We all have that one thing we can never get enough of, that one thing that you always go back to. Your comfort shows that you always go back to and never get enough, no matter how many times you have watched it. For me, that show is Critical Role.
For those who don’t know, Critical Role is “a bunch of nerdy-ass voice actors sit around and play Dungeons & Dragons.” Started first as a home game, the show spans 100’s of episodes and over (now) three campaigns. The Legend of Vox Machina adapts what most consider to be Critical Role’s most popular arc from its first campaign, The Briarwood arc.
The series follows a group of mercenaries called Vox Machina who, in an attempt to pay off their bar tab, end up on a quest to save the realm of Exandria from dark magical forces. But, the group soon finds themselves tangled in the dealings of the mysterious and dangerous Lord and Lady Briarwood of Whitestone, with whom one of their own has a history.
(This review pertains to the first six episodes of the series.)
I have seen every single episode of Critical Role multiple times, it is a lot to watch, with each episode being an average of four hours. So it was certain that they would have to streamline the show, keep only what made this arc iconic. For fans of the show, we get everything we love about Vox Machina. The twins, Vex and Vax, are still fabulous, No Mercy Percy returns, Keyleth realizing her power, Pike and Grog being the best of buddies and, of course, Scanlan being Scanlan, it’s what we loved about them and that is still very true in the show.
If you have never seen an episode of Critical Role fear not, The Legend of Vox Machina takes that into consideration. This serves as an introduction, while fans will know the characters, the show understands that not everyone will. Their relationships might be already established, but this is very much the beginning of their adventures, the characters are not the ones we, as fans, know by the end of the campaign. It is a way for old fans to relive beloved moments while also introducing the characters to a new audience.
There is something to say about how the show is now able to explore stories that they could not before. Pike gets a bigger role with this since unlike when the campaign was taking place Ashley Johnson is available for every single episode, we get to follow Delilah and Silas, which we couldn’t do with the campaign since they were NPC’s, the show gets to also fix some of the things that the players were just unable to do during the gameplay. It’s little things and yet, for fans, it will be everything.
What Legend of Vox Machina does well is that it does not lose what made Critical Role so fun to watch from the very beginning. It was a bunch of idiots around a table having fun roleplaying and that translated into their characters. The show could have easily tried to go the more serious route and yet, decided to keep what we all loved about this show. The lovable idiots that were Vox Machina.
If the first two episodes serve as an origin story for the group, taking a story that fans of the show have not seen yet, the show wastes no time in jumping right into what we all came to watch. And, it does not disappoint. The direction of the story is clear and never falters, it gives old and new fans a story that is intriguing but also unique.
If there was one thing we always knew about The Legend of Vox Machina was that the voice acting was going to be on point. After all, these are some of the best working voice actors in Hollywood. Starring Critical Role founders and cast members Laura Bailey (The Last of Us: Part II), Taliesin Jaffe (Final Fantasy XIV), Ashley Johnson (The Last of Us), Liam O’Brien (Star Wars: The Bad Batch), Matthew Mercer (Overwatch), Marisha Ray (Final Fantasy XV), Sam Riegel (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles), and Travis Willingham (Marvel’s Avengers), the show makes the best use of their talents. They know these characters like the back of their hand and it is clear they are having so much fun with them.
But it also brings in many surprises. If in the original play, Matthew Mercer voiced every NPC (Non-Playable Characters) it was obvious that the show would have to cast others in the role. And to be able to experience a new version of those characters that we all loved is just incredible. From our favourite shopkeeper, Gilmore (Sunil Malhotra) to everyone’s favourite wives Lady Kima (Stephanie Beatriz) and Lady Allura (Indira Varma), we get to see a new version of them and someone other than Matt’s imagination of what they can be like. It brings something fresh to the series and keeps fans of the show intrigued by the possibilities of it all.
The Legend of Vox Machina doesn’t shy away from being gory and R-Rated. It is still in the vein of what we, as Critical Role fans, know but it also works incredibly well as an introduction to the world of Exandria. It works perfectly for everyone, making the best use of what made Critical Role such a success and expanding what it could be, opening the possibility of so much content of Critters all around the world, and based on how much I enjoyed those first six episodes, I am excited at the prospect of how much more we could be getting in the near future.
And yes, the Briarwood arc is still the most iconic in Critical Role lore, but the show doesn’t forget the true villains of the show… doors.