The extended first season of Minecraft: Story Mode ended on a massive high, leaving myself and many other gamers open to the possibility of additional tales in the future. Well, Telltale Games have been working with Mojang to bring a five-part second season to fruition and the first episode, “Hero in Residence”, has now arrived. But where exactly can they take the narrative to next, won’t it just become a stale affair with the same old characters?
I’ll address the latter of those questions first because there’s been a big shuffle in terms of the supporting cast; in this episode at least. Jesse is ever present in the protagonist role and once again you can decide the look of the character, to a certain extent, as well as the gender – I’m sticking with Jesse being male, for future reference. Many of his usual gang are too busy these days, basking in the new-found fame and responsibilities of being a hero. Therefore most are bit-part players making cameos, allowing other wannabe adventures to join the escapades instead, which is a great call to freshen everything up.
As noted already, “Hero in Residence” treads upon the fact that the group have grown further and further apart since their heroic triumphs, with each of them having their own important events and projects to focus on. During a catch up between Jesse and Petra, one thing leads to another and Jesse ends up with an ancient gauntlet attached to him. After recruiting a couple of new members, they set off on a journey to understand and remove the gauntlet. But little do they know that they’re about to unleash a heck of a monster upon the world…
It’s great to have new personalities involved and the season veteran of adventuring, Jack, really comes across well as a guy who’s seen it all and has emotional scars as a result of it. The actor voicing Jack is Fred Tatasciore, so you should already know that it’s going to be of a high performance standard, given his impressive repertoire of work. The introduction of Nurm is a strange one; he’s a Minecraft villager and speaks using an incomprehensible dialect, but somehow it works. The other newcomers to the series all do a decent job at the very least, thus ensuring that the likes of Olivia and Axel are old news in no time.
Aside from the usual storytelling, there are decisions to be made at key junctures and the choices have a definite impact. One such choice leads to two completely different scenes, ensuring the consequences are instantly noticeable. Whether the decisions made will still be felt further down the line is anyone’s guess.
The opening episode mixes it up in terms of gameplay too, with outlets to test your mind, show off your fighting skills and unleash your creativity. It isn’t really tasking for us grown-ups, but there’s a symmetry-based puzzle to solve that’ll be just tricky enough for kids. The combat is slightly more advanced, switching between QTEs and moments of actual fighting using movement and a single attack button. On the creative front, there’s a cool part where you get to build a sculpture out of multiple blocks of varying colours. Considering I’m not the greatest fan of the actual Minecraft game, it’s rather enjoyable to craft and create throughout “Hero in Residence”.
Visually it’s great to see a host of new and revamped environments; from Jesse’s place of residence Beacontown and a shop filled with treasures, to the nearby Champion City and a creepy temple of doom. I think Beacontown is the best due to the variety of sculptures and interesting buildings within it, but all are well designed.
It’s not all positive though, with minor technical issues holding it back slightly. When some of the characters are mid-dialogue, their mouths stay wide open whilst talking; which is a little odd. The other noticeable problem is during QTEs and it sometimes doesn’t recognise the button press, ending Jesse’s life prematurely. Dying and having to repeat the scene from the beginning is pretty irritating.
Minecraft: Story Mode Season Two starts off really well and doesn’t let up from the opening chapter to the very last scene of “Hero in Residence”. It’s a great episode with plenty of freshness in the form of new characters and locations. The gameplay is way more varied this time around, with the balance between storytelling and input being just about right. As far as narratives go, it’s an interesting one, however I can’t help but feel the underlying theme of ‘mysterious item found by accident triggers something terrible’ has been done many a time before.
Episode one of Minecraft: Story Mode Season Two is worth grabbing, especially if you enjoyed the first season. It’s more of the same, but with improvements!