I try, I really do try, to go into games with neutral expectations. In the weeks leading up to the release, just everything about the idea of Episode 5 rubbed me up the wrong way: That the main over-arching plot finished an episode back, that this would be the final episode in the 5-episode chunk and the three more episodes being sold would still count as Season 1 (and therefore had to connect seamlessly). Within the circumstances, Telltale pulls it off, but I find myself mumbling to myself a familiar phrase: “What happened to the Telltale I once knew?”.
[There will not be any spoilers of Minecraft Story Mode – Episode 5: Order Up , but I may end up discussing Minecraft Story Mode – Episode 1: the Order of the Stone, Episode 2: Assembly Required, Episode 3: The Last Place You Look and Episode 4: A Block and a Hard Place as well as the review of all four (which you can find, respectively, here, here, here and here). However, the rating at the bottom will be spoiler-free if you wish to skip there.]
As the introduction mentioned, we’re simultaneously on the final episode of Telltale’s walk-n-prod series Minecraft: Story Mode; and yet we’re not. I believe I should explain in greater depth than what the introduction offers (don’t worry, you’ll see why).
Originally the series was billed to run the standard five episodes, however after four episodes they seemed to run out of steam and concluded the story. I recall pondering on my previous review that Episode 5 could be the plot equivalent of the janitor on clean up duty after the credits had rolled since the over-arching plot (big evil storm, gobbler of worlds, was killed) had been resolved. Unexpectedly, Telltale would pop its head out half way through the longest time period between Minecraft: Story Mode episodes to announce an extra three episodes to season one of the series; and you’d have to pay for it.
This left a peculiar situation: They would have to cater to those unwilling to pay extra money out by offering some form of closure, as well as open the plot in case you did, while creating a new adventure since the old one was dead in the floor.
In this regard, surprisingly, Episode 5: Order Up succeeds at creating coherency and a hook for future adventuring. The main plot of Order Up begins, has an arc and ends with a neat little bow on top. You discover that Lukas’s old team (The Ocelots) need to have the stupid beaten out of them and so you keep back-handing Aiden until you’ve harvested enough stupid to fuel far-right wing politics for the next hundred years.
In addition, without spoiling it, a revelation occurs revolving around an artefact you stumble upon early on that sets up the three episodes to come. My main problem with the final reveal, while still dancing around what it is, is it sadly renders the entire episode adventure as inconsequential as the story seems closed enough to never reappear again. Despite this, plot wise, the narrative generally works in a no-thrills acceptable light-hearted state besides some really nice brief nods to Reuben where it takes an interesting dramatic turn.
The characterisation is where the episode appears to succeed and falter the most in a bizarre one-step-forward-one-step-back interpretive dance. It starts off with good intentions, hoping to shine additional light on the lesser characters of the series: Lukas, Ivor and Petra. In this regard it works, especially with Ivor’s voice acting nailing an irritable scientific mind that has no shame laughing and singing about scientific discoveries, which finally adds dimension to what was just an arrogant grump.
Where it trips and collides its forehead into the corner of a step is, well, every other piece of characterisation. The antagonist (Aiden, pre-slapped) is built up with the most basic of reasons to hate you, jealousy, which comes from nowhere so hard that even the cast is confused. Everyone else you meet (new characters) are two-dimensional, never able to elevate themselves from an archetype or a plot-purpose into having meaning or being memorable. This inability to garner any form of sympathy in anyone besides your little gang renders all the choices as obvious, since you have no reason to care about anyone else.
There is also a surprising lack of humour. While previously I’d offer a smirk to the occasional joke (or maybe during a touching moment even feel the cold dead pulsing beat that I think is an inner-youth), I strode through the entire episode with straight-faced contentment. There were sadly few jokes, and all the ones that did exist weren’t born from writing but rather from Paul Reuben’s (yes, Pee-Wee Herman) voice acting as Ivor breathed unexpected life into someone who was a minor antagonist. I had just expected more humorous gags considering prior episodes.
The final score for Minecraft Story Mode – Episode 5: Order Up is a 5.5/10. The best way I can sum up Order Up is the term “functional”. It technically closes up the series while opening it up for the next three episodes. It technically offers some humour, a plot to be into and an antagonist to want to bring down. It technically allows you to have an okay time, while never going beyond that point.
In the end, like a squashed McDonalds burger to end a night spent drinking heavily, the plot’s shaggy-dog story just serves to encourage that feeling of dread of just how pointless it all feels. Maybe there was something better you could have done? Maybe you should have instead spent the money and time on a family trip out? Maybe there was a sportsball game you could have gone to?
I remember when TellTale used to inspire investment in a project that obviously has a lot of care and attention, but now it feels as cold and distant as a print-by-the-numbers profit-printing machine. Maybe this is worth a gander, in the same way you might throw on a cartoon for the kids on a rainy day or flick through channels at 4am, but it isn’t something to feel excitement for. Instead, it is something to remind you of better days.