Minecraft: Story Mode was one of Telltale Games’ oddest licensing choices for most from the moment it was announced, but even as someone who’s never touched Mojang’s now-iconic sandbox title, I was very pleased with how its first four episodes played out. The series retained Telltale’s trademark story and character-driven presentation, but still struck a balance in tone that made it accessible for the millions of younger gamers who love the source material.
But something interesting happened with the previous episode. While the series was always slated to be comprised of five installments like most Telltale works, the fourth episode served as a finale to the main conflict. As a result, fans were left completely clueless as to what the actual finale would focus on. As it turns out, the developer seems to have made a change of plans, as the fifth episode not only serves as the start of a new ongoing storyline, but will have three recently confirmed episodes coming after it.
Thankfully, if you enjoyed what the series had to offer before, there’s a good chance you’ll enjoy Order Up. The writers have mixed up the cast, location and even overall format, but a lot of the series’ positive qualities still remain, and the episode’s pacing and bang for your buck provides an encouraging start to this second story arc.
Taking place a short amount of time after Episode 4, protagonist Jesse and company have become local heroes after vanquishing a threat to their world, and continue combing nearby ruins for artifacts and adventures. One perilous encounter results in Jesse obtaining some mysterious but powerful materials, and former antagonist Ivor reveals that they are the key to accessing a parallel world that houses a treasure capable of producing infinite resources.
Jesse, Ivor, and longtime friends Petra and Lukas eventually find themselves in a floating city located in this new world, but they have little time to celebrate, as Lukas’ former power-hungry colleague, Aiden, has beaten them to it and is attempting to turn its ruler against them. One thing leads to another, and eventually, Jesse and company find themselves in a showdown over the fate of Sky City’s inhabitants.
An interesting concept the series introduces here is the fact that crafting items is supervised and limited, complete with a fun side character who runs an underground building group. Taking one of the core gimmicks of Minecraft in general and putting a twist on this is pretty entertaining, though admittedly I never heard an actual explanation for why the city’s ruler, who Jesse eventually befriends, enforced this law.
It’s also worth noting that Jesse’s longtime colleagues, Axel and Olivia, don’t participate in this episode past the prologue, though the dynamic Ivor adds still provides some strong moments. That said, considering both what Ivor did in previous episodes and how he acts at certain points here, I found it strange that returning characters viewed him so nonchalantly.
What’s interesting about the plot structure of Order Up, and presumably the remaining episodes, is that it appears they won’t have much of an overarching plot or ongoing conflict, instead packing more compact, individual arcs into each installment.
How effective this approach will fare in the long run remains to be seen, but I thought it worked to this episode’s benefit, as the game never feels slow and packs a lot into its two hour length, complete with one of the series’ more epic and tense finales. The ending, thankfully, doesn’t fall into Telltale’s frequent crime of feeling abrupt, either, and the plot introduces a branching point midway through, though both options seem to lead to the same path soon after.
In terms of gameplay, nothing has changed, though there’s thankfully more of an emphasis on free movement and exploration this time around. Performance-wise, the Xbox One version generally ran great, with little in the way of framerate dipping or brief freezes. I did notice several shots in forest environments where large parts of the the world flashed black for some reason, though.
Order Up! certainly has some flaws, but other aspects, most notably the writing and pacing, still make it a very enjoyable episode. As stated before, the conclusion seems to hint at each of the remaining installments having a more self-contained story and supporting cast, but it seems Jesse’s party will remain consistent for now. Where Minecraft: Story Mode goes from this point is unclear, but if this is any indication, we’ll at least get some enjoyable and varied scenarios out of it.
This review is based on the Xbox One version, which was provided to us.
It remains to be seen how well the story format introduced in Order Up will work in the end, but its more self-contained plot and ideas still make for a quality episode of Minecraft: Story Mode.