The Legend of Vox Machina Review The Nerdy Basement

‘The Legend of Vox Machina’ Review: Rising to Heroics of the Most Chaotic

If you really think about it, the story of Critical Role can be considered a legend in and of itself. Its well-documented rise from a home game of Dungeons of Dragons to a Twitch stream to a multimedia company is an inspiring story to see unfold, and all of those efforts finally come to a head with “The Legend of Vox Machina”.

After a record-breaking Kickstarter campaign that raised over $10 million in funds for what was supposed to be two episodes, Amazon picked the series up and gave it two seasons’ worth of time to share the story of Vox Machina. Season 1 officially drops next week, and with it, fans — collectively known as “Critters” — and newcomers alike will be able to witness Dungeon Master Matthew Mercer’s world fully realized in animation.

Fortunately, the show is an absolute marvel, regardless of how experienced one is with the original source material. With stellar art design, music, writing, and voice acting, the show fires on all spheres to make Vox Machina’s story as epic in scope as it was so many years ago when it was just a game of D&D.

In the fantasy continent of Tal’dorei, plenty of creatures both normal and supernatural live among the people. Adventurers do their best to make a living, as is the case with the recently formed band of adventurers known as Vox Machina. With a mish-mash of personalities that occasionally clash, the group is down on its luck and trying to find its place in the world, when they are suddenly thrust into nation-spanning conflicts outside of their depth. With threats that endanger both them and the nation at large, Vox Machina must face new enemies and ones from their past as they decide what their futures are and try to save Tal’dorei from a threat that lurks in the shadows.

The Legend of Vox Machina Review The Nerdy Basement

Animation studio Titmouse was very open about the show’s development process during the behind-the-scenes series, “The Legend of The Legend of Vox Machina”. Various artists discussed how closely they worked with the original show’s cast in order to create each setting. While before we were only putting faith in them based on their words, it is clear that they not only took Mercer’s original descriptions to heart in designing everything in Tal’dorei, they know how to put their own exquisite touch on things.

Every setting in the show is breathtaking, from the shining capital city of Emon and the idyllic towers of the Palace of the Sovereign to the more grounded wildernesses and smaller towns all across Tal’dorei. Critters who paid attention to the original setting descriptors for each location will find themselves more than satisfied with what is on display, while newcomers can be drawn in with how gorgeous everything looks. There are occasional moments where things feel a bit off (sometimes the show’s CGI animation can be hit-or-miss), but overall things feel right. With the right amount of originality and respect for the source material, the amount of care put into shaping the world of Exandria is respectable and admirable.

A world is only as enjoyable as the people in it though, and “The Legend of Vox Machina” has a cast of characters that is vast, diverse, and a blast to watch. Although it admittedly took me a bit to warm to the main characters’ designs when previews were first released, seeing in them in motion is, on top of being satisfying, the best way to see these models in action, considering that they were created with that purpose in mind. Every character has their own unique movement style, which makes it easy to identify who is who if they are ever covered in darkness.

The main characters all look distinct from each other, with their attire telling their own stories, and that also extends to supporting characters both major and minor. The world of Tal’dorei is full of people from all walks of life and diverse backgrounds, and that is made clear with how racially diverse the show is and how evenly spread the gender ratio is between all characters. Everyone has a chance to make an impact in the show, regardless of who they are or where they come from.

The Legend of Vox Machina Review The Nerdy Basement

Speaking of the show’s cast, it is phenomenal. Obviously, when it comes to Vox Machina, their performances are incredibly well-done, which makes sense considering that the actors behind the characters have been portraying them for years by this point. Everyone has a chance to shine both dramatically and comedically, and it is hard to pick a favorite unless you have one carried over from the original livestreams. What stands out the most is the supporting cast.

Considering that for years, all of the non-playable characters were voiced by Mercer himself (who has an incredibly varied vocal range himself), there was some wariness in which roles would be handed off for other people to handle and to whom. Yet despite these worries, it feels like the show picked the most ideal actors for every role.

