I realized in a short time when enjoying considered one of my first Dungeons & Dragons campaigns that my character wasn’t at all times going to be the primary character. That was effective by me, since as a timid beginner, I used to be more than pleased to play a supporting position in different folks’s tales. However I additionally in a short time realized that to ensure that the celebration to attach, for the story to be as participating as attainable, an excellent DM will discover a approach to give everybody their very own Essential Character Second — whereas additionally furthering alongside the overarching storyline.
This isn’t simple to do in actual life, while you’re making an attempt to wrangle a bunch of individuals to play after they have completely different schedules and stay throughout completely different time zones. Nevertheless it’s additionally not simple in tv, when it’s a must to streamline play periods which are hours lengthy into half-hour episodes. However the second season of The Legend of Vox Machina, the animated present based mostly on precise play net collection Crucial Position, manages to juggle a forged of seven characters and their particular person journeys and dynamics whereas constructing as much as an epic showdown. It’s an exquisite synthesis of what makes each animated fantasy exhibits and Dungeons & Dragons so interesting.
[Ed. note: This review contains some slight setup spoilers for season 2 of The Legend of Vox Machina.]
Picture: Prime Video
The second season of The Legend of Vox Machina picks up proper the place the primary left off — particularly, proper when a bunch of highly effective dragons descends upon the capital metropolis of Emon. Our scrappy group of mercenaries — which, as a recap, contains assured half-elf ranger Vex’ahlia (Laura Bailey) and her twin brother, sarcastic rogue Vax’ildan (Liam O’Brien); plucky half-elf druid Keyelth (Marisha Ray); attractive gnome bard Scanlan (Sam Riegel), dim but big-hearted goliath barbarian Grog (Travis Willingham); brooding human gunslinger Percy (Taliesin Jaffe); and compassionate gnome cleric Pike (Ashley Johnson) — manages to flee the assault.
So as to cease the dragons from taking up the world, Vox Machina wants to gather some historic artifacts, which simply is likely to be robust sufficient to defeat the brand new scaly overlords. To try this, they embark on a quest throughout the land of Tal’Dorei to historic temples, fortified cities, hidden realms, and past.
The very setup of this season — the place the characters go from location to location on the lookout for completely different objects — already feels extra according to the Dungeons & Dragons roots than the primary season, which targeted extra particularly on one location. Whereas there have been a whole lot of D&D-isms within the first season, it felt extra like an ordinary fantasy animated present, which made it extra accessible to new viewers. This time round, it’s simpler to see the D&D strings pulling on the plotlines, particularly with the best way every episode shifts to new places and builds as much as completely different encounters.
Picture: Prime Video
Picture: Prime Video
I would like to emphasise that this isn’t a nasty factor. The way in which that The Legend of Vox Machina manages to synthesize all these separate character arcs, fetch quests, and shifting components is extremely spectacular. The center of the present at all times comes again to the characters, who these voice actors have been enjoying for a really very long time. They’re all fleshed out, and even probably the most outwardly obnoxious characters have absolutely realized hidden depths. And this season virtually all of them get an enormous Essential Character Second woven into the higher plot. It’s a whole lot of shifting story components, sliding round in order that one character can stand up for a given episode or two. As a substitute of the streamlined focus of the primary season, it turns into extra of a mosaic. And like a mosaic, it really works finest when all of the items are locked into place — and within the case of this metaphor, which means when the characters work together. Their dynamics are a pleasure to look at, with each heart-to-heart dialog, bitter disagreement, and raunchy joke.
And sure, there are a whole lot of raunchy jokes. However as a substitute of utilizing jokes to pander and elicit an compulsory chuckle within the midst of coping with extra severe subjects, The Legend of Vox Machina does the other. The present established a crude and lewd tone from the very first episode within the very first season, introducing the characters as a bunch of scorching messes — after which slowly peeled again these layers and revealed their insecurities, bonds, and true motives. Admittedly the butt-stuff gags is likely to be off-putting if you’d like an truly severe fantasy journey, however then once more, the present by no means pretends to be too intellectual for the well-delivered ass-play joke from time to time. When Scanlan conjures up a luminous pair of pink buttocks to cushion the celebration’s fall, it’s undoubtedly well worth the snort. It additionally seems shockingly good.
Picture: Prime Video
Fantasy simply seems higher in animation. Fantastical powers and combat scenes look extra superior, spectacular backgrounds look extra wondrous, and character designs look cooler. The Fey Realm, the place Vax, Vex, Percy, and Keyleth discover themselves stranded for a couple of episodes, is especially beautiful. It’s a pity that stay motion continues to be the default for American adult-focused style exhibits, as a result of Keyleth’s elemental magic, Pike’s glowing therapeutic powers, and Scanlan’s brilliant pink and purple bardic conjurations are actually a testomony to why we should always see extra of those exhibits in animation.
The second season of The Legend of Vox Machina has quite a bit that may very well be thought-about negatives. There’s a hell of a whole lot of lore based mostly on years and years of gameplay periods which are hours lengthy, which is unquestionably intimidating to newbies. The sheer quantity of crude and lewd jokes is likely to be a miss for some. And the already expansive character roster solely continues to get larger and larger. All of this won’t absolutely gel for everybody. However for these it does click on for, there may be a lot coronary heart and enjoyable within the grandiose journey that it turns into extra than simply an epic fantasy present and turns into one thing actually particular.
The Legend of Vox Machina season 2 premieres on Prime Video on Jan. 20. Three episodes drop each week.