Please note that since each episode of Minecraft: Story Mode features the same graphics engine and control setup, those elements will not be repeated in our reviews for the final four episodes. To read our thoughts on that, refer to our review of Order of the Stone.
Picking up right where Access Denied left off, A Journey’s End? opens with Jesse, Petra, Lukas and Ivor following Harper to acquire the Atlas — a book the group needs to find their way home — from the other Old Builders. As it happens, however, Harper’s one-time cohorts aren’t nearly as pleasant, and they won’t simply be handing the book over to Jesse.
In fact, Jesse and company arrive in the midst of a game called “spleef,” where teams try to destroy the ground underneath their opponents to cause them to fall. It’s all part of a much larger game that is being overseen by the trio of Hadrian, Mevia and Otto. They don’t take kindly to the intrusion, particularly Hadrian and Mevia, whose arrogance easily makes them the most hated characters to emerge in the eight-episode run.
While the Old Builders initially want to banish the Order of the Stone to the mines where all losing teams go, Jesse manages to leverage a deal: if he wins the game, they’ll be given the Atlas and allowed to return home.
It’s an interesting setup and one that borrows elements from films like Tron and The Running Man where the three Old Builders dangle the carrot of freedom but continually rig the games so that their captive inhabitants are forced to remain.
Stacking the deck against Jesse in the finale is a good move, and Episode 8 manages to piece together arguably the most intense and interesting action sequences in the series’ run. Sure, they all ultimately boil down to quick-time events, but watching the manner in which they play out really underscores just how far you’ve come as heroes.
Also working in the episode’s favor is the presence of two truly unlikeable antagonists: Hadrian and Mevia. They cheat, they lie, they manipulate, and all of that makes you want to see them get their comeuppance — a feeling I never really experienced during the initial battles with the Wither Storm, which was more force of nature than villain.
Not everything works great in the finale. Wandering around the competitor village trying to feed one of the gladiators is a dull sequence, and the game ends up taking the decision I was waiting the entire episode to make out of your hands.
It also feels like it sprints to the finish line at a time where it would’ve been fun to spend a little more time wrapping up the time you’ve spent with your crew. There are some nice moments of reminiscing, and it’s not a Mass Effect 3 fade to black scenario, but more could’ve been done.
Minecraft: Story Mode goes out with another solid effort, and its ambiguous ending underscores why they put a question mark in the episode’s title. While A Journey’s End? may be the end of this arc, it wouldn’t be at all surprising to see a second season down the road.