Sunday, November 25th, 2018 at 2:36am by Jason, BZPower Reporter
Today we go big and look at Ninjago's 70655 Dragon Pit. This set features the Dragon Hunters from the latest wave of Ninjago, and showcases the Ninjas facing off against an earth dragon. Although this set is quite expensive, is the design and parts value worth it? BZPower Reporter Xccj takes a look into this set, so read on or watch the video review to find out how good it is.
From the design of the box to the instruction manual, these are the first things you see before building the set.
70655 Dragon Pit is one of the largest Ninjago sets ever; it has the fifth highest piece count and price if you include the Ninjago Movie sets in the mix. Dragon Pit clocks in at 1660 pieces for $129.99 USD, and comes with nine figures, including the four original Ninjas, as well as a new dragon and three sizeable structures. While the front of the box displays a scene featuring all the characters in battle, the back of the box shows off the many action features included with this set. It also indicates that the collectible feature for the summer sets is the "Dragon Armor," but while some of the cheaper sets only include portions of it, you get all the bits here with the Dragon Master / Teen Wu. Inside the box, you get twelve number bags full of parts.
Half the fun is had building the set. How fun is it to build and how easy or challenging is it?
The build takes a while. I spanned it out over a couple of days and took my time, but you can expect at least a couple of decent hours of construction. There are a few interesting building techniques used here, like the various connections used on the black gate pieces or some of the SNOT designs on the walls to add plate and wedge textures. There are also a couple of designs borrowed from previous Ninjago sets: the black roof design is similar to what was used on the Temple of Airjitzu, and the dragon skull is reminiscent of the snake head designs from the 2012 Serpentine vehicles. Still, it's enjoyable.
Now that the set is complete, we can critique how it looks from every angle. New or interesting pieces can also be examined here.
I didn't take a picture of the pile of pieces before I started building, mostly because there are 1660 pieces plus a fair amount of extras and it was too much of a pain to sort. There's a nice array of steampunk or dieselpunk colors in use here, from the classic blacks and greys to tan, dark tan, and brown, with various white, olive green, and orange highlights too. (The dragon also adds some sand green to the mix.) There were a few uncommon elements, including the orange flag piece and clips, light grey tooth plates, sand green CCBS feet and 1x2 curved slopes, brown 1x1 rounded plate with bar, dark tan wedge bricks and 2x6 curved plates, among others. They also introduced a new weapons pack in the Ninjago Hunted sets that includes five new blade designs, and those elements get put to good use here. Also new is the dragon sword hilt, which has an awesome dragon head design. It's available in most of the Hunted sets, but I hope to see this piece used more wildly in the future, because it's such a great fit with the theme.
We don't usually get a full cast of characters in a single set, but this time we get all four of the original Ninjas together, including Kai, Jay, Zane, and Cole. Their new "Hunted" outfits are torn and battered updates of their "Sons of Garmadon" uniforms, which helps fit the post-apocalyptic theme of the new world they're visiting. They each come with their own personalized weapons, maintaining their new preferences since the LEGO Ninjago Movie variations switched things up. All four of them appear in the cheaper Hunted sets in some variation (I think in this set, Kai had a scabbard and Cole has a different colored printing on his headgear) so they're not especially exclusive. Still, it's nice to get all of them at once, instead of being force to collect all the sets.
Next up are the four Dragon Hunters: Chew Toy, Arkade, Heavy Metal, and Iron Baron. Although a similar style is shared between them all (three share the same legs, two share the same torso) they all have their own individual quirks that set them apart. Chew Toy has some weathered armor and a clunky shield, indicating his role as dragon fodder. Arkade features a cool use of the welding helmet and includes an interesting (nonfunctioning) dial on his torso which he used to make decisions in the television show. He's also the only exclusive Dragon Hunter fig in this set. Heavy Metal used the new fancy shoulder armor to hide her face, and wields an (also nonfunctioning) crossbow which she used to capture dragons, complete with a trans-orange chain. Iron Baron gets the fanciest details, because he's the Dragon Hunter's leader. He also uses the same new shoulder armor, but this time turned around so his face is unobscured and his knife holder is on the front. He also comes with a black top hat, peg leg, mechanical arm, and Dragon Staff, so he easily matches the description of some crazy steampunk pirate. It's a nice selection of villains to man the towers around the Dragon Pit.
The last character is unique to this set: Dragon Master Wu. I guess it's a slight spoiler about who eventually dons the Dragon Armor, but it's made pretty clear in the show early on that Wu, the direct descendant of the Spinjitzu Master, is going to need to put it on. He comes with the cool new dragon sword (which uses the dragon hilt I mentioned earlier) and a dragon shield. His new golden armor also acts as a face cover, and has clips on the back to attach a flag with some stickered dragon emblems. He's decked on in a way to make it clear that he's the top fig in this wave of sets.
I believe this is the third time we've had an elemental earth dragon featured in a set. He has a nice dark grey, light gray, and sand green color scheme, with a few hints of dark tan thrown in. The use of the various slopes to give him jagged armor works really well to showcase his element, and I liked the spiked tail which reminds me of an Ankylosaurus. The design of the head is quite clever, and I especially like the way the dark tan swords form his jawline. It's also cool that the curved slopes used printings for the eyes instead of stickers. Although the front legs are fine (and I do like the special claw design on the end of his front feet) the back legs seem too short and restrict his stances. I'm also not a fan of the unhindered swivel plates on the wings; it's a bit too easy to knock them out of alignment and look weird. Overall, the Earth Dragon does a good job of displaying its element, but it's not the greatest Ninjago dragon design I've built.
