Genre: Fantasy RPG
Synopsis: A party of adventures called Vox Machina has achieved near god-like power towards the end of the campaign–so it’s only fitting they must save the realm from an actual god. The story is brought to life by a cast of professional voice actors, and the ever-present chance that bad planning or bad dice rolling will end their journey forever.
Series: 115 episodes.
I’ve Watched: All of it.
Verdict: I really do love this show–it’s unscripted, so it has its slow moments, but the dedication to character and storytelling always brings the story to fascinating places.
Available: All of the episodes are uploaded to the Geek and Sundry website. The show streams live on the Geek and Sundry Twitch channel, Thursdays at 10pm EST–though since the campaign is over, the show will be streaming one-shots for the rest of the year and a new campaign next year.
The original campaign that launched Critical Role is officially over. 115 episodes and several years later, the story of Vox Machina has come to a close. The show itself will continue–I’m excited to see the players start a new journey with new characters–but these characters are done.
The last leg of the story had some really cool stuff in it. The enemy of the arc was Vecna, an aspiring god who dealt in secrets. I personally, was highly amused by how he opened the door to his own downfall–it was great. Imagine if he’d used his power to remotely spy on anyone strategically, not revealing that he was listening to everyone’s planning. Our heroes wouldn’t have stood a chance, and it wouldn’t have been as much fun.
Instead, Vecna goes for the psychological aspect, throwing away a strategic advantage just to mess with the protagonists’ minds. Vox Machina hears his voice talking to them anytime they aren’t cloaking themselves from his view, and they’re completely freaked out by it. Their reactions are amazing, the sheer urgency for them to get out from under his attention potent.
The moment when the team slips up and lets him know where they are, while fully avoidable, led to an awesome, tense scene where they have one chance–and only one chance–to retreat. It could have succeeded or failed. And if it’d failed, they’d be forced into a difficult battle they hadn’t prepared for, after expending too many of their abilities.
The gamble they took by going to the Feywilds was also a great moment, with multiple potential outcomes seriously affecting the story. Traveling back from the Feywilds is risky. If they’d done it on their own, they could have arrived seconds after they’d left–or years. Vecna could have ascended to the full might of his power and become God-Emperor of the world in the meantime.
What they chose to do–seek out a powerful fey who could bend time for them–came with its own risks. He could have refused. He could have asked for something they weren’t willing to agree to (though with the fate of the realm at stake, they were willing to agree to a lot). What he did end up asking for had consequences both for the world, and for Vox Machina’s mental state. That deliciously twisted moment when he made his proposal, the capricious nature of an all-powerful being on full display…it was one of those things that stood out.
And there’s the beautiful tragedy of what this fight would cost our protagonists. Because there were really only two outcomes, after Vax made a deal with his goddess. He’d made a pact that would see him live until the destruction of Vecna, and only until then. So either Vox Machina wins, destroys their enemy, and Vax dies–the action of saving the world simultaneously destroying their friend. Or Vox Machina fails, and they all die–except for Vax, who would go on living as long as Vecna did.
In the end, the final moment was even more tragic than I imagined. Keyleth killed Vecna, sealing the death of the man she loved and leveling up as a result. As a level 20 druid, her lifespan instantly increased 10-fold. The same day that she achieves the power to live another thousand years, her significant other dies.
Vax’s goodbyes were heart-wrenching, especially his moments with his twin sister. The moment he revealed he’d taken a single level in the druid class, so that the last ability he used in his life was one of Keyleth’s…using it to coat the ground behind him with snowdrops as he walked to his death…that image really got me.
One of the amazing things about the Critical Role campaign was how it balanced meaningful, dramatic moments with enough comedy to release the tension. So it’s only fair to wrap up this post by highlighting some of the great comedic moments from the latter parts of the campaign.
One sample of many awesome battle songs, courtesy of Scanlan the bard:
Learning to read: