It’s incorrect of me to say Minecraft is devoid of any kind of narrative; quite the opposite, Minecraft has the ability to tell virtually any story imaginable. In a world with limitless creative potential, the narrative opportunities are only limited by the player’s imagination. As Telltale Games has proven time and again, they peeked into someone else’s world and decided to tell their own story. All too brief, and a bit lacking in the action department, first episode The Order of the Stone is still a bright beginning to yet another solid episodic series by Telltale.
There’s some gentle humor here, some dashes of excitement and a reverence for the world of Minecraft that fans will no doubt love. A lot of the game’s particular easter eggs will be lost on non-Minecraft fans, but none of them feel specific enough to alienate casuals. Main character Jesse and his friends get embroiled in a mystery involving the famous Order of the Stone, a group that defeated the powerful Ender Dragon, but has since split up under mysterious circumstances. I don’t want to delve into spoiler territory, but in this first episode alone, Jesse gets to interact with some iconic Minecraft creatures, visit a variety of locales, and even tangle with one of the game’s deadlier creatures.
Enthusiastic about the world he’s in, excited about building complex structures from blocks, geeking out about going to Endercon – Jesse blatantly represents the boys and girls who watch Minecraft videos on YouTube and partake in the vast culture. The other characters have their conventional archetypes: Axel, a gruff but big-hearted friend; Petra, an adventurer who’s not adverse to taking risks; Olivia, a cynical but loyal companion. These characters’ interactions are pleasant enough, with some witty conversation, good-natured ribbing, and some Minecraft in-jokes helping give the episode a light-hearted feel. The cast that brings these characters to life are all vibrant, with both Patton Oswalt and Catherine Taber perfectly selling that eager fanboy aspect of Jesse.
The gameplay is typical Telltale: a mix of narrative choices, light puzzles, and quick time events, with a definite lack of emphasis on the latter. There are no major twists or turns in this first episode, but it is interesting to see a rather heavy final narrative choice at the end that I suspect will significantly change what happens in episode two. It’s only a hint, but this is a clear indicator that future episodes will carry more narrative complexity than this first episode contains.
Telltale Games isn’t about to rock the boat on what has proven to be a successful game design philosophy, but Minecraft: Story Mode is definitely the biggest leap for them, as it is easily their least lore-heavy and adult-themed series to date. While there is still much that lie ahead for our heroes – and the series itself – The Order of the Stone is a welcome introduction into the blocky world of Minecraft for strangers and veterans alike.