Thursday, September 17th, 2015 at 10:46pm by Andrew, BZPower News Manager
After a slight delay, it's time for us to wrap up our reviews of the new Star Wars Buildable Figures. The last set is 75111 Darth Vader, and it's only fair that BZPower Blog Leader DeeVee, who used to share the same name, be the one to check him out. Will this Dark Lord of the Sith rule the galaxy with you side by side? Or are you better off jumping down Cloud City's central air shaft to get as far away from him as possible? You'll have to read on to find out!
From the design of the box to the instruction manual, these are the first things you see before building the set.
Official box image credit TLG
Disney is a powerful company, my friends. Long ago TLG created Technic-based Star Wars sets, until Hasbro decided those fell into their action figure license rights, and there has been nothing in this style from TLG since. One of the fondest memories many older fans have is building the old Technic Darth Vader set- and now, thanks to Disney's behind the scenes work (presumably), LEGO has once again stepped into the buildable Star Wars figure game. And who best to represent than one of the most iconic villains in media history?
Darth Vader comes in a substantial box, much more solid than the neat hexagonal BIONICLE 2015 boxes. This helps them stand out as much as the giant LEGO STAR WARS logo does. This box looks neat. I'm just going to say it. Darth Vader is set in the Emperor's Throne Room, and the black and blue in the background is both the exact image of Darth Vader one sees in their head, and also visually compelling. The clash of Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker in the back, regardless of doubling up on our Darth Vaders on the front, looks neat too. I like this.
I'll still never get used to the Disney logo on Star Wars boxes, though.
The box has the usual legal and advertisement work on the back. Those are always nice.
Half the fun is had building the set. How fun is it to build and how easy or challenging is it?
One of the things the two larger Star Wars sets provide is a different building experience than any CCBS sets have really done before. Where Grievous is a near-pure CCBS building experience, Darth Vader here is a solid mix of Technic and CCBS. His torso is a very tightly-built collection of small Technic connectors, pins, and axles, all set at very precise angles to create the general shape of a torso. Ball connections exist in several places, and the smallest size CCBS torso is used in a clever construction for the hips. But outside of that torso piece, this is a purely custom torso. More on that later.
The limbs are fairly standard CCBS fare, with a few add-ons for the lower legs to fill them out. The result is interesting, though a bit mixed. Regardless though, this is a different building experience than most CCBS and Star Wars fans will have done before.
There's been a lot of praise for this custom torso all over the Internet, but I'm going to be contrary and say that I absolutely hated building it. It felt needless, overly-complicated for no reason, and simply felt tiring. I started off pretty excited for the build - but about halfway through I was done with it. I appreciate a good Technic build - this didn't feel like one. It felt tedious and complex simply to say it was complex.
Your mileage may vary, of course. I didn't enjoy it.
Now that the set is complete, we can critique how it looks from every angle. New or interesting pieces can also be examined here.
Darth Vader, by virtue of being built by a mix of standard CCBS parts and standard Technic bits, contains very little in the way of new parts. We're mostly looking at new part decorations, and a few required licensed parts.
- The superhero chest plate with the Darth Vader upper armour printing
- The size 6 CCBS shells in black with the heavy fabric pattern that photographs poorly
- The standard CCBS torso shell with a Darth Vader control panel belt print
- A road-sign with the chest control panel printed on it that somehow missed the photo above
Brand new parts:
- The new lower leg armour in black
- The lightsaber handles
- The lightsaber blade
- The Darth Vader helmet
- The new cape in black
The Darth Vader helmet is the standout new mold from the entire Star Wars wave, in my opinion. The Grievous head is brilliant - this is another level above that. I have owned a lot of Darth Vader toys in my life, and this is quite possibly the most faithful Darth Vader helmet I've ever seen. While it misses the slightly red eyes (that most people have missed in watching, so that's okay), it's otherwise absolutely flawless. It has the standard CCBS connection port underneath, and has a slight collar around the bottom that helps the head fit into the torso.
Honestly, I almost feel like the set is worth the price tag for this part alone. It looks so good.
The new shin armour is pretty neat, it's smoother and more streamlined than the usual CCBS shells, with a more traditional armour look. They look great, though they only have the one socket connection. This helps with the streamlined look, but it also means there is only one connection for MOCs. It'll be interesting to see how this piece finds itself into MOCs and maybe other CCBS sets.
