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Hobbit LEGO – Double Preview

October 17, 2012

An Entirely Expected Journey

Last week, LEGO released a designer preview of the first LEGO Hobbit set. It’s a set we’ve all seen before but it’s nice to finally have a good look inside! But perhaps more exciting is the release of the remaining pictures and a second video this week, detailing the ‘Goblin King Battle’ set. Gosh, I can positively feel your excitement from here.

If you’ve read my previous article on the Lord of the Rings LEGO then you’ll probably know just how cynical I’ve become over LEGO’s recent offerings. I’m not a purist, by any means, but I went into these videos with the same ‘It’s not like it was in the old days’ feeling that I’ve harboured for too long.

Nevertheless, we soldier on, eh?

Hit the jump for the full videos and a slew of pictures.

‘An Unexpected Gathering’ is a name we’ve heard lots of in the run up to the release of the Hobbit LEGO so it was no surprise to find that this was the first to get the developer preview treatment.

You have to provide your own arms.

Bjarke Lykke Madsen’s valiant visage gives us a brief overview of the included mini-figures first, and I was pleasantly surprised at the detail on Bofur’s hat. Without much of a chance to ogle the remaining dwarves we’re whisked away to the outside of Bilbo’s famous hobbit hole. The detail on the wood panels of the fence and the bench drew my notice and the added ‘scratch mark’ on the door was a nice touch, though already I’m seeing the brick-for-everything methodology hard at work.

Bilbo’s garden is complete with vegetable patch and a path to the door, though I’m still left a little cold at the use of so many glossy, curvy pieces. They’ve gone fairly mental with the foliage though, so that’s a plus point. LEGO plants remain one of the greatest naturalising components in my opinion.

Just as we’re getting bored of vegetables, the peace of Hobbiton is shattered as Bag-End loses its roof, revealing a cosy looking interior that’s impressively stuffed full of interest.

Always the host, never the hostess. Or something like that.

Note the glut of shelves and the cheeky monogrammed book in the background. Also note the ridiculous amount of food. I don’t think I’ve ever owned a LEGO set with food as a component in my life, so I didn’t really know what was on offer. But if I could just draw your attention to the table a second…

Delicious, if you’re into that sort of thing.

Along with the fabled LEGO pretzel there seems to be two pairs of LEGO sweetmeats (looking a little green though, I must say) and some sort of red devilry that looks like something straight out of Skyrim.

Ignoring the poor taste in cuisine, I was a little less impressed with the back of the door. They have to make it move, certainly, but it’s a shame they couldn’t fathom some sort of reverse plate to cover up the unsightly squares for something so quintessentially round. Then again, it is a little more blocky, which is something I appreciate, so I’m of two minds.

The maps on the floor are also worth a mention, being extraordinarily detailed and taken straight from Tolkien’s maps. There’s one detailing the Lonely Mountain, another for the Shire and another for Mirkwood. All in all, rather impressive on such a tiny scale.

The final touch for this video is a bit of a treat, as Madsen gives us a look at a prototype model for Bagend. Although not unprecedented, this is a bit of a rarity, so I was near giggling with delight by this point.

Like some sort of LEGO fetus.

What can I say? I much prefer the tree in the prototype and the chimney looks far less churned-out, but overall it does seem to be a lacking a little in the way of colour. I suppose this could be due to the mini-figures being absent, but the additional darker brown elements over the windows in the finished piece really add a lot. The prototype also sports a gate sign, reading ‘No admittance except on party business’, which is sadly lacking from the final model.

Finally we’re given a better look at the mini-figs and I’m once again impressed by Bofur’s hat and the detailing of the other figures. Bilbo’s expression, on the other hand, looks a little suspect to me. It’s as if he’s had a little too much of Bombur’s German Sausage. Take that as you will.

As if he doesn’t have enough trouble…

Moving on, let’s get to the real meat of the matter. Hans Henrik Sidenius (favourable to Madsen by way of his jovial, round face and pleasantly pitched tone) takes us through the newly revealed ‘The Goblin King Battle’. Not a brilliant name but add the word ‘battle’ to anything and kids will buy it.

Initially I couldn’t get past the thought that oh God, it’s one of those again but as the camera flicked around I began to get a little more interested. There’s something to be said about making a LEGO set look cluttered. It’s in LEGO’s very nature to be organised, with things slotting into other things with micron precision. So to see a set that looks as though it’s actually put together by Goblins is quite impressive. Perhaps they did use goblins; by the smile on Sidenius’ face, he’s definitely in on something we’re not … moving on.

The bridge impressed me especially, with its irregular look, and Sidenius goes on to explain that they took great trouble to make it all look a bit ramshackle. Kudos for that, my man. We’re then shown the ladder and everything starts to go rapidly downhill for me.

It’s not a bad ladder. I have no inherent dislike of ladders. But when things start pinging around because of Sidenius’ interminable fiddling with the ‘functions’, I’m instantly turned off. The ladder drops, the walkway breaks, the crane wiggles (I’m actually not that bothered about the crane, the movement is pretty good) and the treasure reveals itself. Not impressed.

Sat aloft the jumbled mass of ‘functions’ is the globular form of the Goblin King. Looking for all the world like an unripe marrow, he lauds it over the rest of the wee goblins with his massive, rotatable arms, reminiscent of an ageing action figure.

Hulk would wet himself.

Finally, we’re shown the goblin trap, yet another ‘function’, before moving on to take a proper look at the mini-figs. Ori seems to have been through the same treatment as Bilbo but, for the most part, they’re all looking pretty spiffy. Some of the weapons look suitably LEGO-y while the others look like they’ve just popped out of the Orc forge, which I’m not so keen on. Adding the goblin ears as hair pieces is fairly inspired but the odd ridge above the eyes gives them a little of the comedy-eyebrow look.

I think Sidenius’ final comment is rather telling of the current LEGO ethos: ‘I hope you’ve enjoyed this little tour of the Goblin King battle set and I hope you have fun playing with the model and all the functions.’ LEGO these days is obviously marketing itself to a very specific audience, that of the child who’s probably more interested in Call of Duty than LEGO. I can’t blame them for trying to bring LEGO up-to-date with a greater variety of pieces and the whole ‘battle set’ or play set ideas; today’s child doesn’t want to make a model to look at. They don’t care if it looks accurate, or shows an incredible attention to detail, they want to shoot plastic missiles, or drop ladders.

The remaining sets are all looking much the same, with the ‘Attack of the Wargs’ set proving once more that the more foliage you add, the better the look. Yet they all have that same thing in common: several components to each set to produce an overall play set. Not a model, not something to build into something else entirely, but something to play with. With missiles. And lasers. Probably.

Ironically one of my favourites. AND it was a play set. But look how blocky…

This doesn’t cut it for me and I’m sure I’m not alone in this. Gone are the days of LEGO being that portal to pure imagination and in are the days of injection-moulded dreams. ‘Fun’ has become a more active thing, where if your toy doesn’t have moving parts with lasers and missiles, it loses its appeal. That doesn’t sound much like fun to me, but what do I know? I’m certainly not a child any more. Perhaps it’s just time I grew up.

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