Critical Role The Legend of Vox Machina: Bawdy, Bloody, and Funny

With The Legend of Vox Machina, Critical Role comes full circle from being voice actors playing D&D (first in a private game, then streaming on Geek & Sundry) to an $11 million Kickstarter for an animated special. That success attracted streaming network interest, which then morphed into a 24-episode animated series where they're voicing their own characters.

With The Legend of Vox Machina, Critical Role comes full circle from being voice actors playing D&D (first in a private game, then streaming on Geek & Sundry) to an $11 million Kickstarter for an animated special. That success attracted streaming network interest, which then morphed into a 24-episode animated series where they're voicing their own characters.

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If you've never watched Critical Role Season 1 or read any of the stories, TLoVM the animated series is easy to jump into. Instead of being exposition heavy or thrusting viewers into a lot of world building, it starts with some classic fantasy – especially fantasy RPG – tropes like a drunken bar brawl and mercenaries being killed (a TPK) by a mysterious force. Those scenes are delivered with hefty dose of humor, a bit of blood, and some nudity.

This isn't the '80s Saturday morning Dungeons & Dragons cartoon for kids. While there is gore, it's less than an episode of Invincible and far less than that show's season 1 finale. Similarly, TLoVM has nudity and a bit of sex in the first few episodes, but far less than Game of Thrones.

Vox Machina is an established group at the start of the series, but one that needs money and has a less than stellar reputation. The land of Emon is being ravaged by a mysterious threat. A bit of desperation on both sides leads to the bickering heroes taking the job.

TLoVM is bawdy, bloody, and funny, but it also has heart. The first two episodes tell a complete story with an obvious hook at the end that leads into the rest of the episodes – and a stinger hinting at new threats.

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The animation style has clean lines with some anime influence, but nothing excessively intricate or artsy. At the same, the art direction has style, like a scene that adds interest to the characters walking by showing it through a spider's web dotted with raindrops.

The first episode establishes the eight members of Vox Machina quickly with the following episodes building nicely upon each character's traits. Matthew Mercer voices several of the supporting characters, but in this format he doesn't have to cover all of the NPCs. The guest star talent includes David Tennant, Stephanie Beatriz, Tony Hale. Felica Day is the voice of a bandit.

And if they don't sell a stuffed toy bear version of Trinket at some point, Critical Role is missing out on a merchandise opportunity. TLoVM hits the perfect sweet spot between making Vex's companion bear fierce in battle, amusing when waiting, and adorable the rest of the time.

No critic has been given advance access to the entire first season, let alone all 24 episodes, so it's impossible to say how well the entire story arc plays out, but the first few episodes are entertaining and well made.

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You don't have to be a fan of Critical Role to enjoy The Legend of Vox Machina, but if you're a fan of fantasy adventure, TLoVM might turn you into Critter. The Legend of Vox Machina debuts on Amazon Prime on Friday, January 28, with the first three episodes. Critical Role will be holding watch parties on their Twitch channel at 7pm Tuesdays.
 

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Beth Rimmels

Beth Rimmels


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Burnside

Space Jam Confirmed
Supporter
I mean, the actual proper story arc starts with Episode 3, the first two were just an introduction. The campaign went to some fairly dark places at this point (episode 3 starting at where episode 24 of the campaign did).

They have a pre-existing source to directly adapt from, and it's a rather enjoyable one.

If the first two episodes of the cartoon were bad, the first two episodes of the cartoon were bad. If they’re bad because they “weren’t part of the actual proper story arc” or what-have-you, then maybe just cut them?
 

If the first two episodes of the cartoon were bad, the first two episodes of the cartoon were bad. If they’re bad because they “weren’t part of the actual proper story arc” or what-have-you, then maybe just cut them?
They aren't bad. They are actually very good, they just had a few people clutching at their pearls. Because D&D is supposed to be deadly serious.
 

Burnside

Space Jam Confirmed
Supporter
They aren't bad. They are actually very good, they just had a few people clutching at their pearls. Because D&D is supposed to be deadly serious.

I thought they were bad. Not because I was scandalized by the content, but because the writing was weak and the characters were thinly drawn.

If I was not already a CR fan, I 100% would have stopped watching after episode 1.
 


As a non-CR watcher starting to check this out, my reaction has been mixed so far. I think the art and animation is really nice (someone said it was 'saturday morning cartoon' standard above, and i think that's very unfair). The initial two episodes are obviously designed to be a sort of for-dummies guide, introducing the characters and having a neat little self-contained plot arc. They remind me a little of the two-part premiere of Buffy, except LoVM is rushing trying to establish twice the number of characters in half the time. and it felt fairly simplistic and primary-coloured as a result. Especially the big See What We Can Do When We Work Together moral-of-the-story bit at the climax of ep 2.

The tone was a surprise. I was expecting violence and quips and silliness, I wasn't expecting American Pie. It did seem a bit uneven though, we'll see if it continues, or settles, or whether all the rather juvenile sex and gross-out stuff was just a once-off trying to be oooh-daring and get attention to the first episode.

And i profoundly hate Scanlan with the fire of a thousand suns, not in an 'i will keep watching in the hope I'll get to see bad things happen to this character' way but in a 'i have to battle not to switch off when this character is on screen' way, and i'm finding that very difficult to get past.

I'll keep watching (assuming i can continue to stomach Scanlan) cos D&D on screen is a rare and precious thing and this is approximately eleventy bazillion times better than the Wayans movie already. Early episodes are often uneven while a show finds its feet. Another week and we should be actually into a season plot arc and I'll see if it grabs me enough to keep going.
 

Bolares

Hero
Except when relatively minor changes could have made it much more accessible. I hear a lot of talk about how D&D should be inclusive… except here when language and sex would push people away. Like kids, or their parents.

It’s definitely not a good look for the D&D brand.
D&D, the game, should absolutely be for everyone. Not all content related to D&D has to go with the same parameters. This is a creative work based on a real (how real could be a whole other thread) D&D campaing, and is trying to emulate the tone and humor that table had. This show is not D&D.
 

we should have a topic or not if your D&D campaign ever touches the content seen in critical role (crude, excessive violence etc). i know in a lot of mine you have to be almost like mercenaries and looting just like in video games is required if you want to pay the tavern bill. The only time romance was a factor in campaigns that i played in might have to go back to dragonlance where certain characters were in relationships

one thing that the show seems to capture is the luck of dice. If it follows the the live play we are going to see epic fails and epic wins with dice like any D&D session. we are going to see head scratching decisions What happened to Vax is something almost every rogue character ive played (the rogue or scout character can often face an enemy alone while sneaking into a building etc. Percy yelling at the table while others dont know whats going on. If its a good DM and player than that situation is almost expected. been at tons of sessions where a character has an action/reaction that is suprising to the others. heck i can remeber back in first/second edition where running from combat was almost expected.
 



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