questions to go unanswered for another couple of months.
With that not being the case however, Order Up manages a tight, interesting, beginning middle, and end. It even introduces a new villain, Aiden, the former leader of the Ocelots, the team that tormented Jesse in the premiere.
Just as ridiculous as Ivor was in the opening episodes, Aiden and his friends are far from the most fiendish figures of villainy to ever grace a narrative, but keeping the conflict more grounded and immediate was a step in the right direction, and a welcome change of pace from the seemingly omnipresent threat of the Wither Storm.
In many ways, episode 5 feels like the team took a step back, considered what worked in the earlier episodes, and built a new journey from there.
While, from the beginning, Minecraft: Story Mode has integrated the core principles of Minecraft’s scavenging, crafting, and building into the world, Order Up takes this a level further, hinging the entirety of the narrative on it. Beyond simple fan-service, the episode gives the impression of being more rooted in the world, goals, and gameplay of its source material than anything that came before. Nods to crafting techniques, playstyles, and even Minecraft’s technical eccentricities abound.
Coupling all of this with beautiful environments, strong writing (save for a few notably cringe-worthy lines that happened to be dripping with cheese), and fun action sequences, Minecraft: Story Mode’s fifth episode was simply a joy to play.
It’s true the episode does ultimately end in a cliffhanger, but not one that’s anger inducing or comes across as forced. If anything, it just implies that the adventurous are only getting started. And if the next three episodes of Minecraft: Story Mode are anything like Order Up, that’s certainly a good thing.
Superb. A games that finds its way into the top of all our lists. This game was reviewed on a PlayStation 4 console.