Minecraft Story Mode Ep.1 – Review

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Minecraft: Story Mode is the new adventure from Telltale Games. If you’re a fan of Telltale’s more hard hitting, difficult choice-based stories like The Walking Dead then you might want to look away as this probably isn’t for you. However, if you like a good fun story with a slice of Minecraft, and Minecraft that has a narrative direction, then you’re in the right place.

In our interview with Telltale Games’ Laura Perusco, she explained that this is what they do, “interactive stories,” and after Tales of the Borderlands they decided to look at what they could do with other video games and thus this game was born. But just to write it off as another Telltale Game would be a fools errand. To set the scene, you play as Jesse. It’s the day of the EnderCon building competition and you are going with your friends and your pet pig Reuben to build something awesome. The prize for winning this is to meet Gabriel the Knight, one of the four heroes of the land and part of a group called “The Order of The Stone.” The comparisons to modern day convention culture and the massive success of the game in various online media is evident and it’s quite enjoyable to see it played out in an actual narrative.

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Even for me personally, some of my favourite YouTube videos on Minecraft are one’s that have involved some hilariously hammy role-play that makes things enjoyable, but there’s no ham to be found here. Not unless you consider Reuben to be food. The story does the normal multiple choice speech options that will either enamour you more with your fellow characters or cause issue at a later time. And as far as the quicktime events go, there isn’t many, which is probably to help less experienced players enjoy it with others (kids playing with parents for example).

In fact it’s this family thing that is a bit weird for the more serious player. Firstly, it’s not Minecraft, it looks like Minecraft and there’s occasional points where you get to use Minecraft objects like chests, crafting tables and swords, but it is not Minecraft. It’s also not the dark and morally disturbing game that some of Telltale’s stories have been in other franchises.

The positives of this is that the story can indulge in comedy and expression a lot more than previous franchises. There’s some great voice acting going on here from the cast, both with the male and female versions of Jesse, and Reuben the pig is quite possibly the best pet character in a game this year.  He’s charming, and, depending on your actions, all kinds of adorable. The dynamic between the friends is good and potentially venomous as well and there’s a love interest (presumably, certainly a mutual “you’re pretty” thing) between Jesse and Petra which is not changed or any different regardless of what gender you play as. Good on you Telltale.

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The criticism is that this is more of a Minecraft animation at times than a game. It takes so many visual queues from media around it that it kind of loses Minecraft itself. You’ll notice visual styles that people like Captain Sparkles and the like have made popular on YouTube over the years. But the problem is that it kind of loses the fun and soul of playing Minecraft. Which is fine if you don’t want to actually play Minecraft and go in to a more comedic thing. At one point, Telltale use their own speech system to implement a joke, which was a pleasant surprise when I noticed it, but could be easily missed.

So is it a step too far in the wrong direction for Telltale? Is the formula getting stale? It’s certainly stretching the formula a bit, as was found during the Game of Thrones series, and others are now doing it just as well with Life is Strange being a prime example. But this game isn’t the same as those other franchises in so much as it is designed to be for family entertainment and a bit more for everyone rather than fans of a particular franchise or fans of the game. If anything it’s Telltale-lite. It’s kind of reminiscent of the early games like the Sam & Max, Monkey Island games, etc. But it has a much better narrative and a much better gameplay dynamic.

Of course we end on a cliffhanger and I’m not spoiling any of the episodes story other than you set off on a vast quest across the world of Minecraft to reunite the Order of the Stone, the title of this episode. It’s definitely a good game and a lot of fun for families and people who want to engage with Minecraft in a relatable way, which is great if you have kids that enjoy it, or you enjoy Minecraft anyway. Otherwise, it’s probably not for you.

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Minecraft Story Mode is only in its first episode and i’m sure it will have a lot of visual treats the longer we go on. The story is already a lot of fun but it really isn’t the usual kind of story that you’d expect from Telltale. It’s very family friendly and it’s very light on the actual game interaction. It is also quite far removed from Minecraft as a game. But it is enjoyable and worth playing just for Reuben the pig, this year’s best game pet.

