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Beacon review: Not quite a critical hit

Make every night Thursday night.

Beacon Logo
Beacon
3.5 out of 5 stars
3.5
Library
450+ titles
Pricing
From $5.99/month
🔥 Limited-time Deal
7 day free trial
Fergus Halliday
Jun 11, 2024
Icon Time To Read4 min read
Quick verdict: Beacon

Beacon gets just enough right to justify its price, but is going to be a hard sell for those who aren't already converted to the Critical Role cult.

pro
Pros
pro No ads!
pro Relatively cheap
pro Merch discount
con
Cons
con Odd omissions
con No offline play
con App issues

The crew behind Critical Role are spinning off and rolling the dice on their streaming platform. Beacon isn't going to be for everyone, but if you're keen to keep up with the biggest adventure in the world of actual play, then the perks may be worth the premium.

How much does the Beacon cost in Australia?

Starts at $5.99
Beacon pricing

In Australia, a subscription to Beacon will cost you USD $5.99 per month or USD $59.99 per year. That works out to something like $9 in Australian currency per month, which is cheaper than most streaming services but a little closer to the likes of Netflix and Amazon Prime Video than I'd like.

For a snapshot of how Beacon compares to some of the other streaming services, check out the table below.

Service
Details
Monthly price
More info
Binge LogoBinge Standard plan
4K streaming
2 streams
Deal: 7-day free trial
$18/mth
Apple TV+Apple TV+ plan
4K streaming
6 streams (Family Sharing)
Deal: 7-day free trial
$12.99/mth
Disney PlusDisney+ Standard plan
HD streaming
2 streams
Deal: $139.99 for 12mths
$13.99/mth
Disney PlusDisney+ Premium plan
4K streaming
4 streams
Deal: $179.99 for 12mths
$17.99/mth
NetflixNetflix Standard + Ads
HD streaming
2 streams
$7.99/mth
StanStan Basic plan
SD streaming
1 stream
$12/mth
Kayo SportsKayo One Plan
HD streaming
1 stream
Deal: 7-day free trial
$25/mth
Foxtel Now | 2022 logo | Reviews.org AustraliaFoxtel Now Essentials
HD streaming
2 streams
Access to over 30 channels
Deal: 10-day free trial
$25/mth
ShudderShudder plan
HD streaming
1 stream
Deal: 7-day free trial
$6.99/mth
Hayu | Provider logoHayu Plan
HD streaming
1 stream
Deal: 7-day free trial
$6.99/mth
Paramount+Paramount+ plan
HD streaming
2 streams
Deal: 7-day free trial
$9.99/mth

Beacon plans and features

More perks, less ads
Beacon header

The pitch for Beacon isn't super complicated. It's (almost) all the Critical Role content you could want in one place. That includes more recent series like Candela Obscura and Bells Hells and exclusive ones like Critical Role: Cooldown. However, importantly, it doesn't include episodes from the group's first Dungeons & Dragons campaign (which was later adapted into Amazon Prime's The Legend of Vox Machina) or the first 19 episodes of its second (found here under the banner of The Mighty Nein).

If anything, the biggest perk here isn't being able to watch stuff that you can't see elsewhere so much as it is being able to cut ties with those other platforms. If you can't catch the premiere of each episode of Critical Role live on Twitch or don't want to deal with the onslaught of ads that viewing on YouTube involves, that alone might make this service worth the cost.

As usual, opting for an annual sub will save you a chunk of change. However, at the same time, $5.99 makes this one of the cheaper streaming services out there. Even if the content library is quite specific and niche, $5.99 per month feels more reasonable than the alternative and there is a 7-day free trial.

Both monthly and annual subscriptions to Beacon also include access to live event pre-sales, a members-only Discord and a flat 10% discount on Critical Role merch. Those perks are a big part of what separates this streaming service from others, so it's worth unpacking each inclusion one at a time.

