[Reviews of episodic games may contain spoilers about previous episodes. Specifics about this episode will be discussed in broad and/or generic terms.]
|Publisher||Developer||Reviewed On||Release Date|
|Telltale Games||Telltale Games||PlayStation 4||March 29, 2016|
Episode 5: Order Up!
Minecraft: Story Mode’s first season has come to a close, sort of, with Episode 5 – Order Up! It sits in a difficult position, simultaneously serving as an epilogue to the Wither Storm saga, a standalone plot, and a setup for the three newly announced episodes. Though it does a decent job on two of those points, the DLC preparation felt rushed and forced. The in-universe references are fun, though Telltale trappings of abrupt endings and false choices do make an unwelcome return.
A new Order
After defeating the Wither Storm and saving their world in Episode 4, Jesse, Axel, Olivia, and Petra became the new Order of the Stone. We join them in progress of one of their ongoing missions, an unknown amount of time after the Wither Storm battle. Rivals from way back in Episode 1 show up again, setting Episode 5 in motion. The Ocelots, now rebranded as the Blaze Rods, are jealous of the fame and popularity the new Order of the Stone receives, and seek to steal loot. Narratively it is all simplistic, but one must keep in mind that Minecraft is a kid-friendly brand and Story Mode undoubtedly targets that same audience. Not all stories need to be full of zombie hordes or political plotting in King’s Landing, however. Order Up! tells an engaging story without relying on any strong connection to the previous four episodes. It feels more like the start of a new season than the end of one.
The basic idea of exploring a new world hidden behind a never-before-seen portal is one that I expect to be recycled for each of the additional episodes. In creating a story that works even if it’s the only episode you played, some details of continuity are glossed over to get a specific group together. Our returning characters ignore that Ivor was responsible for creating the Wither Storm, and bring him along to retrieve another treasure of great power. History shows he is the type to try to seize that power for personal gain, making this a needlessly stupid risk.
Fun with the franchise
Elements of core Minecraft gameplay weave into the story here nicely. Stranded on a sky island, our heroes decide to raze it to the last four remaining blocks they can fit on in order to build a land bridge. Spawn eggs from Minecraft’s creative mode, which are eggs that the player can throw to create animals or monsters, receive a creation story here sure to please younger players. A Sky City character asks how to obtain wood, and Jesse promptly instructs him to “Find a tree… and start punching!” Understanding the events of Episode 5 does not require previous Minecraft knowledge, but would add to the experience.
Choices matter, until they don’t
A critical moment leaves Jesse with a tough choice, backup his friend who is fighting for his life, or rescue a new character hanging onto a cliff. There’s only time to help one, but seconds later it makes no difference. Both options quickly, nearly immediately, resolve themselves to the same destination with the slightest of variations on the journey. It is the illusion of control, and that is frustrating to see. A large part of the Telltale appeal is the idea of a story unfolding because of my actions, but continued fake-outs cheapen the sense of ownership. Even if at no other time, the final episode of a season should be when true story altering choices are available. Presumably we will not see the residents of Sky City in future episodes, so why can’t my actions lead to the death of a character? This is especially pertinent when the situation unfolding implies certain death.
But wait, there’s more!
A cliffhanger setting up the next series of episodes, notably not included with the season pass, feels cheaply tacked on. Our characters end up trapped, contrary to Minecraft portal logic, for no reason other than “surprise! It’s not over yet.” It was an unnecessary, disappointing capper to the season pass. The last scene could have easily fit as the first scene of Episode 6 and it would have saved Episode 5 from a poor twist ending.
Order Up! does an admirable job juggling its responsibilities as its own self-contained story, an epilogue, and a DLC prequel, all in one. Familiar, and tiring, Telltale story devices present themselves in full force, but the respect for the source material and the willingness to not take itself too seriously do outweigh the flaws. This is a well-paced finale that players of all ages can enjoy.
Score: 7/10 – Good
Minecraft: Story Mode – Episode 5: Order Up! was reviewed on PlayStation 4 using a retail purchased of the Minecraft: Story Mode Season Pass Disc