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  • Great amusing story
  • Awesome use of Minecraft visual style
  • Reuben the pig

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  • There isn’t a lot of stuff to actually do
  • Doesn’t have as much Minecraft interaction as you’d expect
  • Could be stretching the formula a bit too much

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Well, it’s a fun enough game and I mostly enjoyed it for Reuben the pig. But if I’m honest, it made me want to play more actual Minecraft. It’s fun and certainly good for families and people who want to sit around as a family and play an easy game together. But it doesn’t leap out as much as other Telltale games have. It’s a great use of the franchise, especially for the target audience, but not enough for a larger audience.

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Minecraft Story Mode – Interview

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Last week, we got to play the Minecraft Story Mode with Laura Perusco, the Creative Communication Manager from Telltale Games. You can read our review of the game here shortly.

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Sean Cleaver – Minecraft story mode, it’s lots of fun. It’s been worked on for quite a while. When did you first get the project germinating, how did it come about?

Laura Perusco – It basically came from, you know how we’re doing Tales from the Borderlands? Well that came first and we were already working on a video game that’s set in the world of another video game. We started thinking about what else we can do this with. A whole bunch of people in the office play Minecraft or have kids that play Minecraft, and that’s something that doesn’t have a story. People were just creating their own stories in that world. So we had the idea of reaching out to Mojang and floating the idea of doing a game. This was way back before Microsoft brought them out so our contract is with Mojang.

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SC – Minecraft is a very precise visual style because of what it is. But you’ve also managed to find a cinematic style out of this. There’s a lot of YouTube videos that have done these small animations. You seem to have created almost a movie out of it.

LP –  That’s pretty much what we do. We do playable stories, so our games are often thought of as playable movies or playable TV shows. Just the aesthetic of the world of Minecraft is very unique in and of itself. So we actually built a lot of the environments in Minecraft first and exported them to our engine, so it would absolutely, unequivocally Minecraft. Then we added a little bit to make it look more cinematic like depth of focus and changes and stuff like that but it’s all Minecraft. Absolutely.

SC – You’ve got your main characters, a band of four if you will, it’s a very traditional…

LP – And the pig.

SC – And the pig. I’ll get on to the pig now. The pet pig, Reuben. This year seems to be the year of the Dog for video games, every game has a dog and everybody loves them. You’ve gone with the pig and he seems to be much more charming than any dog that I’ve seen this year so far in a game.

LP – Reuben is my favourite character I actually had new business cards with him on. I think something that’s really cool about Reuben is that no one ever thinks of eating dogs in video games and that’s a new dynamic that comes up because pigs in Minecraft are always thought of as food. So it has that interesting dynamic.

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SC – I don’t think I’ve ever though about having a pet pig in Minecraft. I don’t I ever use them for food either but there you go. I quite like the idea with the story building on, a bit like what Minecraft really is, the convention scene. Creating Minecraft fandom within Minecraft itself with Ender Con and the Order of the Stone. What drew you to create that story out of it? Was there a lot of going around, looking at Minecraft, looking at the world, looking at the real life interactions with Minecraft? And are there plans for any more?

LP – The community around Minecraft is so important. That’s the reason for its huge popularity. There are so many videos online and people creating their own stuff. That’s what Minecraft is, it’s about creating things and sharing them. So we knew that was a huge part of the licence.  I actually went to Minecon in London to show the trailer and that was fantastic.

There’s so much love around this game that we wanted to put something like that in there. You might have noticed but the people who come on stage to introduce Gabriel at Endercon are Lydia and Owen, their director of communications. They voiced the characters too. But the thing about the characters in this game is they don’t know they’re in Minecraft. They don’t have any meta awareness or some other real world. As for more? We hope people play it and people enjoy it but beyond that, anything can happen.

