Even though Minecraft: Story Mode (created by Telltale Games) has turned into a series with an overarching plot without a major presence, it was clear the series had to end at some point. It was obvious they had to one day conclude everything, although they wouldn’t necessarily need much time to accomplish it satisfyingly. So, it being the last episode before the finale of this series, Episode 7: Access Denied actually had the peculiar freedom to set up the finale or not. It decided on the former, fortunately leading to an elevation in quality. Although the phrase “polishing a bronze trophy” springs to mind.
[There will not be any spoilers for Minecraft Story Mode – Episode 7: Access Denied, 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, Episode 4: A Block and a Hard Place, Episode 5: Order Up and Episode 6: A Portal To Mystery, as well as the review of all six (which you can find, respectively, here, here, here, here, here and here). However, the rating at the bottom will be spoiler-free if you wish to skip there.]
In a turn that happens oddly sooner than expected, the characters grow weary of jumping into random worlds at a whim Scooby Doo style. So, full of great ideas, your team decide to leap into a blood-red portal with the hopes that something good will be on the other side. There lies a desert with a sentient computer who, hell bent on utilitarianism extremism, wants to rob you of your thoughts and body with a chip so you may be made useful.
In a manner that may be familiar to those who have read prior Minecraft: Story Mode reviews by me, I expected so much and received so little from the narrative. I admit, I became hopeful for a slipped-past-the-radar facing off against the robot’s philosophy, even in a cheesy “I AM HUMAN, I HAVE FEELINGS, YOU CAN NEVER EXPRESS EMOTION AND THEREFORE YOU LACK EFFIENCY!” style. Sadly, it kept par for the course to deliver the plot and nothing else at all.
The plot that did exist, well, is serviceable. It doesn’t try for some twists, a deeper meaning or an impactful moment. Instead, the episode just delivers a story that is able to begin to set up a finale with the Old Builders and escaping the portal corridor. It has no thrills, in any sense of the word, to the point that a day later there are severe gaps in my memory where the plot once was and I have to use screenshots as a photo diary to remind myself. Although, in what is a 1 ½ hour episode, I do recall some narrative padding in what is already a very light plot.
Through all my complaining, there are glimmers of interesting characterization in the narrative. Not only does the episode breathe life into the established characters, including Jesse’s past mistakes, but also into the newly introduced Harper. This exploration isn’t deep enough to create gasps or to gut-punch you, but does yoink your interest by your collar.
That isn’t to suggest the technical side is free from errors amongst all this. Music and sound effects cut out at a whim, and the game seemed to think I was using a tablet to play as I was egged on with touchscreen directions. It never really got in the way to the point where it hampered the experience hugely, but it existed nonetheless.
The final score of Minecraft Story Mode – Episode 7: Access Denied is a 5 out of 10. In the Philippines, they have a saying that could sum up the episode: Pwede na. The direct translation is “that’ll do,” but with more emphasis on doing the bare minimum to create what is a working project but nothing more.
While Access Denied goes in and accomplishes the absolute minimal required end product in a narrative sense, it seems to avoid all opportunities to do something more. It avoids the Pixar moment of entertaining adult and child alike, but rather fixates on keeping your Minecraft-loving young ‘un busy for a while. While it technically works, its bare minimum effort shows a cold heart that uses a license to print money rather than to bounce off from. Despite this, Access Denied is saved from dipping below a mediocre 5 by some neat minor characterization moments that liven up an act whose soul feels deceased.
I hope the finale will liven things up and perhaps show that Minecraft: Story Mode wasn’t just Telltale’s attempt at wringing the fans for cash. Although, at this point, I’m not betting on it.