Escape Velocity

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The Legend of Vox Machina is an animated series based on the popular tabletop role-playing game, "Critical Role." The story follows a group of adventurers known as Vox Machina. Together, they embark on dangerous quests, battle monsters, and uncover mysteries in the fantasy world of Exandria. The series captures the thrilling and often humorous moments of the group's epic journeys, showcasing their individual strengths, vulnerabilities, and the bonds they forge along the way.

This review relates to season 1 and 2.

I really loved campaign one of Critical Role. It was the first Actual play D&D campaign that I watched and I was super impressed by their ability to mix comedy and drama. While I’m not exactly up to date on Critical Role nowadays (I’ve watched exactly half of an episode of Campaign 3) I was still super excited to hear about their Animated Series coming out. Did I watch it a year after its release? Yes. But that’s only because I didn’t want to get an Amazon Prime account and I needed to find someone else to sell their soul instead of me (so thanks for that, Peter!).

Overall, I liked season one. The pacing was a little bit strange, which I think was a result of the short season length. In the original game, there’s a lot of downtime. That downtime is where a lot of character development happens. Because of the pacing of The Legend of Vox Machina, it’s hard to really connect with the characters. They are constantly “on”. Vex’Ahlia is one of my favourite characters, but in The Legend of Vox Machina, she doesn’t quite have the time to show both her sharp and her soft sides. She’s constantly a little bitchy. In the original campaign she has much more time to be funny and charming and off-duty, if you will.

A similar thing happens with Scanlan. In the campaign, his actions may often annoy the other characters, but the players are folded over laughing. In the show, we don’t see the reaction from the players. He is funny, but when he does things the other characters perceive as annoying, there’s little to remind you that that can be funny as well. Compare it to a laughing track: take that away, and we no longer know which jokes to laugh at.

To be fair they did omit some stuff from the campaign that either didn’t age well or was funny because the cast seemed to have a strong connection and knowledge of each other’s boundaries. Take for example Scanlan’s crush on Pike, which is much more inappropriate in the original Campaign. These things wouldn’t have translated well to the show and I’m glad they left them out.

So the pacing is a little weird, which made it harder to connect with the characters. I would love a format more like Avatar: The Last Airbender. That show had filler episodes that gave us time to really bond with the main cast.

Aside from the pacing, the story is good and the writing is fine. Nothing ground breaking but serviceable for a fantasy series of its kind.

Season two is definitely better than season one. There’s less pressure to “introduce” the characters, so everything happens a little more organically than in season one. I can imagine the stakes also get a little higher once viewers are familiar with the characters and care a bit more about what happens to them.

I actually really wonder what it’s like to watch this without knowing Critical Role. Things that get to marinate a little longer in the campaign happen really quickly in the Legend of Vox Machina. An iconic scene from Critical Role which takes like 30 minutes to play out is over in 10 seconds in The Legend of Vox Machina. I often found myself going to Youtube to rewatch the original scenes because seeing it happen in TLOVM just didn’t scratch that itch the same way.

This review relates to season 1 and 2.

Similar to Lotte, I waited till Peter got Amazon Prime before I started watching The Legend of Vox Machina. As a fan of Critical Role’s actual play campaigns, I was very curious to see the adaptation. The Vox Machina campaign and characters are not my favourite (Mighty Nein, you are the best and I can’t wait for your series), but I could think of a few events that would look great when animated.

The first season left me a little underwhelmed. I more of less binged it and I was entertained. However, it lacked the emotional depth and the casual humour that made me fall in love with Critical Role in the first place. Maybe because it had the difficult task to set up the setting and characters in relatively few episodes.

I liked the second season much better. Maybe because the pacing suited me better. Or maybe just because it had a lot of dragons destroying civilization, something I always thoroughly enjoy.

The Legend of Vox Machina is a good place to start if you want to get somewhat involved with the Critical Role fandom, but are afraid of their thousands of hours of content. As an animation series on itself it’s okay, but not the best or most original out there.

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