After the scale of severity introduced to the series in the last episode, Minecraft Story Mode: Episode 8 – A Journey’s End? is left to conclude the story without being overshadowed by its predecessors. Having already gone through so much, the Order of the Stone is willing to do whatever it takes to return home. The series’ meta presentation in Episode 8 shines brightly this time around as the episode itself shares the same goal as the Order: doing whatever it takes to bring the narrative home.
A Journey’s End? feels like the most rushed entry into the series by far. Almost nothing is known about the Old Builders our heroes are on their way to meet – a great white canvas for the narrative to explore itself in any number of directions. Though the portal hallway isn’t necessarily playable as you only ever see it through cutscenes, it’s a conceptually sound approach to tying everything together regardless of how each episode differentiates itself from one another. Episode 8 shares this creative potential with its predecessors, but meeting the Old Builders feels more like an obligatory chore than a climactic battle for survival.
Upon meeting the three Old Builders, Hadrian, the most domineering of the bunch, throws Jesse and his friends into a game of “spleef.” Spleef consists of a variety of trials that test the limits of the participating teams. If you lose, you’ll “respawn” to work in the quartz mines until it’s your turn to play the game again. If you win, you win your freedom! It sounds like a great deal given the situation, but the games are rigged so that no one ever really wins.
A lot of the decisions in this episode revolve almost entirely around the social politics between the competing teams, the Old Builders, and those working for them. Slab and Facemeat, a pair of enforcers employed by the Old Builders, are two very welcome personalities to the series, but Episode 8 doesn’t give them enough camera time to establish any attachment. Sometimes someone will overhear whatever dialogue you select, prompting an unexpected “…and she will remember that, too…” message to appear after you think you’ve seen the full impact of your decision. It’s an appreciated feature, but it ultimately doesn’t add much at all to the narrative.
Jim Cummings’ performance as Hadrian helps to liven up a majority of the scenes, and his voice acting here is one of this episode’s few redeeming qualities. Unfortunately a lot of the dialogue feels like it’s repeating the same information over and over again, so it becomes pretty easy to accidentally tune out to what’s happening on the screen. Everyone seems to reiterate what someone else just said, so story progression has a tendency to drag its feet. The game will occasionally let you hit a button in a reflexive fashion or have you choose what you want to say, but it feels like it’s obligated to give you control every once in a while just to make sure you’re still there.
A few characters make their return to the series in this episode, making A Journey’s End? quite a nostalgic recollection of everything the group’s been through. After playing through eight episodes, I can’t help but feel that this series would’ve been better off as an animated short. This game is definitely geared towards a younger audience, and the decision-based gameplay doesn’t have the same weight as it would have in a more mature setting.
There are definitely some entertaining moments hiding behind the game’s glaring issues, but they are few and far between. Minecraft Story Mode: Episode 8 – A Journey’s End? ended things on a fairly uninspired note, but perhaps the question mark in the title is indicative of a possible upcoming redemption episode.
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