Wednesday, November 25, 2015

REVIEW: Sands of Blood Audio Drama

The second installment in the audio drama series for Age of Sigmar is now out, and we continue to follow Taursus and his vampiric companion in the realm of Death. So how does it hold up compared to the first one?

Sands of Blood by Joshua Reynolds opens up with another monologue from Nagash, and I would say this one is even better then the first. It's basically him ranting about how Sigmar is stealing the dead from him to make the Stormcast and how he's angry about it. It's a lot more interesting and evocative then that, but that's the general idea. I also feel like the background music choice for this one fits the mood even better and the actor may be more comfortable with the role. That's not to say that the Nagash monologue from the first audio drama was bad, this one is just even better.

In general I feel like the production stepped up a notch all around on this. The music was great, the sound effects spot on, and all of the acting fit the characters perfectly. Mannfred improved the most I think, again this may be due to the actor becoming more comfortable with the role. He really feels like a real person, someone that you can almost sympathize with. Almost. He is still Mannfred after all, and we all know what he is capable of. The writing for his character is fantastic, but the inflections in his speech are what really nail it. He feels guarded when he should be guarded, and cocky when he should be cocky. There is one moment in the main battle where he half mocks the Stormcast which made me smile. You also feel like Taursus and him have a real friendship. Perhaps one that is just starting to grow, but a friendship none the less. This will make Mannfred's inevitable betrayal even more tragic. I'm hoping that maybe AoS will mark the start of a change in the vampire's personality, and maybe, just maybe, he will stay true to Taursus in the end and not double cross him. It's doubtful though.

Another character that really stood out to me was Gorewolf, the bloodbound leader in the story. He doesn't get very much screen time, but when he does Josh does an excellent job of making you envision him. He really seems like a savage warlord, and the best part for me is how unique he is. He isn't described as looking like an existing model. It makes the bloodbound a little more real for me. They can't all look like the models afterall.

The real winner in this story though is the realm of death itself. The title of the drama refers to the desert they travel through, a desert literally made out of powdered blood. This again reinforces the fantastical nature of the realms, but Josh ties it back down to reality with the caravan of mortals that the Stormcast find and rescue. The AoS stories really shine when the people who make the realms their home are included, not just the warriors. It adds an element of value to what everyone is fighting for. It's not just land and power, it's peoples' lives. When the Stormcast rescue the mortals a powerful storm is approaching and so they must find shelter, luckily an old monastery is nearby.

This old monastery, which in itself provides more of a real world connection, is home to a group of monastic vampires who seek only solitude. Monastic vampires. That is awesome! I love how a group of beings who had previously only been used for war and power struggles in the Old World, have been reimagined here. I know that they do not represent all vampires, but the fact that are allowed to exist within the world of AoS I think speaks volumes to what GW is willing to do with their IP. This is ground zero and I think we are going to start seeing a lot more stuff like this. Not only are they monks, but they provide shelter and supplies willingly, and have an ancient pact with the mortals of the desert. Back during the Age of Chaos they fought to protect the mortals, and succeeded. Now that they are in hiding the mortals repay them with an annual tithe. It's a really interesting dynamic and I love how races and characters who had previously been the "bad guys" are in a lot more grey of an area now.

The story is engaging throughout and I thoroughly enjoyed it. The new additions were great and Taursus and his Stormcast continue to shine and show their humanity. I'm almost dreading what may happen to them in the end during part four. This is definitely a transition story, with no huge impact on the overall story of them trying to find Nagash. It does do a very good job though of exploring the new elements of AoS and the realms and further exploring the dynamics of the different characters.

I think this audio drama series is a great addition to the AoS lore and the stories, writing, acting, and production only keeps improving. If you were on the fence about committing to the series before I would highly recommend you take the plunge now. There is something nice about having to wait between installments too, almost ratcheting up the tension. Think of it as an AoS TV show. It's still kind of pricey, being the same $17 as the first one, but I think it's worth it.

Final Score - 5/5

Until next time,

Tyler M.

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