It took 17 months but I finally did it! I was only 6 weeks late to the party, but I finished the second campaign of Critical Role!
I would say I’m hooked, but not to the point where I’m calling this my favourite D&D show of all time. It’s great, but not godlike. I have biases for D&D shows I started long before Critical Role. And it has its flaws.
Some of these are definitely biased flaws. Most of the D&D games I’ve experienced have been in a very certain direction, and I have yet to decipher what is good and sinful in terms of narrative in a D&D game. But I’m still here to give my Nein cents on it.
We’ll start off with a traditional rating. It’s a solid 4 out of 5. I’ve bought merch from it, so you know it’s good. I wouldn’t buy merch for something I wasn’t passionate about, just so you know.
Oh yeah, and spoilers ahead. Sorry catchup crew.
These characters are lush. I wouldn’t say any of them played a bad player character. None I hated, but I had my favourites. Nott/Veth especially. I’ve heard great things about his campaign one character Scanlan too, so I have high hopes as I watch it now. But I could see the appeal for all other characters even if I wasn’t a fan of them.
Matt was really clever at how character backstories were dealt with. This was mentioned in the campaign wrap up, but the way he planned to tie Molly’s backstory into the overarching plot was genius. And the tie ins with Nott and Beau’s backstory were equally amazing. I live for connections like these and how well Matt played each NPC tied to them. Yeza was a favourite NPC of mine just by how well Matt played such a character. And Lucien! Top notch acting from Matt right there!
I feel like this is a given, but Sam Riegel is a master of sponsorships. I’m literally studying influencer culture at uni right now, and applying the scholarly stuff to Critical Role’s ads is incredible stuff. I fell in love with Sam the moment I saw the D&D Beyond ballet.
Everyone is a genius at leaving hints to their backstory and foreshadowing. Seeing the way they handle characters makes me play my characters in the same way. And it also make me want to DM the same way. It is especially rewarding seeing it come up when watching highlight reels and seeing the true genius of what they had done there. I feel like I’m gonna analyse every word that comes out of their mouth now.
I’m not familiar with narrative tension, but there were way more filler-ly episodes after the Vokodo arc that made me lose my attention. More rest episodes than I would have liked. At times this didn’t make the stakes and situations quite feel real in the lead up to the climactic chapter. I’m not saying characters don’t deserve a break, but that felt like summer holidays if anything.
The whole campaign felt very episodic. When one main quest was over, there weren’t any proper tie ins to the next or an overall development with the situation. But I cannot tell if that was at the characters’ fault or not knowing what Matt had planned. While this made it feel realistic, it didn’t feel quite as captivating. This is a very personal and biased one considering every campaign I have played had an overarching goal to achieve by the end of it, but maybe this will just be something I will get used to. We shall see, I think campaign one is similar but I’m not sure.
Speaking of, a lot of it felt quite big. How on earth did the players and Matt keep track of so many NPCs? I definitely forgot tonnes that the characters fell in love with, aside from the iconic ones like Kiri and Pumat. This made a lot of conflicts of interest and plot point that I barely remember. – just going through the animated recaps I am still shocked at how much actually went down. I can’t help but feel in this aspect the worldbuilding was a bit too frontal.
Hopes for Campaign 3
Oh hello? A new section? Yep. I’ve had too many ideas buzzing around what I hope and want with campaign three which I would like to shout into the void.
Let’s start off with characters. Some I have really specific ideas for, others not so much. But what I know I want most of all is for Ashley Johnson to play a bard. Seeing her sneaky quips while playing Yasha, I totally saw chaotic neutral bard energy lying in there. I’m also hoping for Laura as a warlock, Marisha as a paladin or blood hunter and Liam as a warforged (now they’re canon in Exandria!). I don’t have class specifics for the others so much; just Sam still being Sam, Travis playing a chaotic character and Talisen playing something edgy. But I’m gonna be really disappointed if Ashley’s character isn’t of at least a high charisma. I know she has it in her! Oh, and I’m hoping to see some TCoE subclasses in this game!
In terms of all else, I think there was a continent made up of nothing but islands in Exandria? I’d love to have a campaign like that maybe with some links to Polynesian and Micronesian cultures. But I’m also a sucker for the hells, so I’m hoping to see some of that. I’d be happy with anything, but I have my biases. Basically, anything that will make the characters shine! And I hope they fight a Succubus coz I love that monster.
So yeah, those are my thoughts. I hope I can catch an episode of campaign three live, I’m looking forward to giving my same thoughts on campaign one, and is it Thursday (Friday in NZ) yet?
Yours in writng