I just finished Episode 2 of Critical Role’s 8-Episode mini-campaign, Exandria Unlimited. And this one wasn’t a mixed bag like Episode 1 was;
Episode 2 of Exandria Unlimited is just plain, bad.
I’m left not really knowing what is going on in the plot, or why the party is doing any of what they are doing. I even re-listening to most of the episode, to see if I could put more of it together. The players seem to be having a fun enough time, but its not making for good entertainment, and definitely not up to Critical Role standards.
The beginning of the episode is easy enough to follow; the party runs into two more Nameless Ones, and another battle commences. Opal charms one of the enemies to go out for a beer and leaves the rest of her allies to fend for themselves. I found this whole scene to be odd; mostly a combination of Aimee’s chaotic, newbie, role-playing, and Aabria not really knowing how to handle the situation. It was very chaotic. Opal is definitely the “wild card” but she’s a little too wild. Battles in Critical Role are probably my least favorite part, so this just sort of set the tone for this episode.
The party eventually makes their way out of Emon and makes camp, to rest. Talk of residuum and drugs were followed by more encounters with the circlet they found. When a character touches the circlet, Aabria asks their character’s alignment, which I find odd. Shouldn’t the DM know this information already? Giving this information out to other PCs seems to give away the mystery of that character. We barely know them yet, but now know if they are Good/Evil/Neutral.
From here, we had a few interactions between Opal and her Patron, Ted, followed by a lore dump from Orym, that ties into Campaign One. Now, I don’t know much about the first campaign, so I’m honestly pretty lost with all the talk about Keyleth and Air Ashari. It seems a bit odd tying into Campaign One with a laid-back mini-campaign. My assumption is that Critical Role has hopes that Exandria Unlimited would be an easy listen for someone that has debated jumping into 100+ episodes of either campaign, due to the commitment. An 8 episode story is a good way to test the waters and hopefully hook them for the upcoming, Campaign Three.
For most of Exandria Unlimited Episode 2, I had no idea what was going on.
Matt Mercer at one point just looks around and literally says “I am legitimately not following any of this…” and that really sums up “The Oh No Plateau” for me. It’s been chaotic for a story-focused medium. I can’t really reiterate what is going on with the plot. The blame goes to the DM for this.
“She had such a uniquely, fantastic flair for really expressing narrative and drawing you in, and following the player’s instincts, and weaving the story out of that magic of what’s happening now.”Matt Mercer from Exandria Unlimted: meet the players
Aabria unfortunately, is not living up to this hype, at all. I talked about the railroading in my Episode 1 review, and I want to focus on NPCs a bit this time.
Aabria’s NPCs all sound exactly the same.
I’m not talking about their voices, either. Yes, Matt Mercer gives his NPCs amazing voices, and Aabria does not “voice-act” them out; her NPCs all have the same exact personality and the same exact way of speaking. None of them are memorable. Sure, there was some non-binary elf, and if that’s what you want me to remember about the character; job well done…I guess. I don’t remember: this elf’s name, what they look like, what they said, etc. Every NPC the party encounters just blends together; they seem to be confused, and speak in broken sentences. Matt Mercer is one of a kind, so I’m not trying to directly compare the two; I just don’t think Aabria has been good so far in Exandria Unlimited.
Poor NPCs and a confusing story make for a sub-par Critical Role experience.
There were some other situations that didn’t rub me the right way:
- Aabria’s “I’m sorry, did I fucking stutter?” was kind of shocking to hear when Aimee asked about her magic not working.
- Taking away Opal’s power and Opal refusing to apologize (which clearly would bring her powers back) seemed both significant and insignificant.
- Fearne – I wish I had more to say about her. So far she has blended into the background for me.
- Little Mister – The little monkey is both a wildfire spirit and a fire elemental and I’m confused about his link to Fearne. I think this was probably explained during the week that the party doesn’t remember?
Exandria Unlimited Episode 2 | The Oh No Plateau gets a 1/5.
At this point, I might listen to the rest of Exandria Unlimited, even though it’s bad. I wound up subbing to Critical Role’s Twitch for a month, so I could listen again without needing to wait for the episode to be uploaded to YouTube. Plus, I’m a bit curious to see how the chaos of Opal turns out, even though I don’t really enjoy her character. I have to give Aimee props because I hated Opal in episode 1, and her scenes and actions are the only memorable elements of episode 2.
What did you think of Exandria Unlimited Episode 2 “The Oh No Plateau”? If you haven’t seen it yet, check out Episode 2 for yourself, below. If you’re caught up — Check out the Episode 3 Review!
July 9, 2021 at 8:47 am
kinda sums it up. I’ll keep watching because watching a new player used to having a director be let off the leash is just always magical to me, but I hope free story itself grows up abd Heya a bit more compelling. I’ve watched ep. 3 and I’ll say it doooeees start trending better after a long opening bit.
So far, it’s not where it’s direct someone who is CR curious. Too much time turns into riffing into a comedy bit that serves no true purpose. But, as a long time critter, I’m not forgiving as I almost feel Matt trying to just be chill and permissive to Aimee’s exploring RP for the first time. Robbie seems like a natural, Aimee is totally having a blast but is in a bit of a “small downer away at college trying everything for the first time just because they realize they can” phase, which can be fun itself if you have some pre-existing investment in paying attention otherwise. If not, in think confusion would cause a new critter to tune out in a lot of cases.
July 9, 2021 at 8:50 am
if my post had typos, I apologize. it’s been mean about editing but I hope it made sense.
July 9, 2021 at 8:58 am
hmmm ok I’ll add a little note as I’ve thought more. Maybe the value of this to a new DnD/CR curious viewer is that it’s a better representation of how a first time home game group might go with some brand new players… if that was what was explained as the point and that the show isn’t thus far a good representation of the depth and fun of the real campaigns.
So I’d tell a new possible player/critter “Imagine this in main campaigns but with characters who’s motivations make sense, in a deep, emotionally engaging, compelling narrative where the players have extreme agency and the DM masterfully weaves it all into into an unforgettable story”.
one feels very home game-ish, the other feels very polished and practiced while being amazing as an unscripted, improv narrative with the chaotic element of die rolls causing all sorts of reactions.
July 9, 2021 at 9:48 am
I mostly agree with you here. For a new listener/player, I think there are one shots that do a MUCH better job with grabbing you. For a couple of years I dabbled with CR with their different one shots. I thought it was cool, but felt like jumping into their campaigns were a bit too much of a commitment. I listened to Taliesin’s Call of Cthulhu One shot and was sold; I immediately bought both the Call of Cthulhu & D&D Starter sets, and shortly after started Campaign 2.
I only listened to about the first 45 minutes of episode 3 last night, so I’ll catch up this weekend. My initial thoughts – Episode 3 started stronger, but everything up until that point sort of feels like when you start an open world RPG, and you just do the side quests in the opening area, one after another. I’ll develop that thought more in the Episode 3 review, depending on how it goes.
Can you edit your comments? I thought I turned off the “hold until approved” setting, but I saw that there was another setting checked off that holds the first comment for new poster.