It’s 3:08 in the afternoon. I’m not even going to pretend it’s news anymore that Telltale Games and Mojang are in cahoots to make a Minecraft adventure game, Minecraft: Story Mode, in the vein of Telltale’s recent hits like The Wolf Among Us. Instead, I’ll divulge my opinion on the announcement and hopefully provide some perspective for the proud opinion-holders who have been making themselves look like idiots online.
Telltale’s been on a bit of a licensing spree with their Game of Thrones and Borderlands adaptations, but a Minecraft game is the single most interesting idea they’ve had since they struck gold with The Walking Dead in 2012. I’ve played the first seasons of The Walking Dead and The Wolf Among Us, and while TWAU was certainly cool, I wouldn’t call it ambitious in many departments. The concept may tickle all those folks who quiver at the mention of the word “weird”, but it was ultimately the same sort of emotion-tripping, invisible railroading tactics we saw in The Walking Dead, just transplanted into Manhattan. Game of Thrones still doesn’t look like much more, and Tales From The Borderlands is sliding by for me purely on the concept of a story-driven Borderlands universe.
Minecraft: Story Mode, on the other hand, being based on a property focused almost entirely on exploration, has huge potential to be their most exciting game since the first season of The Walking Dead. The press release clearly states that it is a narrative-driven experience, but think of all the narratives you’ve created in Minecraft. Getting lost in caves, getting lost at night, the consequences of setting your house on fire, defending your home and starving to death are all situations ripe for Telltale to manipulate and expand on.
You might scoff at my including “defending your home” in the list of exciting experiences, as this doesn’t tend to amount to more than a zombie opening your door and you swiftly killing it. Even venturing outside at night in the first place is entirely optional (made even more optional with the bed update). In a Telltale game, however, they aren’t limited by Minecraft’s engine and jagged animations.
Night could pose a tangible danger through Telltale. If they choose to shrug off some of Minecraft’s more arbitrary rules, your windows could be broken, your door literally bashed off its hinges instead of instantly flinging open, your home ravaged and items torn from chests in a way that would be impossible in the original game. Monsters could grapple you and take you to the ground. Exploring caves could be harrowing in ways Minecraft isn’t with careful use of scripted atmosphere and tension. It will be a different experience to be sure, but not necessarily an inferior one.
Telltale is also not hamstrung by Minecraft’s art style. I’m imagining something along the lines of those high production value Minecraft animations that sometimes come along, where it *looks* like Minecraft, but limbs bend and light pours in ways that don’t happen in the original game. Monsters wouldn’t comically hop around in a scripted Telltale experience, wiping away any fear you could have possibly scrounged up for the already pathetic enemy, and proper lighting could make caves genuinely intimidating places.
Laughing this project off is a forgivable first reaction to this news. It’s a silly concept with a very stupid title, but it’s one with a hell of a lot of potential. If you’re a fan of the modern definition of Telltale, then according to my calculations, this is definitely something to keep an eye on. Even if you’re not a fan of Telltale, there’s one thing that they always get right: they know their source material. This will probably be their most ambitious series yet.
But who knows, I based this off a six-bullet-point press release. It could be shit.