Minecraft: Story Mode Ep 2: Assembly Required Review
Minecraft: Story Mode Ep 2: Assembly Required Review
Once the episode begins to delve into new material, credits roll??
Posted: 10/29/15 | Category: Review | Developer: Telltale Games | Publisher: Telltale Games | Platform: Android, Ios, Xbox one, Xbox 360, Wii u, Playstation 4, Windows, Playstation 3, Mac

Genre: Point-And-Click Adventure Game
Release date: October 27, 2015

Telltale shocked us all on Tuesday with the surprise release of Minecraft: Story Mode’s second episode, Assembly Required. This gives Minecraft the infamy of having the shortest production period between episodes, as Telltale generally releases episodes once every two-to-three months. Unfortunately, this shortened period seems to be directly reflected in the game’s length, and in how little it drives the story forward.

Story
 

When we left off, Jesse had to choose between retrieving Magnus the Griefer or Ellegaard the Redstone Engineer. As expected, Jesse and his corresponding partner (either Axel or Olivia) head out through the Nether to prove themselves to the selected member of The Order of the Stone.

What I find most fascinating about this turn of events is the negative view both Magnus and Ellegaard have of Axel and Olivia, respectively. Jesse seems to be excellent at everything thrown toward him, but his friends are humiliated or dissed behind their backs. I’m hoping this will become important as the story moves forward, especially considering how The Order of the Stone shuts Ivor out of their legacy. Saying that the legendary heroes don’t seem all that likable would be an understatement.

The rest of the story beats are quite predictable. While Jesse is out gathering one hero, his friend gathers the other. And then with the whole gang together, they set off looking for Soren, the fourth and final member of The Order.

In a moment of humorous dialogue that almost felt out of place, the gang discusses Soren’s development of a super powerful bomb called the F-Bomb: “Soren swore that dropping the F-Bomb could destroy anything.” I laughed for sure, but the dialogue felt out of place. And though I found the blocky mouths odd in my review of the first episode, they’ve quickly grown on me. I imagine this is partly due to the continued strength of the entire cast of voice actors.

At Soren’s castle in the mountains, Ivor once again eludes capture and conspicuously avoids explaining his vendetta against The Order. Given the elitist nature of Ellegaard, Magnus, and Gabriel, I imagine Jesse would likely be sympathetic to Ivor’s tale.

The first episode struggled to craft a complex story, but I blamed this on the difficulty of establishing a franchise canon. Unfortunately, Assembly Required doesn’t expand this universe. Regardless of Jesse’s choices, the story never evolves beyond the brief recruitment journey. 

Mining and Crafting
 

Once again the game shines in its appreciation of the source material. In both Ellegaard’s redstone fortress and Magnus’s Boomtown we see some extraordinary buildings that I fully expect to see recreated online. The environments look and feel as if they were crafted in the original game, and that’s the greatest proof of Telltale’s respect for the franchise. The redstone cow catapult (cowapult) felt particularly Minecraftian. Much like the chicken machine from Episode One, the Cowapult represents that bizarro nature of Minecraft builders to create machines simply because they can.

The Command Block that Ivor used to create the Wither Storm in Episode One also makes a return in this episode. Ellegaard herself was locked away in her fortress trying to complete the block. Since this is not a craftable item in Minecraft (2009), it will be interesting to see what powers it could potentially hold.

Disappointingly, this episode lacks the entertaining mining and crafting from the first episode. Though you have a chance to view functional mechs, bomb cannons, and redstone-powered piston doors and bridges, Jesse doesn’t get to take part in their creation. Given the inherent customization in Minecraft, I would like to see Telltale utilize crafting and gathering in Minecraft: Story Mode’s puzzles. Telltale has created a beautiful world that shows off the best of Minecraft; however, players will feel like a member of the audience as opposed to an active crafter.

Perhaps the lack of core Minecraft elements would be more forgivable if the game possessed Telltale’s traditionally strong quick-time events; but alas, in Minecraft: Story Mode, these feel uninspired. Jesse’s escape from the Wither Storm in Episode Two plays out the same way as it does in Episode One, and the rest of the episode is littered with conventional "smack this" and "jump over that" moments. This won’t necessarily bore players, but the quick-time events never augment the series in any meaningful way like they have for The Walking Dead, Tales From the Borderlands and even Game of Thrones.

So What's Wrong with It?
 

Let’s talk about the decision to choose between Magnus and Ellegaard. While it may not impact the overall story, this decision does allow for vastly different playthroughs. If you select Magnus, you don't get to see Ellegaard’s town, and vice versa.

Normally, I would laud this as a great decision for Telltale to make. It's become all too frequent in choice-based games to play out the exact same scenarios regardless of player choice, which is admittedly difficult to avoid when there’s a focus on complex storytelling. Forcing players to choose between two wonderfully designed scenarios shows a developer’s confidence in its material and its confidence that the player will get a great experience in a single playthrough.

This is where Minecraft: Story Mode fails. The game drops the ball by not filling the first playthrough with enough content. I’m the kind of player who exhausts all conversation and examines everything, yet I managed to complete Assembly Required in 55 minutes. This episode almost demands to be played a second time to experience the parallel story of the second member of the Order, but it shouldn’t rely on a cheap maneuver to extend its playtime. Whether you’ve purchased the season pass or a single episode, this is a painfully inadequate content-to-cost ratio.

Conclusion
  

Assembly Required is the sophomore slump I never expected it to be. Episode One: The Order of the Stone wasn’t groundbreaking, but it built a comfortable foundation that could expand the mythos of the universe. Assembly Required fails to advance the story in any meaningful way and spends its short running time treading water. Once the episode begins to delve into new material, credits roll. Knowing that Telltale has a strong fall release schedule only makes its decision to rush out a seemingly incomplete episode all the more baffling

Grade: C
Quirky and advanced crafts
 
Super short playtime
Minimal story development
 Logo
 
   
Trailer
 
 
 
System Requirements
 
MINIMUM PC:
OS: Windows XP Service Pack 3
Processor: Core 2.0 Duo GHz or equivalent
Memory: 3 GB RAM
Graphics: ATI or NVidia card w/512 MB RAM 
DirectX: Version 9.0
Hard Drive: 3 GB available space
Sound Card: Direct X 9.0c sound device
Additional Notes: Not Recommended for Intel integrated graphics
   
MINIMUM Mac:
OS: Lion (10.7.X)
Processor: 2.3 Ghz Intel
Memory: 4 GB RAM
Graphics: 512 MB Nvidia or ATI graphics card
Hard Drive: 3 GB available space
Additional Notes: Not Recommended for Intel integrated graphics or Mac Minis or early-generation MacBook
 
 
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