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Review: 75041 Vulture Droid

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Review: 75041 Vulture Droid

Postby Staff » Tue Mar 18, 2014 11:46 am

75041 - Full Set

Do you know why the Trade Federation lost the Clone Wars? Well, because they were just pawns in an overly complicated plan by Palpetine to eliminate the Jedi, consolidate power, and overthrow the rightfully elected government of the Republic. Ignoring that, though... it was because they were bad at designing their primary weapons to fight the war: Droids. In one of the early Clone Wars cartoons (as I've only watched the first season, I only know the early ones), there's a comment where Ventress points out to some planet playing the Norway game in the war that their droids outnumber clones 1000 to 1. Which is a good place to be, assuming that droids were actually a decent weapon.

They were not, for the most part. The few that were designed well as machines (droidekas come to mind) were too few in numbers compared to the battle droids that were effectively walking platforms to deliver weapons to your opponent in case he was disarmed. At least with the only starfighter in the droid army, the Vulture Droid, we finally had a ship that was designed as a robot instead of ship that you were supposed to plug a robot in to to fly. It was like the Cylons in the new Battlestar Galactica... there weren't Cylons flying the ships, the ships were Cylons, in the same way that a drone is a robot, not a robot that you stick a guy inside to make sure it stays all robot-y. 


Well, at least the Vulture droids were like that. All of the previous iterations of the Lego Vulture / Droid fighter were just the fighter by itself. No spot for a pilot, no guns that could be conveniently removed by the very thing it was trying to kill (like happens all the time in the Clone Wars cartoons), just a robot that was built to fly around and shoot things. There have been four different versions of the droid fighter before this one: the original back in 1999 for Episode I, the one bundled with Anakin's Starfighter for Episode III (which was very similar, just in blue instead of brown), another Episode I version that came with the Naboo Starfighter in 2007, and a blue one with Ahsoka's Starfighter in 2009.

The original one was the only one that came as a stand-alone set, and it was just a 62 part $6 set. Remember when Star Wars had $6 sets, and those weren't even the smallest sets in the lineup? Let it sink in for a second, and realize that those memories are just a sign that you're an AFOL that starts all of your stories with "back in my day..." The next step is complaining about how expensive a hamburger or a soda is. I'm willing to bet that if you counted up the parts for all of the previous vulture droids, you'd barely be over the 205 part, $25 set that is 75041 Vulture Droid. This thing is now monstrously large compared to its earlier versions, and costs a lot more too. It could also be one of the biggest steps back that a ship re-release has made in history (and this is a history that includes the Sith Infiltrator).



Part of the brilliance of the cartoon was that it made the war actually seem more real and impactful. In the movies, the issue was that the whole of the conflict was between machines and clones, and a very tiny portion of the galaxy had any real stake or risk in the fighting (non-Clone deaths in battle were limited to Neimoidians on ships, Geonosians on their planet, and Jedi). It made the clones actually have some purpose other than disposable soldiers, and it put real risk on the planets where fighting was going on. Now, the droids were just the horde that was killing and invading cities and planets, and there was some real urgency to the conflict.

75041 - Minifigs

This is a movie set though, which is why I'm very curious why it includes a Neimoidian fighter as it's only "minifigure" in the set. Or why it really needed a minifigure. We do get two droids, a pilot battle droid and a new buzz droid design.

75041 - Buzz Droid

Buzz droids I get, because they featured prominently in the opening of Episode III, which this set is from... sort of. This is a total redesign of the previous version, which is a relatively "rare" figure, only showing up in Ahsoka's Starfighter, the original tri-droid ship, and the Ultimate Space Battle I've alluded to as one of my great Lego regrets. Normally, the brick-built droids aren't a problem to build after the fact, but these guys have those custom domes that will set you back a little.

75041 - Buzz Droid Back

There are some other changes as well, most notably using the grappler accessory for the front and switching to antenna as legs. That necessitates using a trans-smoke cone on the bottom, since those legs couldn't do anything to actually hold up the droid, but this does make for a more stable build.

75041 - Buzz Droid Comparison

The difference between the old and new is really striking when you put them side-by-side, and this guy stands as a real bright spot in the set. Sure, it's more flimsy in the legs, but at least it looks similar to what we saw in the movie. The old ones are just awful. The legs were useful on everything other than the droid, the saw was far too big for the figure, and I'm not sure why, but it always made me think of seeing a mascot only wearing a giant head, and having normal legs showing on the bottom.

