A short month and a half after Telltale's Minecraft: Story Mode premiered, we have already arrived at the third episode of the season. The first instalment wasn't exactly something that we were convinced by, but it left us interested. Unfortunately, Episode Two delivered one of the weakest episodic releases that we've seen in some time. Luckily, then, with Episode Three, the developer has picked itself off the ground and delivered the strongest entry in this brick stacking series so far – even if that's not really saying a whole lot.
Jesse and his gang of friends are continuing on their journey as they seek to reunite The Order of the Stone. Next on the list is Soren, the architect of The Order. Along with the most interesting intro credits sequence of the season, Episode Three brings with it the most interesting member of The Order. Soren has kept himself isolated in The End studying the Endermen, which has left him, well, a little crazy. We discover this through some thoroughly entertaining audio logs that both introduce some cool ideas, and show off the goofier tone that the series is finally embracing.
The goofy tone this time around is important because it brings something that the last two episodes felt like they were lacking: personality. The goofiness also plays incredibly well with the art style and nature of Minecraft. Not only is the vibe better this time, but the music takes a big step forward as well. The ambient stuff, and especially the dynamic stuff, takes huge strides, but the score still doesn't satisfy in the way that Telltale's composer Jared-Emerson Johnson is usually able to deliver.
All in all, the newest episode feels almost like a reboot of the season. While the narrative continues from the previous episodes, the tone, humour, soundtrack, and just about every imaginable aspect feels like a step forward – it's almost as if an entirely different developer has handled this entry. Of course, it's still not up to the calibre of the studio's very best episodes, but it at least feels fun this time around, which is more than can be said for the past couple of instalments.
A key part of why this episode feels better may stem from the studio getting a firmer grasp on the cast of characters and who to showcase. One of our issues with the early episodes was that some of the cast came off as completely forgettable, with a couple of them even bordering on annoying. But as the season has gone on, the less interesting characters have been getting less and less to do, while the more engaging characters have been slowly shuffling into the spotlight.
Alongside the character development, the plot has been moving along at a pretty reasonable pace, but with some caveats. Primarily, the conclusion of this episode includes some really herky-jerky pacing of plot developments. One strand of the narrative appears to come to a rushed conclusion, only to stop the whole plot dead while it, for lack of a better word, "resets". It feels cheap, and the momentum from the good-will that the episode had generated suddenly dries up. Hopefully, Episode Four can pick it back up.
Episode Three of Minecraft: Story Mode marks what can easily be considered the high point of the season – but it's still not great. Coming hot off the trail of one of Telltale's worst episodes has certainly helped make this release far easier to like, but its own accomplishments should not be sold short. This episode is a light, fun romp, and its consistently goofy tone helps to craft the series' identity at long last.