Minecraft Story Mode is Telltale’s first gamble with extending one of its seasons into an eight episode story, and it’s fair to suggest it has been a little hit n’ miss so far. Both major story arcs have faltered too often to elevate this series to the level of Tales of the Borderlands or The Walking Dead, but it has at least managed to tell an enjoyable family-friendly story that does occasionally hit the headier heights of Telltale’s best work.
Minecraft: Story Mode Episode 8 Review
This final episode, A Journey’s End? (the question mark is presumably there because there’s no way it ends at just one extended season given the popularity of Minecraft) sees us guide Jesse and his Order of the Stone buddies to one final push in their attempt to find a way home amongst an endless hall of portals that lead to different dimensions. The only thing standing in their way is some very stubborn and power mad Old Builders who have made their own rather deadly fun to pass the time.
Having been sent to The Old Builders in an effort to acquire an item that will show the gang the way home, Jesse and company end up smack-bang in the middle of gladiatorial combat, and the situation appears to escalate to the extreme, the reveal of which sets up another cute meta joke about Minecraft’s game rules (always a welcome sight in this series). The net result of this is Jesse being left to gamble on the group’s freedom by participating in a series of contests where winning means going home and defeat means a life of slavery. High stakes stuff indeed, and it takes the series where it has been strongest by stacking the odds against the Order of the Stone so you can cheer them on when things start swinging their way. It’s cliche, sure, but it does the job effectively enough.
A complaint of recent episodes has been that the focus was drawn from the camaraderie of the Order of the Stone and plopped on the lap of new characters a little too much. That certainly isn’t the case in the final episode. There’s plenty of throwbacks to earlier events, heartfelt messages of forgiveness, and rousing speeches promoting unity against the establishment. All the ingredients are there for closure on this particular chapter of the main cast’s life. It’s unfortunate then that the antagonists are some of the weakest we’ve seen.
The Old Builders are pig-headed and egotistical, and somehow a bit evil without any real motivation to be. That’s how we end up in this do or die situation, but it seems a tad far-fetched to suggest the way some baddies in this episode switch between villainous and sympathetic is at all consistent and believable. You can argue that this is aimed at kids, but there’s plenty of media catered to children that treat them with a smidgen more respect than that. Considering some of the strong characters Telltale has had over the last few years, it’s even less acceptable.
As an outlet for the story to flow through though, they serve their purpose. It still needles when they get one over on you, and it still feels satisfied putting them in their place. I guess the issue lies in knowing it could be done better rather than this being particularly bad characterization.
Otherwise, this a pleasantly straightforward finale, peppered with the expected swerves (plus one genuinely clever fake out) and set pieces needed for a grandstand finish. It means this is the most enjoyable episode of the current run. In particular, the final battle is rousing and involving stuff, using those aforementioned strengths of the series to the fullest.
There’s not much more to say at this point without pushing into spoiler territory. This is a by-the-numbers episode in many ways, and the adverse effect of this is that you get a fairly generic experience when you look back at it. I suppose it matters most that when you’re in the moment, it’s fun, just not particularly risky.
Does Minecraft Story need or deserve a second season then? I believe so yes. Telltale has built a surprisingly good story out of a megahit game that is pretty devoid of one. The portal-hopping adventures have plenty of scope for future adventures, and I feel a second season would see the developer get a bit more imaginative with the property. I’d advise against expanding the season again though because that seems to be an experiment that has failed on a creative level. None of the additional episodes has come close to the best of the first five. Maybe a little less indulgence in celebrity cameos and more attention on the genuinely heartwarming interactions between the Order of the Stone. Certainly feature more of Paul Reubens as Ivor, because he’s been the shining light of the entire run.
Let’s face it, the popularity of Minecraft, and indeed, this series, means we will be more than likely seeing Jesse’s gang again. It helps that the less demanding visual style has seen this become the steadiest we’ve seen of the Telltale Tool Engine, but without wanting to sound like I’m flogging the dead horse with another dead horse perhaps the focus should be on fixing or replacing that engine before commissioning another series of anything.