 75041 - Neimoidian Warrior 75041 - Neimoidian Warrior Back


My liver can't take me watching the PT more than once in any given 12-month period, so I'm going to have to rely on someone else's knowledge here... but does this guy ever really show up at any point in the PT? I remember Newt right before Anakin murders him (while I do not approve of his youngling-killing policy, I am in favor of his annoying senator killing policy) along with the rest of the separatists, and they were being guarded by droids. I remember Neimoidian controllers on the big ships, and Grievous only hung out with droids, being a brain in a big walking metal body. Oh, and eyes.

I do not really remember seeing Kermit here in his conquistador hat and musket, and that seems like the kind of little detail that could pierce through the haze that I drink myself into for these movies.  This guy isn't a bad figure, per se... he just makes absolutely no sense in this set. Much like our Wookiee buddy in the AT-AP, I question the logic on bringing a musket to a laser gun fight, and also wonder if the hat is the result of a lost bet. That being said... that torso and the printed legs are just fantastic, and I bet we'll see more of it pop up in future contests we have that require custom figures.

  75041 - Pilot Droid 75041 - Pilot Droid Back


The pilot droid is a curious addition that really highlights my biggest beef with this set, which I sort of alluded to in my opening and will cover below in the ship review. I assume that his inclusion here is just a designer that doesn't understand what a robot is, and that a ship that is a robot does not require another robot interacting with it in order to fly around. Much like having a battle droid carry around a gun, the ship can just fly itself. Of course, this is a droid carrying a gun and meant to fly a ship that doesn't need him.

If you're keeping score at home, this is the fifth variation of the pilot battle droid that we've gotten. The originals were tan with blue print, then it was just a blue body, then this guy with tan printing and a variety of arms. They are all equally pointless. His head might as well have a giant bullseye painted on it, because I know which droid I'd shoot if I saw his ship coming at me. If the Jedi would have bothered to just train up some Clone Snipers, the war wouldn't have lasted more than a couple of months.

75041 - Flying Mode

I actually liked the design and idea of the Vulture Droid, as a ship. Unlike the Clone and Jedi ships, it actually had a unique look compared to a lot of other stuff (though that general aesthetic has shown up a lot of places since), and it actually behaved more like a droid than a fighter. In an army full of stuff that made no sense, this thing actually did. It also was sleek and small, the kind of thing you could fill up a battle with. The new version? Not so much...

75041 - Standing

I'll be fair, my favorite feature of the older ones wasn't an accurate feature, that the wings could fully close. If you look at the design for the ship, the wings were always separated, and the ship could walk around like a cat when it sat down (because running on a battlefield makes more sense than flying, I guess).

75041 - Comparison Flying

But this thing is just huge compared to the old one. Look at it next to an older one, it's more than double the size (and stickers)! That bulk makes it look very out of place, or like it's an entirely different ship, and that doesn't seem to fit these things at all. They were the big bombers of the Droid fleet, they were the little swarming flies that used overwhelming numbers instead of raw power (in short, they were TIE fighters without that pesky, unreliable pilot).

75041 - Flick Fires

 

The big difference in the bulk, outside of just larger parts (which the wing(s) certainly have), is the new, complicated, technic-y struts for expanding the wings. The new struts are certainly a lot more solid than the old solution, which was nothing but a plate connection on the original two and battle droid arms on the last two. That being said, it's just ugly and comes off as somewhat lazy as a design. Nothing about it feels like it's anything more than bulking up parts. While the old version was somewhat flimsy, it worked and didn't consume a lot of parts. I would have much rather seen the increased part count put towards making the thing actually walk, or make the wings come off as rounder (or offset forward, like they're supposed to be).

75041 - Cockpit Open

My big problem with the set though... is that there's a * bleep * cockpit in the thing! This was a Vulture Droid, as in the whole ship was the droid. It doesn't need a pilot. It shouldn't have a pilot. For once, I'm not going to blame Lucas for bad design (I did enough of that with the Battle Droids). This is all on the Lego designer, because it's just a feature added for playability that doesn't add anything, and ends up hurting the set (much like that cannon in the Sail Barge). Kid's don't need to put a pilot in there to fly it around. This is just a waste of parts and space that ruins the build.

