Back when it was first announced, I surmised that Minecraft: Story Mode might be a boon for Telltale and Mojang. Instead of having to craft areas and scenery like they did in The Walking Dead, The Wolf Among Us, or Game of Thrones, I figured the team at Telltale might be freed by making worlds via Minecraft's simple, blocky style. My guess was they'd be able to create larger, more expansive environments to wander around in, making Minecraft: Story Mode an exercise in something different for Telltale.
Having played Minecraft: Story Mode, I was partially right. The game is still a Telltale title, but not having to worry as much about the graphics seems to have feed them up to try things differently.
Telltale has already announced that you'll be able to pick between a number of different versions for Jesse, the protagonist of the game. There are three male versions of various skin tone, all voiced by Patton Oswalt and three female versions, voiced by Catherine Taber. That's a first for Telltale, who usually work with preset characters for their titles. The demo I played only offered up the first version of Jesse (far left below), but I'm loving the idea of a bit more choice in Telltale's games and I hope that's something that can be brought forward into other titles while still retaining the company's strong sense of storytelling.
The plot of Story Mode has your version of Jesse attending the local EnderCon with his friends. (Why is there a con for the most horrific and frightening part of their world? No clue!) Unfortunately, things escalate quickly with Jesse's pet pig Reuben getting lost in the forest near nightfall and later, an Ender Dragon rises at the concert venue. This leads Jesse to the real story of Story Mode, where he has to find the Order of the Stone, a group of warriors who were able to kill an Ender Dragon before.
If you're stepping up to play Minecraft: Story Mode, it is worth noting that you're still playing a Minecraft game, steeped in that culture. In the demo, Telltale made sure to hit all the highly-visible parts of Minecraft, with appearance by spiders, skeletons, zombies and the Creeper, some mine diving, and even a bit of crafting. The latter section follows after Jesse's wooden sword breaks... because it's a wooden sword in Minecraft. You have to craft a stone sword and crafting actually requires the player to place the right materials in familiar Minecraft patterns.
What surprised me about the demo is how action packed the entire thing was. There was a lot of running, a lot of combat, and a few decisions made in the heat of the moment. That's not to say Telltale games have never had action-packed sequences, but Minecraft: Story Mode felt like it was more active than previous titles. There's a section where you face off against a group of zombies to protect Reuben, a chase sequence as the EnderCon venue falls down around you, and even a fraught story decision as an Ender Cthulhu attacks your sanctuary. That could be due to how the demo itself was cut, but I enjoyed the more active play in Story Mode.
Minecraft: Story Mode is a Telltale game, but they seem to be having some fun with property. There's the feeling that they're asking themselves "What else can we do with Minecraft?" The Minecraft universe is a rough collection of ideas and Telltale has the freedom to populate that world with its own characters. It's fleshing out Minecraft, a property that's already reached 70 million people with a complete lack of narrative. For Telltale, this is an opportunity to expand itself, while also showing a new audience what the studio can do. From what I've seen, they're on the right track.
Minecraft: Story Mode Episode 1 is coming out some time this fall for PC, Xbox One, PlayStation 4, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Mac, iOS, Android, and Amazon Fire TV. If you own it, you can probably play Story Mode on it.