This is a review of episode 2 of a 5-episode series. Spoilers may exist in the review. Reviews for previous episodes can be found here:
Well that was quick.
I'm talking about both the release of this episode and its general running time. Telltale launched the first episode of Minecraft Story Mode two weeks ago, only to announce the release of the second episode earlier this week. The release schedule for Telltale Games is generally bi-monthly. The studio isn't always on point - sometime episodes release in three months or as little as a month and a half - but two weeks is unheard of.
This episode picks up immediately after Episode 1, with Jesse and friends searching for the missing members of the Order of the Stone. Towards the end of the first episode, you had to decide whether to follow your studious friend Olivia in a quest to find Ellegaard the Redstone Engineer, or go with the boisterous Axel to find Magnus the Rogue. Depending on that choice, you'll begin in the middle of your journey in either direction.
"Assembly Required" doesn't stop moving for its short runtime; all told this episode took me just under an hour from beginning to end, versus the two hours I put into the first episode. In the first half, you'll do what you can to catch the attention of Ellegaard or Magnus. In the second, everyone you've collected - the path you didn't take is automatically completed by your other friend - rushes out to find Soren the Architect, the final member of the Order.
This is an quick, light adventure that does its best to continuously point out the Minecraft hooks. Even if you don't play Minecraft, you'll understand that "Redstone" is a power source of some kind, or that ghasts and endermen aren't good things to run into. The writing is still cute, with the jokes being relatively simple. Telltale's writing team did make me laugh with one line involving the "F-bomb", which was obviously aimed at adults, but for the most part everything is at Disney XD level here. Like I said before, Minecraft Story Mode Episode 1 evoked The Goonies in tone and that doesn't change here.
The current thematic point of Minecraft Story Mode seems to be "Don't meet your heroes". First, you find out that the Order seemingly left one member out of the limelight and then the ones you do find spend little time bickering amongst each other. Either they were accidental heroes in the first place, or the very nature of celebrity has corrupted the ideals they once held. The world is being sucked up into a giant manifestation of death and they're still fighting about nonsense. For the most part, Ellegaard and Magnus are better off as living signposts for Jesse, Axel, Olivia, Lukas, and Reuben.
The story in this episode takes a backseat to the action, even more so than in Episode 1. Minecraft Story Mode feels more active than the rest of Telltale's games and I wonder if that's because the developer is concerned with keeping the attention of a younger audience. There's more quicktime events, more button pressing, and less random wandering around than other titles. That would probably make the case for the length of this episode. Of course, children can spend hours in Minecraft proper, so Telltale is selling them short to think they couldn't spend more than an hour in Story Mode.
Honestly, I reached the end of this episode and was left a bit unsatisfied. A lot happened, but I think the pace was honestly too fast for an older player like me. There were some moments here and there that could've used a bit more fleshing out. Olivia's experience with meeting her hero and not living up to that standard, Lukas' integration into the group, or Petra's situation during the episode felt like they could've been given a bit more weight. In the end, the credits rolled and I said "That's it?" I checked my recording of the game and was shocked to find how short it was. Hopefully, Episode 3 will expand Story Mode a bit more, digging into the truth behind the Order and offering Jesse a way forward in the future.
Depending on your choices, you won't be building anything on the crafting table this episode.
It's a Minecraft game. It looks like Minecraft.
Telltale roped in some awesome voice talent for the game and they all do an excellent job.
After a solid start, Minecraft Story Mode Episode 2 is disappointingly short. Coming in at around an hour in playtime, the adventure is brisk and active, but it ends right when you're getting into it. A lot happens, but the impact is dulled due to the breakneck pacing.