Minecraft Story Mode--Episode 4: A Block and a Hard Place Review

The End?

There are some spoilers below. Be warned!

Drama hasn't been a hallmark of Minecraft Story Mode, with the series' amiable characters and goofy scenarios putting the game squarely in the light entertainment category thus far. But all that changes in this latest episode, A Block and a Hard Place. There's a shift towards the serious here, the natural outcome of several hanging threads from previous episodes finally coming to what seem like their natural narrative conclusions. Some of these resolutions are more impactful than others, though, with the fate of one character feeling particularly unearned. The emotional payoff here isn't huge, although the overall experience still remains a fun, exciting, and buoyant journey through the world of Minecraft.

No Caption Provided

Perhaps that big emotional payoff will arrive in Minecraft Story Mode's concluding chapter (Episode 5 is still to come), but for all intents and purposes, Episode 4 feels like the endpoint for the adventure that Jesse and friends set off on at the start of this series. Episode 3 ended on a huge cliffhanger; the Formidabomb not only failed to destroy the Wither, but actually made things even worse. An old companion thought lost resurfaced, and our heroes were forced to flee as the even more powerful Wither renewed its attack.

Episode 4 hits the ground running, but despite numerous action sequences, feels a little slower paced compared to the breakneck speed of the previous two installments. That's because this episode--more so than the others--takes time to flesh out the characters, relationships, and key pieces of backstory only previously alluded to. A Block and a Hard Place's big action beats are all interspersed with quieter moments or sequences where characters finally come to an understanding about their relationships. Some of these are affective and heartfelt. Jesse's moments of doubt shared only with his/her pet pig Reuben, for example, are poignant and touching, and the scenes where the members of the Order of the Stone are forced to own up to their own dubious past feel impactful.

Not every emotional hit lands, though, with some feeling rushed and even a little manipulative. The fate befalling a key character especially rankled me--it felt tacked on, as if the narrative demanded an exclamation point to happen at that time. But without enough lead-up work to flesh out the character, that particular moment's impact felt greatly lessened.

No Caption Provided

Episode 4's action sequences are the most diverse we've seen in Minecraft Story Mode so far. Starting with a frenetic horseback chase and ending with a landscape-shifting finale within the Wither itself, A Block and a Hard Place demands the quickest reflexes of any of the previous episodes. A single missed QTE means instant death in many of the action sections here, meaning many younger players may get a little frustrated. The diversity of the action here means the two hours or so that a playthrough takes remain engaging throughout, and the increased stakes make every encounter feel important.

But as always, one of the best things about Minecraft Story Mode remains the outstanding way it's melded Minecraft's player-driven lore, culture, and community within the game's overarching narrative. A visit to the Far Lands, for example, is both a key plot location as well as a knowing wink to the fact that every Minecraft "world" map has a finite end that players can't venture past. All of these details make the world of Minecraft Story Mode feel lived in and vibrant, like it holds secrets and adventures that are only waiting to be discovered.

By this episode's end, companions have been reunited, long-held secrets revealed, and a new order established. Everything feels right and good again, so much so that it's hard to see just where and how Episode 5 will take the narrative. Perhaps it will have even more revelations, or result in more twists, or perhaps it will be the start of a brand new adventure. With Episode 4 seemingly wrapping up everything so neatly, the next chapter is something I look forward to with curiosity rather than anticipation.

The Good

  • Wraps up the "main" quest in a satisfying way
  • Some nice emotional moments between characters
  • Fun action sequences

The Bad

  • Some character's fates feel a little tacky

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About the Author

Randolph Ramsay played through this latest Minecraft episode twice. The next playthrough will be with his six-year-old son.
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Kalgert

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I must ask still:

Was a Telltale Games based on Minecraft REALLY needed? I mean... It's Minecraft! A game that does not need a dedicated story to it, because players already make the story.

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BattleStreak

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@kalgert: I was going to post the same thing.

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Gelugon_baat

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@kalgert:Nah... It was just Telltale looking for the next license to cook with its usual formula, e.g. motley groups of primary characters, characters voicing their concerns to each other, internal feuding, characters dying for tragedy's sake and of course, cliffhangers and ample use of the word "remember".

