New Adventure On The Horizon

Game Informer

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With
Minecraft’s international, multi-generational popularity, Telltale’s Minecraft:
Story Mode was sure to be a popular addition to the studio’s stable of licensed
properties. After extending the first season to include additional episodes,
Telltale has turned around to create a second season that implements various
improvements to the gameplay while delivering the same style of adventure game
we’ve come to expect.

As you
venture through Hero in Residence, all the Telltale hallmarks show up in short
order. Quick-time events, choice-driven dialogue, and on-rails action sequences
permeate each chapter. Some of the minor quick-time events even automatically
succeed if you leave them idle for a few seconds, making me wonder why they’re
even present in the first place. Thankfully, Telltale adds new gameplay
elements to change things up a bit.

Combat
has been completely revamped with numerous improvements. In addition to moving
toward or away from your enemies, you can also roll to the side to dodge
attacks or get a better angle. In addition, you can’t just wildly swing your
weapon anymore, as a stamina meter keeps you in check. The resulting combat
system makes fights feel more like encounters from an action game and less like
on-rails scripted sequences.

Last
season, Minecraft: Story Mode was light on the crafting elements; you could
build some items during key story moments based on guided crafting templates,
but that was about it. In addition to those moments, this episode features a
sequence where you build an entire structure. Using a grid-based system and a top-down
camera, you choose how to place your materials. The mechanics of placing the
resources is clunky, resulting in a slow build as I attempted to get every
detail just right. Though unintuitive at times, the addition of this segment is
a nice surprise that makes the adventure feel more faithful to the Minecraft
universe. I hope the feature returns in future episodes.

As with
Telltale’s The Walking Dead series, season two of Minecraft: Story Mode reads
your save file (or allows you to recreate your choices) prior to the start of
this episode. Though it’s cool to hear nods to the choices you made in episodes
from last season, few of the choices have much impact. Even though this is an
old trick for Telltale at this point, it’s still a delight to hear references
to decisions you helped craft.

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Season
two sees the original characters and the all-star voice cast return… briefly.
Most of the familiar faces disappear after the first few minutes (save for
Jesse and one of his friends). The characters who replace them (at least in
this first episode) don’t have the charm of the original cast, which makes me
less compelled to interact with them outside of the required dialogue. Unfortunately,
the humor from season one is also greatly toned down, and the pacing drags too
much in the middle of the episode as unnecessary exploration and puzzles slow
the momentum the first half gains.

The
excitement I had plotting my choices both through dialogue and the action
scenes varied greatly. During one sequence, the game obviously wanted to steer
me to create conflict between Jesse and one of his friends. However, I didn’t
want to be angry with the person for the decision she made. The first few
dialogue options in the conversation only allowed me to have varying degrees of
anger for a seemingly benign decision. This particular sequence took me out of
the choice-driven storytelling fantasy pretty rapidly.

Some of
the decisions I made during episode one feel like they could carry significant
weight in the story to come. However, we’ve seen this illusion shatter in later
episodes of Telltale’s previous series, so I’m not ready to praise this season
for following through on the company’s perpetual promise of allowing us to
shape our own story.

One of
my biggest criticisms from the tail-end of last season was how the conflicts
and arcs failed to live up to that of the Wither Storm story presented in the
first four episodes of season one. Thankfully, the end of the episode one looks
like it’s heading toward a more epic conflict between Jesse’s group and a
massive adversary. That’s something this series has been lacking recently, so
I’m looking forward to seeing this storyline mature.

Despite
its problems, Hero in Residence presents situations I want to see progress over
the next four episodes. Though the pacing is inconsistent and the decision
points are questionable in their weight, the new mechanics and revamped combat
make me wonder what else Telltale has in store this season. Though I have my
problems with this episode, I’m interested to see the direction the tale takes
from here.

Game Informer
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