(There be story spoilers below. Proceed at your own risk!)
Endermen were already the creepiest creatures in the world of Minecraft, but the latest episode in Telltale’s narrative take on the hit game makes them close to something truly disturbing. In Minecraft Story Mode: The Last Place You Look, these enigmatic creatures take center stage, proving to be a scary antagonists in several key sequences. Their use here is emblematic of Minecraft Story Mode’s clever approach to creating a narrative within the wider world of Minecraft; there’s a real reverence for the original game on display, and while the adherence may be strict, the way the many disparate pieces of Minecraft have been put together in service of an increasingly compelling story continues to be engaging.
This third episode of Minecraft Story Mode features the same propulsive energy as the second, with the added bonus of also being the most thrilling narratively. By the end of this short chapter, the stakes for the entire series have not only been elevated but, in many ways, completely reset as well.
Episode Two ended on a somewhat lame cliffhanger, and it’s not long before our group of heroes manage to find their way out of their predicament by doing the very Minecraft thing of just digging straight down. From here, The Last Place You Look moves briskly, skipping from an exciting opening sequence set within a gigantic mob grinder filled with enemies to a visit to the End to find the last missing member of the Order of the Stone (voiced by the always excellent John Hodgman).
Along the way, some of the series’ key relationships and plot lines are moved forward, some quite significantly. Lukas’ growing unease threatens to boil over, your character’s relationship with your Wither sickness-infected party member–whose identity is dependant on a choice you made in Episode 1–gains complexity, and the team’s overarching goal of coming up with an explosive solution to defeat the gigantic Wither destroying the world comes to a head.
Narratively, this is the most complex Minecraft Story Mode has been so far, which is a welcome change from the simpler, black-and-white shading of previous episodes. It’s also the most emotionally wrought. Several scenes were quite affecting, and was surprising given the series’ fairly light and jovial tone so far. While Episode Three is still light years away from the rawness of Telltale’s take on The Walking Dead or Game of Thrones, younger players may need some guidance with some of the heavier situations that occur.
Episode Three also ramps up the tension, and it’s all thanks to those creepy Endermen. Their cold stares, propensity to teleport suddenly, and open- jawed screams are used to great effect here. All of the sequences where hero Jesse and the crew having to contend with Endermen are clear highlights.
It all leads to a conclusion where, while not completely surprising in its details, is still presented in an exciting, involving way that makes you feel–almost–like resolution is close at hand. There’s also a last-gasp character revelation that makes for Story Mode’s first truly intriguing cliffhanger. The ending made me long for that next episode to come quicker.
As always, Minecraft Story Mode’s love for the source material shines through, in touches both large and small. Seeing a gigantic, complex grinder in action made me regret never having the time or skills to make a machine like that in my own Minecraft game, while little character touches (like everyone lowering their eyes so as not to attract Endermen attention) shows off the series’ consistently wonderful attention to detail.
Minecraft Story Mode’s third episode is the best so far, weaving action and story in a tight, focused package. This is another short episode (my first playthrough clocked in at less than 90 minutes), which makes Story Mode a little on the brief side compared to recent Telltale offerings. But that brevity is my biggest complaint, which, if you look at it from the most charitable view, means the game never outstayed its welcome. Story Mode remains a great experience–especially if you’re playing with younger fans of Minecraft–and my anticipation for the next episode remains high.