That first one is probably more useful for those in countries like the United States. Critical Role might have played Wembley Stadium the group has yet to venture Down Under so unless you're willing or planning to travel to see one of the group's live shows, this perk feels like a bit of a non-starter.

The members-only Discord is another neat idea but there are already enough people involved that those who aren't fluent with this particular platform are likely to find it less of a community and more of a cacophony. Meanwhile, the merch discount is nice to have but you do already have to be buying stuff from that store regularly enough to extract decent value from it.

Beacon app and library of content

A big back catalog with odd omissions

Beacon can be accessed via a web browser or the dedicated app, which is available on both iOS and Android. Those hoping for a dedicated smart TV app are out of luck for now, though you can beam Beacon over to your TV if it has either AirPlay or Chromecast functionality.

All told though, my experience with the Beacon app was a mixed bag. It's by no means the worst streaming app I've used, but there's room for improvement. Crashes and issues were relatively frequent. There are also no chapter markers (a key problem when episodes are as long as they are) and sometimes the app proved hard to rely on when it came to picking up where you left off on incomplete episodes.

There's also no offline play here, which seems like an obvious oversight. That said, there is a "roll the dice" button that boots up a random episode of something on the service, which is novel.

While getting away from the ads that come with watching on Twitch or YouTube is a definite win, the Beacon content library is also pretty small by comparison to other streaming services.

At the time of writing, a subscription to Beacon gets you the following:

  • Critical Role Campaign 3: Bells Hells
  • Critical Role Campaign 2: The Mighty Nein (episodes 1-18 excluded)
  • Candela Obscura
  • Midst
  • Exandria Unlimited
  • The Re: Slayers Take
  • 4 Sided Dive
  • Critical Recap Animated
  • Critical Role Cooldown
  • All Work No Play
  • Critical Role Abridged
  • Critical Role: Daggerheart
  • Critical Role: One Shots
  • Critical Role: Red Nose Day Specials

Of these shows, Critical Role Cooldown and The Re: Slayers Take are currently the only exclusives with the rest available in some form on YouTube or elsewhere. Despite the narrow focus, it should be said that some of these series run for hundreds of episodes and some of those instalments can last as much as four or five hours.

On the other hand, there are also plenty of shorter inclusions like podcasts and animated shorts. Beacon might lack variety, but it's got depth. If you go by hour count alone, you are getting a lot of bang for your buck here.

If you're a newcomer, it's also pretty odd that the Critical Role's first campaign (and the first 18 episodes of its second) aren't available to watch via Beacon. The explanation given on the Beacon website is light on the details but the TLDR; is that those episodes were produced when the series was under the banner of the Geek & Sundry YouTube channel. Eventually, the two parties split ways but the rights for that older content have remained with its original broadcaster. At the time of writing, there are no signs to suggest that this will change anytime soon.

Even with that complicated context, it's frustrating that Beacon doesn't quite deliver on its promise of giving you all the Critical Role content you could want in one place for this reason.

Beacon: Is it worth the money?

If you're looking to keep (or catch) up with Critical Role, Beacon is a pretty decent value proposition. However, I can't help but wish the app itself was a little better and the content library offered more in terms of exclusives, perks or even just better ways to get into the long-running series.

Even for those in a position to make full use of the perks associated with a membership, Beacon only just manages to justify its current price. That might be fine for now, but if the crew behind Critical Role ever want to tinker with that sum they're going to need to up their game and do more than just take advantage of how poor the viewing experience on YouTube is without Premium.

Fergus Halliday
Written by
Fergus Halliday
Fergus Halliday is a journalist and editor for Reviews.org. He’s written about technology, telecommunications, gaming and more for over a decade. He got his start writing in high school and began his full-time career as the Editor of PC World Australia. Fergus has made the MCV 30 Under 30 list, been a finalist for seven categories at the IT Journalism Awards and won Most Controversial Writer at the 2022 Consensus Awards. He has been published in Gizmodo, Kotaku, GamesHub, Press Start, Screen Rant, Superjump, Nestegg and more.

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