Mercer himself still appears in the show every now and then (how could he not?), but every character still has traits that feel as if he could be portraying them, despite having a different voice behind the booth. With a proper mix of top-notch voice actors (Khary Payton, Grey Griffin, Sunil Malhotra) and renowned on-screen actors (Indira Varma, Stephanie Beatriz, David Tennant), everyone brings their A-game to the show and clearly have a lot of respect for the show and the characters they play.

For fans, these are the best portrayals you could get from anyone that isn’t Mercer; for non-fans, the characters do a great job establishing who they are and establishing a powerful connection with you. Either way, you will be captivated by how many sequences are made by the stellar voice acting in the show, whether you are laughing or crying with them.

The Legend of Vox Machina Review The Nerdy Basement

Out of all the worries that rose during development for “The Legend of Vox Machina”, one of the most notable ones was how the source material would translate to a TV-show format. Dungeons and Dragons sessions are incredibly long, typically lasting 3-4 hours at a time, and when it comes to Critical Role, the Vox Machina campaign itself has 115 main episodes under its belt. How could the show, with such a length and a good portion of it being activities that would not translate well to animation, adapt to this new medium?

In spite of this, “The Legend of Vox Machina” feels like an equal to the source material while being much more streamlined, making it just as enjoyable a starting point as the original campaign. Do not worry about the show’s tone just because it is animated: the show is adult to its core, having its fair share of violence, sex, and, true to Vox Machina’s characters, foul language. None of it feels gratuitous, with each of these moments contributing in some way, whether it be furthering the plot or revealing more about characters’ personalities. The spirit of the livestreams is alive and well in the show, and it is all the better for it.

Furthermore, the show has a great understanding of the characters and the world, while also knowing what to alter and what to leave unchanged. The thing about Vox Machina’s original D&D campaign is that for years prior to the premiere episode, it was a home game between the original voice actors. With that much time between the start and its official broadcast, it became a big player in shaping the season’s narrative. Yet in a way, the show’s version of events feels right.

The Legend of Vox Machina Review The Nerdy Basement

Although the timelines of the show and the campaign are not one-to-one, which leads to different character dynamics than what long-time Critters may be accustomed to, the way things transpire feels believable and enjoyable in their own way. Every moment, comedic and dramatic alike, is engaging. The characters in Vox Machina are written consistently (which makes sense considering that all of the Critical Role’s cast are executive producers on the show), and their relationships all feel believable at the point where they all are. Seeing them grow in confidence with themselves and with each other is a blast to watch, even as they struggle against seemingly impossible odds.

The show’s pace is brisk but caring, shaping the world as much as possible while furthering the plot in clever ways. Balancing badassery with moments of levity, “The Legend” keeps a lighthearted tone but is not afraid to get serious. There are real stakes to everything, and lives are lost. In spite of this, there is hope in Tal’dorei, and seeing Vox Machina gradually become harbingers of that is a blast to watch.

With several moments and lines being straight from the livestreams, seeing them re-interpreted in this visual medium is all the more satisfying. Even better is the fact that the characters’ talents are well-established, even without the ability to use licensed spell names that belong to Dungeons and Dragons and Wizards of the Coast. Using stellar visual storytelling and clever direction, the D&D elements are implemented well, making the show feel accurate to the average D&D experience. It just goes to show how much everyone cared about this story and how much work was put into properly telling it.

The Legend of Vox Machina Review The Nerdy Basement

“The Legend of Vox Machina” is a stellar retelling of a story that was previously thought would never be adapted by Hollywood. What started off as a joke between cast members has become a dream come true for Vox Machina, and their show fires on all cylinders when it comes to how everything looks, how everyone behaves, and how the story beloved by millions is retold. Easily setting a high bar for animation this year, “The Legend of Vox Machina” is one of Prime Video’s best outputs in recent memory.

Whether you are an experienced Critter or learning about the world of Exandria for the first time, this is a tale where you will find yourself hanging on every word and every moment. No matter who you are, it is your turn to roll into the beloved world of Tal’dorei and learn about some of the most chaotic heroes the world has ever seen.

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