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...

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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Gradine

The Elephant in the Room (she/they)
I'm not a CR fan by any stretch, so I didn't know much of anything about these characters when I first started the show. That said, I struggled quite a bit to get into it after the first three episodes. The plot is sort standard faire, no complaints here. My issues mainly stem from the cast:

At this point, Pike and Keyleath(?) are the only characters who have fully endeared themselves to me, and neither has gotten much of the spotlight so far. Vax (or Vex? No, it's Vax) has gotten a lot of screentime and so far seems like the most three-dimensional member of the party by a longshot, and I like him.

The rest of the party, at least so far, falls neatly into the "My First D&D Character Cliche Set"; the horny bard, the dumb berserker, they killed my parents, they killed my parents (aristocrat version). I'm sure these characters are all better at the table, a lot less room to play with in the short cartoon format, but I'm really hoping the show gives me more of a reason to care about these idiots soon. I could do with seeing a lot more of some of these underdeveloped characters more.




I take that last part back, actually, I could do with considerably less Scanlan.
 

That interview with Matt Mercer linked a few posts back seems to have been recorded before the show became available, and he'd already pegged Scanlan as potentially being the most polarizing character (at least early on, though he also notes the character develops later in the story).
 

Bolares

Hero
Sure, they are underdeveloped, but we just got 3 episodes. It's really hard to develop 7 characters in 60 minutes of an animated show. I believe they will/hope they will get developed during the season, but calling them underdeveloped now seems a little unfair. IMHO they are not underdeveloped (yet), they are developing.
 

Zaukrie

New Publisher
We watched the first two. They were fine to good....but I'm not generally a fan of stupid crude humor. I get others are, so if it is just a small bit, it won't bother me.

I've never seen a bard played that way....I mean, I play a bard now, and don't play that way. I've played for 4-5 decades, and not once has sex or hitting on barmaids (or men) ever come up. Not every game is played that way.....

Oh, kill the modern sounding music, please! Horrible for immersion (for me, this is all opinion after all).
 

Zaukrie

New Publisher
I'm always amazed how these threads turn into product management* discussions. Sigh.

I'm also always amazed how people expect a new show to hit its stride in episode one, or two, or even five. It is a rare show that hits its stride that fast (see season one of Star Trek, Next Gen vs later seasons). I'm happy to give it room to breathe for a season before deciding how I feel about it.

*And I'm a former product manager.....
 

Gradine

The Elephant in the Room (she/they)
Sure, they are underdeveloped, but we just got 3 episodes. It's really hard to develop 7 characters in 60 minutes of an animated show. I believe they will/hope they will get developed during the season, but calling them underdeveloped now seems a little unfair. IMHO they are not underdeveloped (yet), they are developing.
I realize I'm being a little unfair here, but by the same token it's not actually that difficult to get me onboard with 7 characters in three episodes of television. I want to know, by this point, what separates these characters from stock fantasy (and specifically D&D) tropes and feel them as individual characters. I'm not ruling out that there isn't time to do that, and I'm not giving up on the show at all, but I also shouldn't be so apathetic to the majority of your cast by the end of episode 1, let alone episode 3.
 

Zaukrie

New Publisher
I realize I'm being a little unfair here, but by the same token it's not actually that difficult to get me onboard with 7 characters in three episodes of television. I want to know, by this point, what separates these characters from stock fantasy (and specifically D&D) tropes and feel them as individual characters. I'm not ruling out that there isn't time to do that, and I'm not giving up on the show at all, but I also shouldn't be so apathetic to the majority of your cast by the end of episode 1, let alone episode 3.
I don't agree....it just isn't that easy to do in 25-30 minutes. It really is a rare show that can do that. Also, why do all the characters have to have depth (I may regret asking that.....)?
 

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