75041 - Back

 

Like a lot of the other Star Wars sets, the Vulture Droid adds the new flick-fire bricks, but still keeps the lasers on the outside wings like the previous versions. It's a curious, since the defining feature of these ships was the relatively tiny/thin body and the big legs. With this new one, the center is just huge by comparison, to accommodate the new launchers, and it just looks wrong. I would have much rather seen the launchers fit into the wings or struts somehow, or just use the old flick-fires, instead of... this thing.

75041 - Comparison

 

That's really the story of this set. There have been a few remakes that missed the mark (Sail Barge comes to mind), but most of the time, Lego actually improves on a set when they remake it, even if not expected (Republic Gunship, Jedi Interceptor, Wheel Bike, AT-AP... this could be a very long list). The reality of Star Wars is that all of the system sets have more or less been done. Sure, there are a few lingering things out there, but for the most part, we've gotten everything, and it's all re-releases in the OT and PT space. It's just a real shame that what should be a simple and little set was trumped up and made worse than the simple, little sets we had before. If this would have been kept smaller and put into the $15 Battle of Saleucami range, this could have been a perfect set. But at $25, it's firmly in the "skip it" category. There are better sets for the same money, even if you just consider them for parts.

What I liked

  • Even though he doesn't belong in the set, and a musket is just a lazy part, the Neimoidian Warrior's torso and leg printing make him a cool figure

  • New Buzz Droid is a huge improvement over the old one

  • Gotta love almost any sand blue and dark blue parts


What I didn't like

  • Worst value for parts in the $25 set line at only 205 (even though the V-Wing has less parts overall), a single minifig that makes no sense, and a couple of droids. A lot of those parts go to the buzz droid (16) or to the struts for the wings

  • A robot ship does not need a robot pilot. All of the old ones got this right... adding it here just wrecks the build

  • New mechanism for the wings/legs doesn't fix the problem with it walking and just feels like a big waste in parts


Verdict: 2 out of 5. This is a real step backwards from the previous versions, and it doesn't fix the biggest inaccuracy (walking legs) while adding a few new ones (like a cockpit). It's only the part selection and the buzz droid that really keep this from being worse.

You can get 75041 Vulture Droid, and the rest of the early-2014 Star Wars sets, at Lego Shop@Home.

75041 Box Art
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Re: Review: 75041 Vulture Droid

Postby hrafnblod » Tue Mar 18, 2014 12:47 pm

Not unlike the V-wing, this just makes me sad that we can't see actual Star Wars ships below the $20/25 price range anymore. For what it was, the old, small version(s) of the vulture droid was a perfectly adequate interpretation of the source material, and if we could actually have the old blue version re-released in the same format as the Episode 1 variant, it would be affordable enough to have a squadron of them. And they'd be small enough to be scaled better to the republic ships they're meant to fight.
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Re: Review: 75041 Vulture Droid

Postby ytjedi » Tue Mar 18, 2014 12:54 pm

The Neimoidian Warrior was in EpIII, briefly though: http://starwars.wikia.com/wiki/Neimoidi ... _Battalion
Trading Card with picture from the film: http://www.skywlkr.net/idc/expansions/d ... arrior.jpg
Action Figure: http://starwars.forever.free.fr/databas ... attack.jpg

While this buzz droid is a large improvement over previous designs, I've recently modified mine to make them a little smaller, similar to other MOCs like these: http://www.mocpages.com/moc.php/112138 http://www.mocpages.com/moc.php/127497
What's nice is these use more common elements to build the droid.
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Re: Review: 75041 Vulture Droid

Postby Zrath » Tue Mar 18, 2014 1:30 pm

Yeah, the amount of alcohol consumed during watching the "PT" movies had a definite effect on someone. :D
The Droid Fighter's/Vulture Droid's wings have always been able to close fully. They stay closed in cruising mode and open in attack mode, kinda like on X-Wing fighters.
I do agree that putting a cockpit in this newest iteration is wrong. It's a frickin' robot ship, it don't need no stinkin' pilot. They did the same thing to the new Droid Gunship as well.
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Re: Review: 75041 Vulture Droid

Postby dWhisper » Tue Mar 18, 2014 1:41 pm

I'll admit that the alcohol did contribute to some things, but my observations on the closing was based on pictures and stills of the ship and information on the Wookiepedia article (I didn't use my usual hive of scum and villany joke because I was using it)...

