Minecraft Story Mode: episode 4 review

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WARNING: Mild spoilers for episodes 1-3 ahead!

Well, here we are; the fourth episode of Minecraft Story Mode, marking the end of the main story (with one more episode still to come). Episode one was very promising, but things tumbled downhill from there. Can the series drag itself back from the brink here? Well… no.

It’s not a terrible episode. In fact it’s easily the best since the deceptively charming first entry, but the brutal truth is that it’s a classic case of ‘too little, too late’. No two ways about it – the last two episodes were boring, and have poisoned the series so much that it’s going to take a spectacular entry to recover. This is significantly more engaging than those disappointments, with a few genuinely funny lines and even a bit of emotion at the end. Spectacular it ain’t, though.

Despite the suckerpunch of episode one which promised a story that would branch off in hugely different directions depending on whether you went after Magnus or Ellegaard, your choices have proven to be largely inconsequential. That trend continues here. No matter what you did early on, both Gabriel and Petra are with you, both have Wither Sickness, and one also has amnesia. All the Order of the Stone will be with you with the exception of either Magnus or Ellegaard. Your actions at a few points in the episode will determine who is present for the final fight, but it makes not one iota of difference to the outcome. And if you’ve played it and wonder if that event at the end is avoidable… no, it isn’t.

As mentioned previously there’s some great humour at play here and, rare as the instances are, they’re hugely welcome and improve the episode as a whole immeasurably. It’s just such a baffling shame that things tend to be played so tediously straight (albeit light-hearted), giving it the feel, to an extent, of one of those insufferable Let’s Play YouTube videos. Despite Minecraft’s appeal to so many different ages and walks of life, Story Mode is still clearly aimed at kids – without touching the intelligent and witty writing that characterises so many of today’s cartoons.

In happier news, there are two actual puzzles here. One immediately follows the other, and they’re not exactly difficult to work out, but they nonetheless serve as welcome ripples in what has largely been a stagnant expanse of still water. A few of the QTE sequences also pile the pressure on a little more than usual, which helps them get a lot closer to the tense sequences the developers clearly wish them to be. As an added bonus, we think all the characters manage to go the entire episode without once saying “crap”.

It’s also a little longer than the last few episodes, lasting a still-far-from-epic two hours or so. A small part of this is down to a maze being unexpectedly thrown into the mix. It’s not huge, but it is a slightly annoying cheap and desperate shot at countering criticisms of episode length.

The final scene of the episode suffers from a poor frame rate, even though you have no control over your character’s movement and nothing particularly complicated is going on (though we can only speak for Xbox One). That’s not a bad metaphor for the series as a whole, really. It should be better, it should obviously be better, and it’s very difficult to understand why it isn’t.

critical score 6

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Written by Luke K

He plays lots of videogames, now and again stopping to write about them. He's the editor in chief at Critical Gamer, which fools him into thinking his life has some kind of value. He doesn't have a short temper. If you suggest otherwise, he will punch you in the face.

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