I’m not sure there’s ever been a more “wait, what?” moment in seeing a set than when we first saw the second largest First Order set in the Force Awakens lineup, the First Order Transporter. At first, it almost seemed like the box art was just preliminary or something, as it was clearly a small ocean-fairing vessel that was floating through some nameless forest. I mean, it looks like a fine boat, but I question its use as a ship.
Of course, thinking to some other Abrams fare, like Star Trek, this is something he’s kind of known for: technology that’s at the same time recognizable, yet used in a way that makes absolutely no logical sense. I’m talking all of those pipes in Star Trek with those convenient human-sized hatches and windows, everything ever in Lost, and the big McGuffins in Alias. I like to imagine that he came into a concept meeting, and right after he was trying to sell the giant spider in the 3rd act, he yelled “I’ve got it! Actual battleships, except they float!”
Sure, you could say that with the dual boat / flying ship, you now have two ways to attack… if one of those ways was considerably more inefficient and made for a far more defensible position because it’s limited to coming over shorelines as compared to dropping out of the sky to where it needed to be. But hey, I have a whole review to rant about how 75103 First Order Transporter is a boat with wheels that also flies and how the First Order apparently lets eight-year-olds design their military technology. In a sense, that makes this $89.99, 792 piece set the most basic of LEGO sets. After all who among us didn’t spend our childhoods building houses that also had rocket engines and catapults for fighting space elves?
What, it was just me?
Going to be honest, I had pretty low expectations for this set going in. I try to not let those first impressions cloud an entire review, but I’m also human, so such ambitions are doomed to fail. I wanted this set because I wanted Phasma, and all of the other First Order stuff was just a bonus. Otherwise, it was hard to look at the set and not just scoff at how ridiculous the flying boat looked.
Well, now that certainly is a lineup of figures. Without an Episode VII battle pack, we need to look at big sets for our First Order Stormtrooper fix, and this set certainly delivers. We get two regular Stormtroopers, two Flametroopers, Captain Phasma, and a couple of Resistance Fighters, because it’s obviously something new when you change the name of something slightly from the old Rebellion.
I don’t mind the new look of the First Order Stormtroopers. They have a definite aesthetic link to the old style, and add a few new features. I get not liking some of the aesthetics of the design (though I don’t mind it), but a lot of the pushback I’ve seen has been against the imaginary tech of them. These guys are identical, with the standard clone/trooper heads we get in all sets like this now.
The new armor looks clean and streamlined, which is likely very good for standing in parade formation and not so good for fighting a battle in any situation other than lily-white snow (which is what Snowtrooper are for).
One of the things I always liked about the PT was how it showed the evolution of armor and troopers in general, and it wasn’t in a way that felt artificial or too-far advanced, which is typically what happens in prequels. Clone Troopers had armor close enough to Stormtoopers that it just felt right, and the new Stormtrooper feels the same way.
We also get to see another specialized trooper to match up with our Snowtroopers, the Flametroopers and their burninating weapons (which, curiously enough, are legal to own in most of the US, but a war crime to use in battle). Of course, if you have studied warfare, you know that flame throwers are a wildly impractical (and mostly ineffective) weapon, but hey, they look cool. The kids love that one.
The legs on this guy are more complex than the Stormtrooper, but the torso is a bit simpler. The backpack is the clear over-torso we got in some Super Heroes sets (I think that’s where they were), and a couple of short bars. The backpack isn’t all that bad, but it does make the figure harder to balance when not standing on a plate or brick.
I wanted this set for one reason: Brienne of Tarth herself, or Captain Phasma as she demands to be called in a galaxy far, far away. You know, I like the idea that Westeros (or the planet it contains) is in that same galaxy. Maybe somewhere in the Core, one of the lost worlds. Winter is Coming… and the Jedi are going to feel it.
She is sufficiently styled, with little callouts that are unique to her character, like the accent lines or the cape over the shoulder. I can’t say much about accuracy… she looks like the few stills we’ve seen, but we know nothing about her character (except that Gwendoline Christie has said she spends most of her time in the armor, and was actually in the armor and not CGI). I absolutely love that we have a female character that is a soldier first… armor is armor and this is functional and intimidating.
Of course, we know nothing about her under the armor, and you won’t be finding any spoilers in this figure. There was a recent article from a Hasbro designer that said what we’re seeing in the toys is only from the first third of the movie or so, meaning we’ll likely get updates later should we ever see Phasma out of armor (or at least helmet-off).
So, this isn’t some sort of oversight on my part with these figures… the female resistance fighter was missing her head, and I got an extra of the male fighter. LEGO has since sent me the right one, after I had to jump through a few hoops, but I didn’t feel like reshooting the picture to cover for their screw-up. There seems to be a real quality gap in sets we got recently, from the Wall-E to grumbles about serious issues with Poe’s X-Wing.
If you can look at these figures, especially the male one, and not have to fight desperately to start quoting Firefly and working on a custom Mal figure… we can’t be friends. Both seem to be more pirate than soldier, and that somewhat fits with what a good resistance would be. What is up with the female figure having the pouches on her back with that bandoleer? That seems to be particularly impractical.