Vulture Droid

All of the stills show a gap in the wings, where they're more like a rounded pylon when held together and very slight when broken up. They really weren't in Episode III long enough to get a good look, but all of the stills from Episode I seem to show them with the space, which would make that aspect of this build more accurate. However, absolutely everything else about it is just wrong, so that's not saying much.

The more I think about it after I wrote this, the more I wish this set, if it had to be $25, was just two of the smaller version with a few upgrades instead of one big one. The real problem is you can't even use this new version to turn it into the smaller one... so I guess off to the aftermarket to snap up the parts I need.
If the above post didn't offend you, you're probably reading it wrong.
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Re: Review: 75041 Vulture Droid

Postby Mister Ed » Tue Mar 18, 2014 3:46 pm

So does this thing even transform into its walking mode at all? It doesn't seem like the head could be repositioned, like on all the previous versions, without exposing an open cockpit. Do the wings even rotate to form legs?
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Re: Review: 75041 Vulture Droid

Postby dWhisper » Tue Mar 18, 2014 4:09 pm

They flip open. Look at the comparison pictures, that's about as much as it does. The head flips down instead of up, though, so it cannot be positioned into the walking/head mode like any of the old ones.

In short... it looks so bad in walking mode that you will never put it into walking mode.
If the above post didn't offend you, you're probably reading it wrong.
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Re: Review: 75041 Vulture Droid

Postby Mister Ed » Tue Mar 18, 2014 4:18 pm

OK, I found a picture of it in walking mode.

Image

So it does transform, but doing so with the head exposes the gaping hole of the unnecessary cockpit...
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Re: Review: 75041 Vulture Droid

Postby Blacknight » Sat Mar 22, 2014 12:05 am

The scale and the price of this set truly suck... however, I dig the Neimoidian guard quite a bit (made a custom many years ago).

One could pretend this is just a larger fighter-bomber variant of the Vulture droid, sort of like the Hawker Typhoon was to a Spitfire in World War 2. There's already precedent for this in the cartoon with the larger similar shaped Hyena bomber which Lego made some years back.

To explain the "pilot", perhaps extra computational power was required for calculating the trajectory for bombing runs, and the Trade Federation found it cheaper to just plug in a mass produced pilot as an extra brain rather than building in a custom larger CPU. He's not flying the vulture droid so much as helping the ship brain be a little smarter. Pilot battle droids seem like a cut above standard ones when it comes to intelligence because they do pilot the tanks and battleships somewhat competently. Plus he adds some increased survivability to the fighter by being able to climb out and do external repairs if it's forced to land in the field away from base.

Yeah I know, it's possible to use creative fluff to justify any dumb thing in science fiction.
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Re: Review: 75041 Vulture Droid

Postby dWhisper » Sun Mar 23, 2014 10:15 am

Except in this case, the source material said that the whole ship was the droid, and no need for a pilot.

Also, from everything I've seen about Battle Droids, plugging one in to your system could only make it dumber.
If the above post didn't offend you, you're probably reading it wrong.
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Re: Review: 75041 Vulture Droid

Postby darth_fett » Sun Mar 23, 2014 7:09 pm

I owned the Action Fleet Episode 1 version of the vulture droid. The wings closed fully to "holster" the lasers for flight and walking . The bugger of it was that when in battle mode, resting on a surface could cause the lasers to holster, and the top leg would partially collapse, covering the forward part of the laser. It was pretty darn cool otherwise and could make the walking pose easily. I don't remember if the head swung side to side. I don't think it did.
I can't explain why some of those shots seem to be upholstered only, maybe ease of drawing or mistakes on the artists' parts. The article did state that they did originally plan to have a pilot for it, but I'm glad they didn't. I guess you could consider this the Action Fleet version that included a model of the Ralph McQuarie version in addition to the movie model. :3
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Re: Review: 75041 Vulture Droid

Postby Blacknight » Wed Mar 26, 2014 2:22 am

Sourcebooks are routinely disgarded by both Lego and even Lucas in the Clone Wars show etc. For example, sources like the RoTS Incredible Cross Sections book said the V-wing's droid was supposed to be just the disembodied head type but Lego keeps giving us the whole R2 unit stuck in there.
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