Empire Strikes Back, and Hoth in general, has always been a somewhat neglected area of the LEGO Star Wars line until recent years. But, starting with the somewhat infamous Hoth Rebel Base back in 2007 (has it really been that long?), the Ice Planet has been getting a little more love. The new base is the 3rd in a line of successive "bases" (2009's 7749 - Echo Base would be the other), and is the first one that actually looks like a base.
At first glance, there's a whole lot to love about this set. There is a gaggle of minifigs, almost all of them new or modified (our stalward Snowtroopers, thankfully, are unchanged). A lot of potential play features, and of course, a Tauntaun. Now the real question is, does all of that add up to $90, the same amount as the new Podracer set?
The problem with doing this review is that it was almost impossible to do without comparing it to the Podracer set
, mostly because they are the exact same price point, right next to each other on the shelf, and carry similar piece counts. But once is a playset, the other a couple of ships, so even looking at the boxes can be a bit deceiving.
Of course, it carries the same scary "Limited Edition" tag as the first base. For those who weren't collecting the set, it was infamous because it was on shelves of TRU, the exclusive provider for it, for perhaps 3 months. It was marked up, so no one bought it... until there was suddenly a rush. Then it was gone, all within about 3 months. A whole lot of people didn't take the chance to buy it, and got mad about it. LEGO had to go so far as to "find" some in a warehouse, which sold out amazingly fast, but it was poorly handled at best.
There are no indications that this set will be the same sort of mess. LEGO has learned a lot over the years about estimating stock, and if the recent minifig lines have taught us anything, they can actually ramp up production when needed.
We do get a whole mess of minifigs in this set, eight total, plus the Tauntaun. The usual suspects are here... Luke, Leia, Han, Chewie. Strangely missing are C3PO and R2-D2, but those are relatively easy to pick up these days (or, if like me, you've been collecting for years, you have a whole bunch of them). We do get a couple of droids, R-3PO, a red protocol droid, and the 2-1B Medical Droid. There are also the pair of Snowtroopers I mentioned before.
First up, Injured Luke Skywalker. A completely new figure, this is quite well done. Printed up like he was submerged in the bacta tank, reversable head for an injured and a "I may be drunk" side, the mouth piece lines up to the printed hose. While it might have been nice to see if they could have put some equipment on to get the same thing, so it wasn't printed right on there, this is still a good minifigure.
The shorts and belt are a little S&M, and I'm certain there are people already dropping them into some inappropriately themed MOCs right now, but still, a good figure. The hairpiece is also completely new, and the same one that shows up in the new Falcon. And was he really wearing a thong in that tank?
Han Solo is similar to his old Hoth incarnation, at least at first glance. We've had a few different Hoth Han Solo's over the years, and all used the same old hood, a modified version of the Arctic hood from yesteryear (with fur, and used in several sets). Like most of the other sets, he also comes with the classic minifig male hair, so you can go hoodless if you like. Now, we get something completely different.
At first blush, it's obvious that the hood has changed. The hood is now a hat, and doesn't drop down over his chest like the old one. That way the printing stays apparent. The legs are still the same, with the holster printing we've known since he first came out, and the torso print is as well. But take off the hood, and set him next to the old one, and you see that the face printing has changed quite a bit. The cocky smirk is still there, but we get a bit more detail and smaller printing. This has been the story for most sets in this wave, and on han, it looks nice. Still LEGO, but less cartoony.
Chewie hasn't changed, neither has his crossbow. Though no one has ever managed to adequetly justified why he uses a crossbow instead of a standard blaster. Or, you know, an arm torn out of its socket as a club.
Leia has also been through the makeover wringer in this set, with a new face print (with alternate face). The torso is the same as previous Leia/Hoth figures, legs are just plain white, and for some reason, she comes with a lemon-lime popsicle.
For comparison's sake, I've opted to compare this Leia to the one we got with the Endor Bunker and not the older ones from the second falcon redesign or the X-Wing. Mostly, it's because this is the same hairpiece we got with that set, and it shows the old face well.
Obviously, the face is more pronounced on the new figure, the opposite of what we saw with Han. But it still looks well, and looks more feminine, plus gives a defined mouth. I'm not sure how to feel about the hair, but I guess it might be a closer match. Now give us a new Slave Leia figure with the face and a better hair piece, and the world will be complete. Oh, and Ceremony Leia from A New Hope. I could probably fill a whole review with minifig wishes, so it's probably time to move on.
R-3PO is the new protocol droid, which does sort of call into question exactly how sustainable a business model is selling robots when your maximum number available is 26. Do they switch them to more than one letter, or maybe toss on the occasional Greek letter? Our new protocol friend, who I like to imagine has an Indian accent instead of a whiny one (that way, it sounds intelligent and exotic), is red, but otherwise the same mold as C-3PO. The printing is slightly less intense than earlier 3PO models, especially on the back, but the pattern is the same.