Minecraft: Story Mode by Telltale games is available now on Xbox One, Xbox 360, PS3, PS4, PC and Mac.

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How I Survived The Steam Summer Sale On A Mac

… I didn’t

So in case you didn’t know, I don’t have a PC. Well I have a PC I can use but I am an iMac user. In fact my decision to go to Apple computers was partly because I get too distracted by gaming on a PC to be productive. So how exactly did I manage to succumb to the wallet emptying frenzy of the Steam summer sale?

Well indie gaming played a big part of that. There are also some games that I have in preparation for them to come to Mac. But Steams support of the platform is growing very quickly. So here’s a quick list of what I managed to buy during the sale and a tiny bit before it too.


 

  • the walking dead 203 2Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs
  • Amnesia: The Dark Descent
  • Counter-Strike (including source, GO, etc)
  • Endless Space
  • Goat Simulator
  • Kill Fun Yeah (gifted)
  • candles amnesia 1Noir Syndrome
  • Octodad: Dadliest Catch
  • Pixel Piracy
  • Super Meat Boy
  • Tomb Raider
  • The Walking Dead
  • goat simulator trailerThe Walking Dead: Season Two
  • The Witcher: Enhanced Edition
  • The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings Enhanced

 

For a platform that doesn’t have a lot of gaming, I think that’s a very good haul. Tomb Raider is the only disappointment because I need OSX Mavericks to run it and I really don’t want to upgrade yet. But it was £2? And it stopped me getting the enhanced PS4 edition so I’m ok with that.

But, there were a few PC stragglers that I got too, partly because I’m sure they will come on Mac at some point. Those were Alan Wake/Alan Wake’s American Nightmare and Banished.

So despite having a non-gaming machine I still managed to get eighteen games. EIGHTEEN! If I had a PC you can imagine that I would have gone hambone on the finances.

The steam summer sale every year is met with fear and trepidation for ones financial wellbeing. Let’s be honest as well, the next generation of gaming is unlikely to fully hit us for another three months, maybe longer? So it makes sense to buy a heap load of games that I don’t actually have time to play.

the walking dead season 2 4The Black Friday-esque hysteria that gamers go through every time this happens is great. You can almost feel the shame dripping from the Facebook posts, Twitter updates and the like, of people who have realised they have a problem… I have a problem.

In all honesty I came in to the sale like a fully researched shopper. I wanted three of the games I actually purchased. Only three. Those were The Walking Dead games and Goat Simulator. Because the latter was finally Mac ready and the formers, well I don’t need an excuse to get those.

But I do find it interesting that I’m still buying games that I kind of had no intention of playing just because they looked okay and were at a decent price. A friend of mine text me saying he’d always wanted to play The Witcher because it looked interesting. I now own two of them. Endless Space was a nice looking game in the screenshots and the trailer, so I got it. Super Meat Boy was fun to watch and I imagine immensely frustrating to play. Pixel Piracy may have some sea legs behind it and Octodad has eight of those sea legs.

So looking back… I’ve mugged myself off quite successfully really and that is fantastic for gaming. I might have spent about £35-£45 all in all but I got a lot out of it, despite being a Mac gamer and arguably I got very good games out of it.

tomb raider 2Which is why it is sad that my best and favorite sale purchase didn’t come from Steam but from Xbox Live over the same period. That was Sonic Generations. What an excellently fun game that is!

The thing is with gaming, I find myself looking at co-op games more and more now, especially as more of my friends are separated by distance and family commitments that remote gaming is far more important and we still want to share the joy of a game. I don’t mean the kill all the noobs sharing but the working together sharing. And the increase of games on the Mac and the Steam sale combined really does start to link my PC playing friends and me closer together.

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All I need now is for GOG to hurry up and make the Rollercoaster Tycoon and Heroes of Might and Magic series available for Mac and I’m sorted.

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