The Legend of Vox Machina Season 1 Review
Critical Role’s via Amazon Prime – The Legend of Vox Machina is an animated series that raised over 11 million dollars on Kickstarter. This first season for Critical Role (and critters) – was a dream come true, as Matt, Liam, Laura, Taliesin, Marisha, Travis, and Sam had just hoped to raise enough funds for a single, 22-minute special. The outcome? Fans raised insane amounts of money, and they blew past their $750,000 goal in less than an hour. By the end of the Kickstarter campaign, they were left with enough funds to produce a 10 episode season.
And after shopping around, they managed a deal with Amazon that landed them 2 additional episodes for season 1, and an additional 12-episode season 2.
How did Season 1 of the Legend of Vox Machina turn out?
For reference, I’m a critter (the designated name for fans of Critical Role), but I fell in with Campaign 2 (the story of the Mighty Nein), not Vox Machina and Campaign 1. My experience with Vox Machina is minimal; only watching some one-shots and basically clips of Grog with (and I’ll say this without spoilers), his fun magical item. So other than that and reading some wiki entries, I’m a Campaign 1 newbie.
For this Season 1 review, let me start out by saying — for backers and Campaign 1 veterans, I understand that this is amazing. Critical Role was able to create the show the way they wanted to have it. They had full creative control in their deal with Amazon, so if you think this is a 5 out of 5 and amazing; awesome, I’m happy you loved it. I know a lot of moments and scenes are complete fan-service, but for my personal review preferences — I will be critiquing The Legend of Vox Machina as a stand-alone animated series.
Vox Machina Art & Animation
The art style of The Legend of Vox Machina is amazing. It’s got that, I don’t know what to call it, American “anime” style? Character designs and background art are all fantastic. I have some issues with the animation here and there; maybe a bit too many scenes of lips flapping on mostly static frames of animation, but I understand that’s going to be the case during non-action scenes.
My issues mostly come from the use of CGI; I thought the dragon Brimscythe looked pretty bad, as CGI can look very out of place without the proper budget. The cart chase scene with the undead werewolves/direwolves pop out and look out of place.
That isn’t to say all is bad; I’m pretty sure some of the battle sequences in episode 11 used CGI during the battle against Sylas, and it turned out great, as this sequence was my favorite part of season 1. Overall, I found the majority of the battle sequences to be pretty disappointing, especially since this is a band of adventures, that do a lot of fighting. To me, it seems as if they saved their budget for episodes 11 and 12 (or it’s possible that Amazon took care of funding for those final 2 episodes since it was part of their original 14-episode expansion order). Throughout the season, many of the fights were more implied than actually shown, with lots of quick cuts and arms swinging.
Vox Machina Writing & Pacing
I can’t really criticize the plot or character decisions of season 1 because it’s literally based on events of Critical Role Campaign 1, and being critical of choices made by Vox Machina (the players) would be silly as it’s from a game of Dungeons and Dragons.
What I can criticize in season 1 — the writing and pacing from the writers and showrunner.
Pacing for me, was a huge problem. In the first two episodes (The Terror of Tal’Dorei) the pacing is extremely fast; everything flies by. I really think this mini-arc would have benefitted from more screen time as a fantastic one-off 60/90 minute special, not directly related to season 1 (at least not as an introduction to the series). But alas, it was always supposed to start this way, due to the Kickstarter campaign; backers were promised a new story that took place off-camera (before the events of the first streamed episode of Critical Role).
Unfortunately, the rest of season 1 doesn’t match its two-part intro. Everything is turned up past 11: the pacing, the comedy, the vulgarity (we literally have Keyleth puking inside the mouth of some guy she’s fighting, and Scanlan about to have sex, animated boobs, and all). These episodes are fan service and were supposed to be, but the poor writing choices stand out like a sore thumb. For example:
- Gilmore has a Sword of Dragonslaying that is more money than Vox Machina can afford. So why doesn’t Uriel buy it for them? Later on, he winds up giving them a whole keep, he can’t buy them a sword that aids in killing dragons, when a dragon is literally destroying towns across Tal’Dorei?
- Or what about the fact that Uriel seems to hire Vox Machina simply because they have a bear and he liked their song?
Throughout the season, I found there to be many of these little quips characters would give, almost as if they were thinking out loud. I don’t know how you do this better, but they just felt out of place and sounded awkward. It doesn’t help that I found the voice acting to be sub-par for Scanlan, Keyleth, and in the first half, Grog.
- I found Sam’s Scanlan performance to sound as if he was just reading lines, very robotic. Scanlan in general I didn’t really like as a character, so that doesn’t help, either (Although from the Scanbo sequence on I found him to be tolerable).
- Marisha’s Keyleth was overacted; a problem I typically have with anime dubs. Some of this goes on the writing, as she’s supposed to be unsure, and questioning herself until we see growth (she did save their asses quite a few times), but I found a lot of her dialogue and delivery to be awkward.
- Grog was hit or miss. I blame the writing mostly for this (the sandwich scene stands out). Luckily, I sort of forgot about my issues with Grog because he had some amazing moments (that smile when he’s about to kill some de rolo zombies, the acid dive and all the battles with Sylas, etc.).
The rest of Vox Machina were great, with Taliesin’s Percy standing way above everyone else; which makes sense since he was basically the star of this arc. The combination of terror and vengeance that Percy expresses was truly, well done. He was my favorite character, by far.
Vax and Vex sounded and looked great, but were maybe a little bit forgettable. Pike, I’m sort of indifferent about.
Bringing this back around to the plot; The Briarwood arc is fascinating to me, so much so, that I’m 100% going to start watching it in campaign 1 when I’m done. But, I found season 1 to have so many pacing issues. See my video for specific examples, I just found the middle of the season to drag on until the final 3 episodes.
The Legend of Vox Machina Season 1 gets a 3/5
Overall, I enjoyed this first season, but I think it’s just Good and not Great. Two bad episodes to start the season, followed by the Briarwood arc that included bad to okay episodes sandwiched between amazing ones. Shocking twists and fantastic boss bottles were not enough to outweigh some of the poor writing and slow pacing issues. The Legend of Vox Machina wasn’t able to translate hours of D&D into a short animated season
Let me know what you thought of Critical Role’s first season of The Legend of Vox Machina.
If you haven’t seen my reviews for the full season or episodes, check out this video playlist of The Legend of Vox Machina Reviews, here or read the written reviews, here!