So, we have another droid to add to our protocol family. They still have a lot of ground to make up on the R2 varieties, but it's progress.
We also get a true version of the medical droid that was first introduced with Palpatine's Shuttle. When we saw it, everyone wondered when we'd get our Hoth version, who handed out medical advice and also worked on preparations for evacuating the base. Of course, we never saw him getting off the planet, so he may actually still be there. I honstly didn't know he had a number until I checked the set out on LEGO.com. For those who didn't know, it's 2-1B.
I'm not a fan of that gap in his back, but that's the price of using battle droids as the base design for these minifigures, I guess. The head and torso are all one piece, and everything else is just standard battle droid wear. That means there's always a risk of them cracking or snapping, or getting hard with age, so be careful.
We also get a couple of Snowtroopers. These guys haven't changed much since they first hit many, many years ago, outside of some minor color changes on hips and hands. Sometimes, stability is a good thing, these are still nice figs.
Our tauntaun friend introduced in the last Echo "Base" has only had one minor change made... he's been given a soft plastic, movable, tail. He seems happy about that.
Now, as to the set itself, since there were some other things here, and not just a bunch of minifigs (you know, like so many other sets we get). There a couple of small extras tossed in here. A Snowtrooper with a T-21 cannon (a fact I know thanks to Star Wars Galaxies), and speederbike that's a white clone of the forest bike we get in Ewok Attack
. Seriously, same parts, just in white. That is not a bad thing.
The core of the set is Echo Base itself, or at least the little playset we're given. This is a playset, obviously, so we're not going to expect something like the amazing MOCs that were on display on Brickworld. What we get is a good sized section, about the same size as the Endor Bunker, that is hinged and can be split into a couple of different configurations.It does come with a movable dish on top, which isn't all that special.
The hinge works fairly well, though the connector could be a little bigger or better locking. It's not that it's bad, it's just one-stud, and doesn't hold with much tension. I would have rather seen this set up with a double-clip.
There are five sections to the playset: Medical Room, Command Room, tauntaun gate, and the hanger/arch opening (I assume it's a hanger, though too small for a snow speeder.
The hanger section is fairly basic, but has some nifty accents that really up it's value. I'm not exactly sure what this section is overall, but it seems like it should open to the larger hanger, or maybe a snowspeeder should be parked in there.There's a small motor or some kind of tool (vacuum for the snowspeeders?), a pair of turrets on top of the arch, a simple gun on a long portion, and even a (stickered) sign.
This is the simplest portion of the base, but the arch seems too small to really house anything other than people.
The tauntaun stable (At least according to the LEGO description), is pretty basic as well. Some nice staggering on wedges, and to the side, what they call Icicle traps. By trap, there's a pin you slide out and a couple of bars fall. Why you'd put that trap next to the stables, I have no idea. But you do get a couple of crates in black to put on top of the trap. Because when I want field rations, I want them smelling of tauntaun and well chilled.
The command area has a bit more going on. We have a terminal screen (stickers, same as the hoth base), two consoles against the wall (stickers on each one), and a weapons rack. There's also an icicle trap next to it, because that will stop the snowtroopers.
Next to the command section, we have the medical room with a bed and bacta tank. Yeah, this section just sort of speaks for itself. One tip, when you put your Luke in there, make sure you actually stick him down to the bottom studs. If he's left loose, he will fall forward and get stuck, meaning you have to pull apart the tank to get him out.
The last section, which I'll call the scaffolding, LEGO calls a "working cargo crane." By crane, they mean that round brick on the bottom, I think. What is cool about it is the use of friction bars to raise and lower the walkway. A very nice touch that comes early on in the building process. The whole thing is removable, so you can place it as need be.
And that is the whole set. It's hard to peg. It certainly feels like you get your money's worth in the set, there is plenty going on. As a playset, it's pretty good. Not quite as fragile and break-a-part as Endor Base was, and it certainly looks far more about the base than any of the other sets. But at the same time, it's not that flashy of a set. It's solid with a lot of features, but not as cool looking as others. You get a good variety of minifigs, with some new varieties, and plenty of things for them to do. But at the same time, the stickers are a bit overused (especially in the command area), but you can get around that.
The build itself can be a little frustrating at times. Once it's all together, it's fine, but there were a few times I had to rebuild a part just because the arches were popping off or other parts slipping out. The best description I could give for the set is that it's above average, but not the knockout the podracer set was. It's a good set that might have been released at the wrong time, with too many other big dollar sets competing with it. Which is kind of a shame.
Build Quality: 7/10
Play Features: 9/10
Reviewer’s Tilt: 7/10
Final Score (Average): 7.67
Verdict: Buy for the figs, maybe when it's on sale, and then absorb the rest of the stuff into an even bigger MOC for your base. It's currently available at Shop@Home