Critical Role’s Campaign Two ended earlier this month with its 141st episode, and this week (6/28/21), Critters were introduced to Episode 1 of Exandria Unlimited — an 8-episode mini-campaign set 6 years after the end of Campaign Two.
I am by no means, an expert on Critical Role or Dungeons & Dragons. I haven’t played D&D yet, myself, although I really want to. I have listened to a bunch of one-shots (shout out to Critical Role’s Call of Cthulhu: Shadow of the Crystal Palace for being the catalyst of my Critter journey), and am currently 50 episodes into Campaign Two; loving every minute of my time spent in Exandria. I was extremely pumped, realizing I could watch and experience Critical Role along with everyone else, in real-time, for the first time!
I just finished Exandria Unlimited Episode 1, The Nameless Ones, and figured I’d share my thoughts before they disappear like the party’s memory.
I found Episode 1 of Exandria Unlimited to be a mixed bag.
Liam O’Brien – I really enjoyed Orym, the halfling, so far. It’s nice to see Liam play a character with confidence (compared to Caleb).
Matt Mercer – It’s really fun seeing Matt as a player. He seems so excited to be playing in the world he created and it was great seeing him get his first “How do you want to do this?” I’m also really enjoying his character, Dariax. He’s got a great mix of chaos and charisma, and also a great voice!
Robbie Daymond – Robbie seems like a natural to D&D and I really dig his Bard, Dorian. He seems to be playing the voice of reason of the group, AKA, the mom. Not much else to say other than, I’m enjoying both character, and performance.
That, unfortunately, was really all I enjoyed about this first episode of Exandria Unlimited. Let’s tackle the negatives.
Aabria Iyengar – I’m just not really jiving with Aabria’s DMing; how NPC’s, and even the whole plot was handled:
- DM – Maybe it’s just a DM style, but she asks for A LOT of checks by the characters; did you really need to roll to look for food in a house?
- The Plot – characters wake up with the last week lost from their minds – very cliché (although maybe this will be explained in future episodes). They wind up catching a thief, Poska, who spills the beans on her grand plan and decides to give the party a test job to work for her. Orym, who clearly does not want to be caught up in this evil scheme, must be coaxed by Dariax (Matt) to join the party because being a criminal can sometimes be “fun”. The thief, Poska goes upstairs and barricades the door, so she can no longer be spoken to. Okay?
- Railroading – I understand this is an 8-episode campaign, but Aabria clearly wants the party to go through her planned story beats, which breaks a lot of the fun with D&D. Hell, right before they get into combat, Liam remarks about being chased and forced into a warehouse (where the combat takes place) and Aabria literally says “You let me do this! I worked so hard on this map, you have to go in there!” Throughout the episode, Aabria tells characters or even the whole party, what they are doing or how they feel. Shouldn’t how they feel or what they decide to do be up to them?
- Breaking Immersion– many times she “pulled the camera back” or just straight up told the party “you don’t have to roll for this, but I’ll tell you where you are” — it just really took me out of the story. The major reason why I love Critical Role is that I don’t feel like I’m listening to a game, but I’m listening to the Mighty Nein’s story as it happens to them; I’m just a fly on the wall. Aabria went out of her way to give some information “for the audience”, which really broke the magic.
Opal – Aimee Carrero is playing Dungeons & Dragons for the first time, so I get it. But, man, there is nothing like a Valley Girl character to take you right out of a fantasy adventure. I will say that, after the break, she did seem to play this down a bit, so we’ll see where she goes with the character. I did chuckle at the scene with the pen and the illusionary script she was supposed to set up, having no idea what that meant (both character and player).
Toilet Humor – I can’t believe I’m saying this, but there was a little too much toilet humor in the episode. We get it, they got drunk and peed. I feel like it went on a bit too long.
I really did not intend to do a write-up like this or take notes while I listened, but I was just really disappointed. I’ll give it at least, another episode, hoping that it just gets better from here.
Exandria Unlimited Episode 1 | The Nameless Ones gets a 2/5.
A bit harsh? I don’t think so. This is 4 hours of my time and it didn’t live up to the Critical Role standards. This makes 2 Dungeons & Dragons disappointments for me this month, as I didn’t love the new Dark Alliance Game, either.
If you haven’t watched it yet, check out Episode 1 for yourself, below. If you’re all caught up — Check out the Episode 2 Review!