Sunday, August 16th, 2015 at 12:53pm by Andrew, BZPower News Manager
Today we're going to take a look at another set from the LEGO Minecraft theme - 21121 The Desert Outpost. As the second-largest set in the line coming out this year, it's one of the more impressive of the block-like playsets. But is that enough for you to want to buy it? Or is it better off left in the desert itself? Read and watch our review to find out!
From the design of the box to the instruction manual, these are the first things you see before building the set.
Like the other Minecraft sets, there's no mistaking what theme this is from. The branding takes up a lot of space along the top of the box, with most of the rest being reserved for an image of the set itself. There's a lot to take in on the front, with a TNT block being launched at the skeletons by Alex, Steve in his little boat, and the wolf keeping as far away from the baddies as possible. We also have images of the four types of characters available in the set, a callout that you can build your own creations with LEGO pieces (who knew?!) and a top-down view showing off the fact that the set is hinged and can open up.
The back of the box shows the set from the opposite angle, so you can see the interior of the outpost. Callouts around the border show off the many features crammed into the set, and another mention that you can build things by not following the instructions too. It's pretty par for the course.
Half the fun is had building the set. How fun is it to build and how easy or challenging is it?
The build process is, like the other Minecraft sets, rather straightforward. It's pretty much all studs-up building with lots and lots of basic bricks. It's very modular too, which impacts the playability of the set in a good way, but can make the build boring when you're constructing the same subassembly several times. With 519 pieces it won't go together fast, but you won't feel very challenged.
Now that the set is complete, we can critique how it looks from every angle. New or interesting pieces can also be examined here.
When I took the pictures and recorded the video for this review, the set had not been released yet, so I couldn't tell what pieces were exclusive to the set. The above, mainly Minecraft-style pieces, were the ones that jumped out at me. I was also a fan of the 1x1 round tiles with the cookie print, the dark grey 2x2 round tile with the hole in the center, the 2x2 trans-blue boat bottom, and the keetorange stem.
Now that the inventory is readily available, we can check out what other pieces are exclusive to this set or uncommon (I'm going to skip the Minecraft-only ones):
- Dark Tan (Brick Yellow) 4x4 plate with 4 studs (3 sets)
- Medium Nougat 1x2 hinge brick (3 sets)
- Medium Nougat 2x2 tiles (3 sets)
- Medium Nougat 1x1 brick with handle (4 sets)
- Reddish Brown 1x2 plate with bar (4 sets)
- Blue 2x4x1 slope brick (5 sets)
- Medium Nougat 2x2 jumper plate (5 sets)
Other than that, this set is made up primarily of basic bricks and 2x2 jumpers. There's certainly other pieces as well, but nothing special that jumps out at you. This is not a set you'll buy for the parts.
One of the main draws of the Minecraft sets is likely the minifigs. The outpost includes both Steve and Alex, the former with a helmet this time. Otherwise he's the same Steve we've gotten in all the other sets. Alex, on the other hand, is only available in one other set, so it's nice to be able to get your hands on her here. Both figs have the expected blocky printing that will make them difficult to use elsewhere, along with the blocky heads and plain legs. They definitely seem to fit the theme, so if you're a fan that's awesome.
The skeletons are much the same as we've seen in the past as well. One has armor this time, but otherwise there's nothing too special here.
The wolf is exclusive to this set and is fairly cute, for a blocky wolf. The head and neck being all one piece looks pretty awkward, but the Internet tells me that they did a pretty good job capturing the general shape. The red plate is apparently supposed to indicate a collar, so while the box calls it a wolf it would be more accurate to call it a dog, in Minecraft parlance.
With this being the third Minecraft set I've built and reviewed, I tried to think about it from different perspectives as I was building it, to try to figure out what makes it appealing. When the partnership between LEGO and Mojang was first announced, many people commented that Minecraft was already LEGO, and making sets based off the game was silly since all you had to do was buy existing sets. I think a lot of those people are remembering the LEGO sets of their youth though. I feel like these sets look like old sets from the 1980s that I loved as a kid look like now when I go back to look at pictures of them. They have very simple shapes and lines and evoke the ideas of real-world objects without really looking like those items. It's a more abstract representation as compared to the smoother and more-detailed sets that we get today, like the Speed Champions cars with hardly any studs showing. It's a different aesthetic without a doubt. I'm still not a fan of it, but at least now I feel like I can better understand and appreciate it.
So with all that said, this set is a representation of an outpost in the desert. There's a wall to keep the skeletons and other monsters out, a watchtower with a TNT launcher on it, a hut with a bed, an oven and workbench, and a launch with a little boat. There's a lot to see and a bunch of details here and there. I like the plantlife in particular - it's a nice little touch that doesn't go overboard to ruin the desert vibe.
Through the use of hinge pieces and modular building, the set folds open to allow easier access to the inside. You can see in the hut to make it easier to play with and of course expand the inspiration the set provides.
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?
There's a lot of playability crammed in here, with five characters and a bunch of features. Of course there's the opening doors and also a TNT launcher that does its trick provided you apply enough force. There's also a catapult in the desert to simulate the explosion of the TNT and send the skeletons flying. You can slide the boat into the water, and have Steve float over to other playsets to have new adventures. On the back of the set, a bunch of the blocks are connected via 2x2 jumper plates, so you can easily 'mine' them for raw materials. A lot of the set, in fact, is easily disassemblable, especially the hut. This helps encourage kids to build their own creations, which the instruction book has steps for to help inspire young builders. For fans of Minecraft, there's certainly a lot that can be done here.
Once it's all said and done, how does the set stack up? Should I get it?
What's to like?
- Good selection of characters
- Decent variety of basic bricks
- Lots of playability
What's not to like?
- Boring build
- Blocky aesthetic
- Few unique parts
- Mostly basic bricks
Most of my criticisms for this set have to do with the fact that it's based on the Minecraft license. If you're a fan of the game and the visual style, you can probably ignore those and you will likely enjoy this set. At $60 for 519 pieces, most of them basic bricks, people who are more fans of LEGO than the game can safely pass on this one. There's certainly a lot of play potential, but overall the value seems fairly lacking.
Thank you all for reading and watching this review - we hope you enjoyed it! We always appreciate your feedback and questions, post them in the Talkback and we'll reply to them as time permits. And of course, you can keep checking back on BZPower for more LEGO news and set reviews!
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