The first episode of Critical Role’s Campaign Three dropped in the wee hours of the morning today. We take a quick look to see what the fuss was about. This will be a spoiler free review.
Critical Role is the most popular show on live-streaming service Twitch. It’s a bunch of professional voice-actors and improvisers playing Dungeons and Dragons Fifth Edition. Because of the level of skill each performer has, the result is an immersive story-telling experience. Skilled acting, photogenic performers and wild improvisation makes for compelling viewing. The sheer amount of show available can be a little daunting however.
The new season (called a campaign) has new characters, a new setting and even a new set. It’s a completely new story, set on the same planet as the previous two campaigns, but an entirely different continent. Campaign Three is intended as a ‘stepping on’ point. It’s for people who found the premise of the show interesting but didn’t have the time to watch the previous episodes. Given that a single show is about three to four hours long, this is significant investment for many of us.
At this point, the cast have become very, very good at what they do. They’ve got a tight handle on the rules of the game and how to perform their roles. Some of the stand out moments of the broadcast have clearly had a lot of thought put into them by the cast, yet they still seem spontaneous. This is all the more notable with Sam Reigel, who yet again has built some brilliant gags and moments into the character, ready for him to unleash on the audience (and fellow cast members) when prompted. Both Marisa Ray and Laura Bailey are also leaning into their new characters, Ray especially choosing a role that will let her chew as much scenery as she can. Bailey has gone for something more understated than previous campaigns, but give it time.
They are many, many nods to the previous shows in this first episode, so there’s a lot for exisiting fans to enjoy. This has all been done carefully though; there’s nothing on the screen that would alienate a new fan. It’s as accessible as Critical Role will ever be.
So is it worth it? Well we think so. The show is at its peak. The first half an hour of the broadcast is light on actual story; it’s mostly introductions, explanations of the format and of set ‘bits’ for the sponsors etc. The characters are then introduced gradually, allowing Dungeon Master Matt Mercer to weave in multiple narratives over time. The crew’s level of comfort and fun are incredible and it’s just a joy to watch.
Will watching this show make you want to play Dungeons and Dragons? Maybe, but table-top roleplay is very different with friends so unless you’re an actor with decades of experience, it’s unlikely to look like this show. D&D is fun. People like watching fun. Critical Role is therefore fun to watch. Give it a go whilst Campaign Three is a new exciting thing.
The first broadcast can be caught for free on Twitch at scheduled times and is available on demand to subscribers. Each episode will appear on YouTube for free the following Monday after each Thursday broadcast, though as always it’s an American show so check for local time differences.