The lightsaber blade is made out of a flexible rubber. It connects with an axle port on the bottom. It looks like a lightsaber blade. Not much else to say!
The handles are basically glorified axle extenders, two-lengths long, but with futuristic designs built into them. They work really well as lightsaber handles, though as all the sets use the same ones, you lose a little of the individuality that comes with lightsaber handles in the official media. They work great, though, and I can already see them used as blasters, turrets, and other mechanical details in MOCs, both system and constraction. These will be good pieces.
The cape is long. It has three connection holes cut into the pattern on the back, one larger one and two smaller ones. Curiously, Darth Vader awkwardly uses the smaller ones to connect to the back.
Darth Vader is a set that is almost entirely to be regarded from a certain point of view (you knew there'd be a Star Wars joke in here somewhere, let's be honest). With the cape on, the set can look pretty imposing when posed correctly.
But look at the set head-on? The legs become too thin for the torso, and there's a massively odd gap happening at the pec-level. Above the shells on the side there's just this gap that really throws off the visual flow of the set. It's like someone took one torso design, and another one, and put them together to try and make one cohesive shape. I don't like it, it's jarring and once I noticed it, I couldn't lose it, even with the cape on.
While it would have required something different in the add-on department, simply switching the thigh shells to the front would have helped with the awkward leg placement and shape, and would have gone a long way towards helping the set's overall look and appearance.
I'm not sure what to do about the torso, but I can't help but feel it's a consequence of the torso design. It feels a lot to me like the complex Technic-based build was used to attempt to fill out the torso and give Darth Vader the height he needs to be imposing and grand, but I don't think it worked. It feels like it is trying to be more clever than it is, and it frankly looks bad and creates empty areas in a torso where empty areas simply shouldn't exist.
In poses (like many used in the promotional materials, of course), the empty areas are simply in shadow or blacked out, and when viewed from those angles, the set can look pretty neat. But that doesn't forgive the design work to me.
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 mostly has the standard CCBS range of motion, hindered here and there by the add-ons and the odd construction. The weird grey additions by the waist, clearly meant to represent the other control segments of Vader's belt, get in the way of the hips and often cause the black add-on segments to pop off the shells they're attached to. The round shells on the shoulder often strike up against the squared ones used in the shoulders, and the result is the same there as well.
Darth Vader can reach some impressive poses that do look neat. He's not an ugly set by any means, though as I've said above, I don't think he looks quite good either.
Once it's all said and done, how does the set stack up? Should I get it?
What's to like?
- That helmet
- Great prints
- The lightsaber is a lightsaber
- Looks like Darth Vader
What's not to like?
- Weird cape placement
- Oddly empty torso
- Stick legs
- Unnecessarily complex and tedious torso build
- Just sort of awkward looking in too many poses
Overall, there are a lot of great ideas in this set. I'd like to see the attempt at purposeful complexity and more detailed build represented in more CCBS sets, especially in our beloved BIONICLE line. But I'd rather see it done the way Grievous does it, not the way Vader does it. I feel like the torso is complex simply to be complex, and the aesthetic value of the set suffers greatly for it.
I went by the name of Darth Vader on BZPower for something like eight years. This character holds an important place in my life, and I chose this set to review because I was excited about it. Maybe my expectations were high, especially with all the reviews and comments that mentioned how great the build for the torso was. But I didn't enjoy the build much at all, it felt tedious and like a waste of my time. It felt like the time, effort, and parts that went into the torso's needlessly complex build would have been better utilized either elsewhere in the set itself to fix the proportions or those stick legs, or spread out amongst the rest of the sets in the line. It feels like a waste to me. I'm aware this is probably the first real review that will say these things, and I'm prepared for that, but I wanted to like this set a lot, and I don't like it much at all.
Thank you all for reading and watching our review of Lord Vader - with luck it was informative and helpful! We'd love to hear what you thought of it in the Talkback topic, and while you're at it be sure to thank DeeVee for putting it together. This concludes our Star Wars buildable figures reviews, but we'll have plenty more set reviews and LEGO news coming up, right here on BZPower!
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