One interesting thing of note is we get two new colors of blasters in this set, flat silver and dark pearl or whatever it’s called. So… look forward to having to sort blasters even more. Hopefully the color variety shows up in more sets, so they’re easier to get, but expect them to command a high price on the aftermarket for now.
Despite the plethora of minifigures this set comes with (and yes, I do know what the word means, El Guapo), it’s still mostly about the ridiculous flying boat. At first glance, it’s honestly not all that much to look at, but really, looks can be pretty deceiving. First, it’s a fairly decent size, especially compared to some of the other builds we’ve seen lately.
There are some solid little features in the set, like those fins used to stack as grates / intakes for the engines (for the flying boat that can probably go in space), or the thrusters to land the ship. The side panel is an important structural element, but also one of the more frustrating parts of the build. It has multiple connection points and it is fairly difficult to line up. If it was difficult for me, an experience AFOL that has built hundreds of sets… I have to assume I was either doing it wrong or it’s going to be incredibly frustrating for more typical users.
The engines are both interesting in the general shape and style of the build, and incredibly ugly, in the technic bars that are used to connect everything and keep the ship from crumbling. Some pins and plates to block out those bars would have gone a long way here.
That little cannon by the hatch is a pretty big let-down, as it spins around far too much, but this is a transport and landing craft, not an assault ship, and there’s something kind of nice in specialization. The front of the ship, likewise, is also kind of a cop-out, since it just puts a window sticker on the front instead of an actual window. We’ve seen similar size setups in the AT-TE for years, so it’s not as if this was some new ground, they just didn’t do it.
The setup of the landing craft is actually one of the strong parts. There are some cop-outs here, like the Boba Fett-style hydraulics (and by that, I mean there for looks only and serving no actual purpose… look at them, they connect to nothing). The actual mechanism for opening/closing the doors runs along the bottom and connects to the front. The top above is removable as well, which makes placing figures a lot easier.
The problem with the mechanism they used is that the movement is actually pretty janky, overall. It snaps suddenly down, instead of lowering smoothly. If this was just a run-and-release door that slammed down (like the Higgins boat used in Allied landings for World War II… fun fact, those boats were made primarily of plywood) it would make sense to have such harsh action on it. But I think it would have worked better if there was a lever or pin on the top or side that just let the door falls down. Of course, that is probably pretty bad design for a space ship, but it seems like being a boat that hovers and has open grills are also some poor features.
One of the nicer things about the design of the landing craft is that there really is room to get some figures in there, and it’s far easier to place them than other ships (looking at you, Imperial Shuttle). Depending on how you place them and what blasters you give, there’s room for 6-10 figures, which is pretty good use of space. There are some clips for blasters, though not enough to hold extras, as well as a plate in the middle you could theoretically put extra troops or equipment on.
The conning tower (I didn’t google that… I am such a war history nerd) is what really makes this thing look like the boat, and sadly, the most thrown-on feature in the build. This could have been an interesting feature, with windows or panels, but it’s really just a sticker on a sled to cram a figure inside. We don’t get a figure that really belongs here… when I put this on display, I opted for the flying nun fanboy in the TIE Fighter set as my commander.
The little lift-up platform is one of the lamer playset features I’ve seen in awhile, which sadly consumes a few too many parts. I would have rather just seen a hatch that showed more places to put figures, but we get a lift that mostly gets a figure up there. The problem is that it only really does about half… the figure doesn’t store in a way that it looks right when you raise it… you still need to operate the hatch by flipping it open and
We don’t know a whole lot about this ship or how it was used… it only shows up for a split second in the teaser and at a pretty big distance. Maybe it’s a great multi-purpose ship, or just a way to move First Order troops around. I think there are ways to improve the ship to make it a more functional ship. If you were going with a custom version, I’d probably pull off the conning tower entirely. It’s ugly, and makes your command guy a target… and when you take it off, this really is just a landing craft.
Honestly, this is one of those “not nearly as bad as first thought” type of builds. There are certainly some issues, and the ship itself is pretty ridiculous, but this is also a fictional universe that gave us Wookiee Catamarans that took on tanks and walkers that invade at about 5 km/h… so how do you really judge ridiculous? There’s a great assortment of figures included, some really nice parts, and it makes a pretty cool display piece. Once we see more of the big battles in the movie, and there will be big battles, maybe this ship will make more sense. When it comes to price and features, this one also feels a bit better than some of the other sets, like the TIE or the X-Wing, even though it carries a higher price. All of the Episode VII sets are too expensive, so it kind of balances out, and I’m still going to call this one a pretty surprising three out of five. There are gaps, but even on a small sale, it has a lot of value.
What I Liked
- Good selection of minifigs with a lot of generic focus. Even Phasma, a named character, can be used as a commander
- Room to store more figures than what comes with the set
- Some decent value for parts
What I Didn’t Like
- Some frustrating parts to the build, like the side panels or the back engines
- Lots of filler parts, like hydraulics, or ugly leftovers like the technic bars
- Play features don’t work all that well, especially things like the hatch leading to the spinny-gun
Verdict: 3 out of 5. Not perfect, but actually a pretty decent value none-the-less. Also the best place, for now, to bolster your Imperial Forces. You can get 75103 First Order Transporter right now at LEGO Shop.