Thursday, February 12th, 2015 at 4:29pm by Andrew, BZPower News Manager
The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies is starting to wrap up it's theatrical run, but the sets are still pretty widely available. With that in mind, today we're looking at 79017 The Battle of Five Armies, supposedly based on the titular battle. Is this set worth parting with some of your dragon-hoard for, or is it better suited to throw at the invading orcs to buy you some time to escape? You'll have to read and watch on to find out what we think!
From the design of the box to the instruction manual, these are the first things you see before building the set.
Like the other Hobbit sets, the box here is quite shiny, making it stand out on store shelves with its glossy reflection. The artwork shows off the set with a whole bunch of action, getting you excited for the hours of play it will provide. It also shows off the impressive seven minifigures that come with it, plus an eagle! Looking on the back, each of the action features are highlighted in more detail along with the wide array of weapons that are included. Are you excited for conflict yet?
Half the fun is had building the set. How fun is it to build and how easy or challenging is it?
Weighing in at 472 pieces, this set isn't exactly a slouch, and it will take you a good bit to build. The ballista uses some Technic pieces, but there's nothing too advanced in the process. The structure is pretty basic too, although there are a few interesting points with offsets and the play features will help keep you engaged. You may be pleased to know that there are no stickers in this set, which I count as a plus. All in all though, it's not overly exciting, but playing with LEGO bricks is still fun.
Now that the set is complete, we can critique how it looks from every angle. New or interesting pieces can also be examined here.
Tan is clearly the most prominent color in the set, but there's a good amount of grey, black, brown, and some dark red too. There's not many unique pieces to this set, but most of the ones you see above are only available in four or five sets. The one exception is the tan gazebo-like piece, which is unique to this set completely. I really like the little details on the arch and hope the piece gets some more use in other themes - I think it would work great in Friends, Elves, or Disney Princess. There's definitely a lot of useful pieces here for castle and landscape builders, although the price-per-part ratio is not conducive to it being a parts pack.
The ballista looks cool and is quite beefy. The grey and silver pieces definitely give it an iron-clad look, as most of the siege machines the orcs used had. It uses a Technic gear and plates with teeth to fire the missiles in a very manual fashion. This could have been a great place to use the new 1x4 spring-loaded launcher bricks, but the result here is a bit more authentic. Overall I like to look, and my only possible complaint is that it uses too many pieces which could be seen as stealing them away from the main model.
The main model seems to be part of the ruins of Dale (we'll discuss its role from a movie perspective later) and features a tower, a bridge, and some steps. I like the inclusion of snow here and there, although the fire in a couple spots doesn't seem to make much sense. (Rocks can catch on fire? Okay I suppose they can, because lava, but that's really more melted than combusted.) The designers definitely captured the 'ruined' look, with chunks of the structures missing and lots of asymmetry present. The action features also blend in well and don't look tacked on at all. I like the overall look, but I'm not sure if I $60 like it. Since I still have it built, I compared the structure to 79016 Attack on Lake-Town, which is a $30 set. Granted, it doesn't come with a ballista and has two fewer minifigs, but the size is about the same, which seems rather disappointing, honestly. I'm not sure those additions justify a $30 additional cost. Ignoring the cost though, it's certainly well-designed.
The likely reason for the high price is because of all these minifigs. First up we have Bard and Legolas. Both feature prominently during the battle, though not necessarily side by side. This is the same version of Legolas we've gotten in all of the other Hobbit sets, but Bard is an exclusive who was only available previously at San Diego Comic Con (my condolences to the people who waited in line or spent lots of money on one). As we've grown to expect, the printing is pretty fantastic and I feel it captures the look of both characters well. Both figures have alternate faces and back printing too.
Next up are the set's two dwarves - Thorin Oakenshield, King Under the Mountain, and Dain Ironfoot of the Iron Hills. Thorin is unique here with a new torso and a new hairpiece with a crown molded onto it. Dain is only available in this set, and while he reuses Dwalin's beard in a new color and Gloin's head, the torso print is unique and the helm is only available here so the reuse is justified. The helmet is pretty awesome, actually, and has a lot of great details and printing on it. Both minifigs have some cool weapons, with Thorin wielding a gold sword and Dain bearing a trans-red axe. These two figures alone could justify the purchase of this set for some, because they're that awesome.
A set with 'battle' in the name wouldn't be a battle without bad guys too, and this set has a few. Azog is unique here by virtue of a new face print that differs from the one found in the Dul Guldur Battle and the SDCC exclusive. He features some nice printing and the custom head piece makes him stand taller than your average fig. I also like the custom hand piece, which I'm sure builders will put to good use. Additionally we get two Gundabad orcs, who have new head prints that make them unique here. The bodies and legs are the same as we've seen elsewhere, but the new heads add some nice variety to anyone's orc army.
Finally we have Gwaihir, whose name literally means 'Windlord' in Sindarin. The printing is apparently a little different than the eagle that appeared in the two Lord of the Rings sets, but he's pretty much the same. The eagle looks great in some poses but the two points of articulation make him look awkward most of the time, and he falls over easily as well. I enjoy the inclusion though and the eagles were definitely a key part of The Hobbit that were lacking in the sets up to this point.
The other half of the fun is in playing with the set. How well does the set function and is it enjoyable to play with?
The set has a pretty good amount of playability, both in terms of action features and role play fun. The ballista fires quite well as long as you hold it in place securely when you fire. Additionally, a couple sand green tiles are used as levers to make the ruins fall apart even more - the wall of the tower can explode and the bridge can collapse. It's all pretty basic, but none of it feels superfluous and in my opinion make the set more fun. Of course with seven minifigs and an eagle you can create all kinds of scenarios for your characters to battle it out in. Who will win and who will lose? It's all up to the power of your imagination!
Now it's time to get into the source material. Warning: SPOILERS AHEAD! Like the Attack on Lake-Town, this set rather confused me. The tower reminds me of the architecture seen in Dale, versus the ruins on Ravenhill where many of the characters in this set battle. On the flip side, the bridge is somewhat reminiscent of parts of the side battle on Ravenhill. This brings me to my next point: while Dain and Bard fight in the actual battle, Thorin, Legolas, and Azog go up on a hill to duke it out (with Fili, Kili, Dwalin, and Tauriel) and don't take part in the main fight. If this set is called The Battle of Five Armies, shouldn't it focus on the actual battle? Basically I wanted dwarven mounted cavalry on rams versus orcs on wargs. Or, if the set was going to focus on Thorin versus Azog, don't include Bard and Dain (as much as I love the fig) and give us Tauriel and one of the other aforementioned dwarves to make it more accurate. I feel like the set is trying to do too many things and from a story perspective failing at all of them. And don't even get me started on how the movie doesn't follow the book...
Once it's all said and done, how does the set stack up? Should I get it?
What's to like?
Great minifigs with quite a few exclusives
Good selection of parts
Functional, well-integrated play features
Ballista is nicely designed
What's not to like?
Poorly fits the continuity of the movie
Doesn't feel like a $60 set
Looking at The Battle of Five Armies as a set, I like the structure and the ballista and I love the minifigures. I'm not sure I can recommend it at $60 though, as the value just doesn't feel like it's there with only 472 pieces - it seems so small. If you're a fan of The Hobbit, you probably want to pick this set up for Dain and the others, but you should wait for a sale if you can. Otherwise you're probably better off passing on this, unless it's at a big discount.
Thank you all for reading and watching our review - hopefully you gained something from it. As per usual, please leave your feedback and questions in the Talkback, where we'll do our best to address them. And of course, keep checking back on BZPower for more set reviews and LEGO and Bionicle news!