If Activision tosses a Call of Duty license at Telltale, it would use the same formula again, regardless of the setting.

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FBohler

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QTEs are a cancer in games. Doesn't add to gameplay or fun, spoils the cutscenes that you should watch only one time without worrying with buttom prompts.

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Gelugon_baat

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Edited By Gelugon_baat

@FBohler: Especially the "press X to not die" ones, I would add.

QTEs could have been so much more, especially if they are used to make timed decisions with consequences that are mutually exclusive - preferably more than just binary decisions and a default outcome that doesn't end in outright failure.

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Gelugon_baat

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Edited By Gelugon_baat

Wow, more named characters die in this episode. I wonder how kids would take this.

Unless, of course, Episode 5 is about some people playing Lazarus. That would be some cheaply convenient story-writing.

Also, the epilogue (but not finale) for Episode 4 is kind of sullied by rather severe frame rate drops.

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hvd2222

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have you guys had fun paying $100 for 4 episodes yet...lol..they are just going to keep milking you....lol

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Gelugon_baat

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@hvd2222: Like how Valve is going to milk you with its VR stuff? :\

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hvd2222

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@Gelugon_baat: shouldnt you have said the rift?...lol.they lied about the price.i wonder what else they are goin to do.oh what does this have to do with mindcraft?heck it already $100 for all the episodes if your stop buying the episodes you could get the rift.you are going to waste $600-$700 on the episodes anyway...lol

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Gelugon_baat

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@hvd2222: Hey, you can try to deflect, but you can't deny that you are stoked for Valve's VR stuff. You said that yourself when Valve made its announcement.

You do know what happened to the Steam Machines right? Valve just contracted out the development for that laissez-faire and nothing that was super-impressive or revolutionary came out of that. I wouldn't be surprised if Valve did the same for the VR stuff that you are so stoked about, if it isn't already doing just that with HTC.

By the way, Valve and HTC haven't ironed out their working relationship yet, and Valve seems like it has already committed to bringing Vive to market - likely because there's people like you who are already willing to be its customers.

I don't know what you see in that piece of hardware, but hey, if you don't know what other people see in "Mindcraft", expect other people to give you shit about what you like too.

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hvd2222

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@Gelugon_baat: i WAS stocked for vr till the lies.im sure valve will be at least $500-$600.im just going to wait a few years till a mid range gpu and run vr then ill get in to it.

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Gelugon_baat

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Edited By Gelugon_baat

@hvd2222: Are you sure about the price? Do you even know that HTC Vive comes with two controllers which are not optional?

Also, even if you wait a few years, you might still get milked anyway. There is no guarantee that VR will take off to anywhere meaningful - especially when Valve's involved.

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capsulegraph

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@hvd2222: First all episodes together are worth 25$. Second, its a really good game. Your just envy that your mom doesnt let you get it. Now go cry.

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hvd2222

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@capsulegraph: have fun paying x4 of what the game is actually worth..lol.they are just going to keep milking and milking you while you over pay for a game.just wait till ff7 launches with its chopped up story.they are going to make a killing off of ps4 owners...lmao.

to each their own.if you like being rripped off thats you.go right ahead.they will laugh all the way to the bank...

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Gelugon_baat

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Edited By Gelugon_baat

Considering that some of the QTEs in the earlier episodes only knocked off hearts in the previous episodes, that Telltale reverted back to the usual "press X to not die" QTEs is a tad cheap.

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Minecraft: Story Mode - A Telltale Games Series

First Released Oct 13, 2015
released
  • Android
  • iOS (iPhone/iPad)
  • Macintosh
  • Nintendo Switch
  • PC
  • PlayStation 3
  • PlayStation 4
  • Wii U
  • Xbox 360
  • Xbox One

Minecraft: Story Mode will be an all-new narrative-driven game series developed by Telltale in collaboration with Mojang. Set in the world of Minecraft, the series will feature an original story, driven by player choice.

8
Great

Average Rating

59 Rating(s)

7.1

Developed by:

Published by:

Genre(s):

Content is generally suitable for ages 10 and up. May contain more cartoon, fantasy or mild violence, mild language and/or minimal suggestive themes.
Everyone 10+