Review: The Legend of Vox Machina

I’ve never seen an episode of Critical Role, nor was I aware of their Kickstarter to raise funds to create an animated series based on their D&D-themed YouTube channel (which apparently raised something on the order of $11 million, which is pretty darned impressive.

The show ended up getting made, of course, and the first three episodes are now streaming on Prime Video. There was a lot of chatter about it on social media, so I figured I’d check it out.

The animation is very reminiscent of Avatar the Last Airbender, and they set the tone right at the beginning with lots of profanity and gore, and the whole settles into rather adolescent humor, with plenty of dirty jokes. That is pretty much the tone of the whole show; a bunch of goofy misfits looking to save the world as long as they get paid, making a lot of jokes and saying a lot of “naughty” words (how transgressive!).

Imagine Avatar where almost all the characters are Sokka, with gore, profanity, and jokes about anal sex.

Fanon:Sokka, Interrupted - Avatar Wiki, the Avatar: The ...

That said, I didn’t hate it.

I don’t love it, but I do think it has potential. If they can tone down the sophomoric humor a bit, I think it could get really good, in the same way that The Orville improved immensely in its second season, which still had humor, but was just a little more on the serious side. The plots so far have been decent, with interesting characters and some nice twists. But the humor tends to take me out of the moment, because it feels so 21st century.

I know they’re trying to go for a vibe of what it’s like to be at a table playing D&D, but a little more “straight” fantasy will go a long way towards improving the show, at least for me.

I give it 2/5 stars, with the potential for a solid 3.5. We’ll see how the rest of the season progresses.

Written by 

Wargamer and RPG'er since the 1970's, author of Adventures Dark and Deep, Castle of the Mad Archmage, and other things, and proprietor of the Greyhawk Grognard blog.

2 thoughts on “Review: The Legend of Vox Machina

  1. What have people been saying about it on social media? Did it become a flame war between critics who call it a “disgrace” to D&D or social justice run amuck and defenders who enjoy it as an example of “modern” D&D or for how progressive it is?

    I’m sorry to phrase it like that, but in my experience that’s what a lot of these social media arguments devolve into, especially when politics are added to the mix.

    I probably won’t be watching it simply because I’m not going to join a whole streaming service for one show, but as someone who’s watched the entire first Critical Role campaign, reads the comic book that recounts the party’s early adventures before the stream started and owns several of the setting sourcebooks, I can say that the actual campaign could get pretty dark, particularly in later episodes. The stream’s first campaign takes place in the Underdark, with Matt Mercer playing up the Lovecraftian creepiness and the party narrowly avoiding becoming an illithid buffet.

    But I’ve more than had my fill of “Avatar-style” animation where the characters do sudden facial changes, have “popping veins” when they’re angry and “sweat drops” when they’re embarrassed. That, for me, could probably be the most irritating part of the show.

    1. Sorry for being unclear. I wasn’t referring to people having positive or negative views about it on social media. Merely that it had premiered. I had no idea it was even coming, so that’s how I found out about it.

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