Jennifer
Jul 14, 2017
Publisher: Telltale Games
Developer: Telltale Games
Review platform: This game was reviewed on Xbox One with a review code provided by the publisher.
Release date: Jul 11, 2017
I don’t think anyone was surprised when Telltale announced Minecraft: Story Mode Season 2, much to some fans’ disappointment when they have been waiting for second seasons to other well-liked properties, The Wolf Among Us being one of them. Still, it’s easy to see why Telltale would want to continue Minecraft. It’s an incredibly popular title, likely a good return on investment, and I would assume they have much more creative freedom with this IP than others considering the original Minecraft game isn’t exactly known for its story or lore.

For full disclosure, I haven’t actually finished the first season of Telltale’s Minecraft series. In fact, I only beat the first episode of it because it was available for free one day on Xbox. While I’m sure there are people who would prefer someone who’s actually played the entirety of the first season to review this one, I do think this gives me a unique point of view for the game. Not everyone who jumps into this season will have played the first, especially when there were three additional downloadable episodes, and I can say that while they might miss some references and not be familiar with a few returning characters, the story is still accessible and easy to understand. If you want the game to be a little bit more tailored to your experience, players do have the option of quickly choosing major decisions from season one and having those carry over.



Episode One: Hero in Residence begins with a short recap of events from the first season. As someone who didn’t complete it, this was definitely helpful. Though I could recall a few big moments and characters, I admit I was worried I was going to be confused for a majority of this season. No matter what game you play, developers always need to strike a fine balance between satisfying returning players and making it accessible for newcomers. The recap, along with the story they chose to create, ensured that anyone can pick up Season 2 without feeling lost.

The events of the first season have shaped the lives of the characters in many ways, but Hero in Residence isn’t an immediate continuation of that story. Instead, this is just a new adventure in these characters’ lives, seemingly unrelated to the Wither Storm and Order of the Stone, although who knows if those aspects will pop up in more meaningful ways in later episodes.

This season begins with Jesse and Petra stumbling upon a swirling portal they dub the “Heckmouth” and a glowing gauntlet above it that eerily whispers Jesse’s name. This sets off a chain of events with the two of them journeying to a Sea Temple with the help of a great treasure hunter in an attempt to stop the portal that’s threatening Beacontown. Escaping the dangers lurking below the depths of the ocean, Jesse seemingly saves the town from the Heckmouth, but of course nothing is ever so simple as is evident when a powerful creature called the Admin shows up.



Separate from all of this is Petra’s quest to get her gold sword back from Stella, the leader of Champion City who effectively forces the community to become her servants. She’s a bit of a con artist since she exploits people’s needs and changes deals in order to make people work for her, but you find out much of it is an all act. All bark but no bite. Petra’s dealings with Stella and the reason for them seem to be a point of contention between her and Jesse, and I can see it causing a greater rift between them down the line. It's a bit of a missed opportunity to not make Stella a proper villain and instead make her a superficial wannabe, but Telltale has a lot of time to rectify that.

Both of these narrative threads seem to be separate from one another for the time being, but I imagine they’ll intersect at some point. So far I think Jesse’s problem with the gauntlet sets up what could be a fantastic journey, and the addition of a terrifying giant new villain that can bend all of the rules means that players are in for a wild ride. I would have liked to see more of Jesse’s old friends, though the end of Hero in Residence indicates that at least one of them will come to his aid. What is presented in Episode One gives Telltale a lot of room to create smaller, more personal conflicts between characters while they are battling a much larger threat. It's now up to them to deliver on that potential.

There are several quick time events and fight sequences throughout Hero in Residence, but they’re all fairly unimpressive. The combat requires the player to swing their sword while rolling out of the way to dodge attacks, making it feel less scripted than in previous Telltale series. However, the fighting also isn't anything spectacular when enemies go down after a few hits. The quick time events are also exactly what you'd expect from Telltale, with players needing to press a button in order for Jesse to jump over an object during an escape or finish off an enemy. Telltale definitely attempted to address the issue of its combat starting to feel stale, but they were only partially successful.



I have heard that Minecraft: Story Mode Season 1 was one of Telltale’s better series in terms of performance, so it makes sense that the second season, at least in the beginning, would continue to run well. I never encountered any of Telltale’s signature bugs due to its horrendous game engine. There were a few points where the lip syncing was off, but nothing that ever affected the gameplay.

Summary

Minecraft: Story Mode Season 2 is off to a good start in Jesse and his teams’ next adventure. Introducing new friends, foes, and mysteries in typical Telltale fashion, Hero in Residence has a lot of heart and humor. Like the first season, its family-friendly tone makes it appealing to a wide audience, though there are people who will prefer the developer's more mature tone. The combat and gameplay itself is a little lackluster, but I’m interested to see where the story goes and what it means for these characters.
Our score: 7.5/10

Good - A solid concept with wide appeal, good fun if you can look past the flaws.
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