There are three primary structures; the gate, the watchtower on the right, and the prison tower on the left. The gate is quite wide and tall, but it's big enough to allow the earth dragon to crawl through it, so the sizing works. Some of the SNOT designs on the front help hide the standard brick structure that holds up the gate, and then the gate itself has a lot of nice details to showcase the rough nature of the arena. The interior of the gate is fairly basic, with just a plate connecting the two towers and revealing the gear mechanisms. There's room here to place the earth dragon or perhaps display a few of the figs, waiting for their chance to enter the Dragon Pit and fight for the amusement of their captors. The top level has a shrine where the dragon skull throne is located. Some interesting clip connections allow for innovative angles on the skull, and allow a bit of flexibility to raise and lower it to place a fig on the seat of the thrown. The shrine also has a couple of flags and a cool 4x4 dish with the symbol of the Dragon Hunters printed on it. On the left side there's a small engine which is used to power the gates, and on the right side there's storage for some additional weapons and a fire extinguisher (useful for facing fire dragons, I expect.)
The next structure you build is the watchtower. The first level holds a blacksmith forge; inside is a small fireplace, an anvil, and some tools. It's not the most detailed blacksmith forge we've seen from Ninjago, but it works nicely. The outside wall utilized a SNOT plate attachment to showcase some dragon hieroglyphs, which is a nice use of space and showcases some cool artwork. The middle level is a small observation desk complete with a telescope, although there's not a lot of room to stand inside thanks to the central support beam. The top reuses the same roof design from the shrine (and Airjitzu Temple) with a turret on the very top.
The third structure is the prison tower, and it is probably the weakest build here too. It's essentially a stone prison cell with an additional cage built atop it. It can be a bit tricky to get a fig placed in the top cage, but you can lean back some of the bars to place them inside.
The watchtower and the prison tower connect to the main gates via an angles plate, thus creating a full angled structure around the Dragon Pit. Unfortunately, you don't get to create a fully encircled Dragon Pit, but this design makes the most sense to allow for accessible play in the pit. (It's also mildly interesting that the set is actually named after the negative space the structures are built around. But I guess "Surrounding Wall Structure Bordering the Dragon Pit" was too long of a title.) The various towers allow plenty of locations to place the Dragon Hunters as they watch the Ninjas face off against the Earth Dragon below. The full assembly is quite large too; it's about 20 inches (51 cm) wide, 7 inches (20 cm) deep, and 10 inches (27 cm) tall; that takes up a lot of space!
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?
For all the interesting designs, the real highlights of this set are the various play features. The big one is the gate; if you turn one of the gear rods on either side of the gate towers, the two gates are pushed opened, allowing the dragon to enter the arena. This utilizes thirteen different gears and creates a smooth motion. Of course, one of the issues I've encountered is that one of the gates tends to open slightly sooner than the other, depending on which side you're turning the rod on, but it's not a big issue considering how extended this function is over the full gate structure.
The next big function involves the turret on the watchtower. The whole structure is on a turntable, and you can use a lever to launch two flick fire missiles into the Dragon Pit. While flick fire missiles aren't as common in sets as they used to be, their function here works quite nicely, as both sides are launched at once, and the chain keeps the pegs together and can adequately wrap around a target like the dragon. (Depending, of course, if you can aim correctly.)
The prison tower also has a basic function. By turning a rod on the back, you open up the trapdoor in the upper cage, sending its occupants falling into the lower prison. But this still benefits the prisoners, because it also rotates the wall up on the lower prison, allowing for a quick escape. Not sure that Iron Baron thought the construction through very well on that prison cell, but I'm sure the Ninjas will use it to their advantage.
There is also a lot of role play value here, as the structures set the stage for a mighty face-off between the Ninjas, the earth dragon, and the Dragon Hunters. The Dragon Pit was also heavily featured in a couple of episodes of the television show, so you can also recreate those scenes using all the characters here. (Although, to be fair, Wu hadn't gained his Dragon Armor at that point.) With 11 minifigures and a moderately poseable dragon, there's lots of fun to be had. And if you add in some of the other dragons and vehicles from the other sets in this theme, you can create quite an extensive scene.
Once it's all said and done, how does the set stack up? Should I get it?
What's to like?
Descent selection of pieces in various steampunk colors
A good range of minifigures, featuring all four Ninjas, Wu, and some key villains
Earth Dragon's scale designs portray his element well
Gate function is amazing in scope and complexity
Nicely designed dragon skull throne
Watchtower flick-fire turret works well
What's not to like?
Dragon's legs are too short and the wing joints swivel out too easily
Gate doors don't necessarily open / close in sync
Prison tower underwhelming
One of the most expensive Ninjago sets ever
As this is the most expensive set in the Ninjago Hunted theme, it probably wouldn't be the first I'd recommend. However, it creates a sizable structure with some fun functions and includes a majority of the main characters, so I think it's the best single set to capture the full theme of the Dragon hunters. I'll admit that the structures may not be quite as iconic as some of the other large Ninjago temples of the past; part of this is because the setting is in a more desolate realm, so a more worn down structure is believable. But I think the play features in this set are very high, which will benefit a younger audience. For older builders, the main draw will likely be the useful color palette for steampunk or dieselpunk designs, and 1660 pieces for $130 is a good value too. There's a lot to like about this set, and if it's within your budget, it could be worthwhile.