Set Review: 21127 The Fortress
Sunday, September 18th, 2016 at 6:06pm by Andrew, BZPower News Manager
[Source: Nuju Metru]
Today we have a new set review to share with you all. Coming from the LEGO Minecraft theme, 21127 is one of the largest sets released from the blocky game to date, and offers a ton of building possibilities. BZPower Forum Assistant Nuju Metru was given the opportunity to take a look at the set and share his thoughts on it with you all. So let's go check it out and see if it's something that belongs on your wishlist!
Hey guys, and welcome to BZPower's review of LEGO Minecraft 21127 The Fortress. As always, I'd like to heartily thank TLG for giving us at BZP free stuff... I love my job and I love my free LEGO. I'd also like to remind you all that the opinions expressed in this review are not those of TLG, nor of BZPower as a whole: they're just those of me, the reviewer. Feel free to disagree with me about anything.
Read on to see my thoughts - captured for you in both a video and a text/image format - on this model!
From the design of the box to the instruction manual, these are the first things you see before building the set.
The front of the box shows off the main model and alternate builds.
It's a standard box, and it's by the LEGO graphic design team. So a few things we can take for granted: it works as a container for the parts; it looks pretty decent; it displays the main model with some tasteful CGI touch-ups. Set against a blocky background (very Minecraft), The Fortress of 21127 sits in the foreground, torches and signal fires aglow, besieged by archer skeletons. Steve pulls a King Theoden and rushes out wearing golden armor through the main gate to assault the undead army.
Why even have a fortress if you're not gonna use it? Silly Steve.
At right, in a purposefully pixelated sidebar, some of 21127's alternate builds are showcased. Down on a bottom bar, both the horse and the sheep are over the moon about qualifying as minifigures for the first time, like, ever. Horse doesn't even know how to show off his best angle, he's so new to this.
The back of the box demonstrates play features, and restates 21127's modularity.
The modularity gets explained a little better by a before and after shot of the main model, broken up into its component modules in the "after" shot. For those of you who read (and I'm assuming you do; you've gotten this far, after all), a handy text box informs you that these component modules can be arranged in myriad ways. It's almost like the fortress was made out of easily recombinable blocks...
At right, a column again. This one demonstrates play features of the model, which in descending order are: a prison; flick-fire missiles (do these still count?); the inclusion of an armory; gates which pop open; and an included pen for the horse and sheep.
21127 includes five instruction manuals.
The instruction booklets came wrapped in their own plastic all together so that they wouldn't bend beneath the six numbered bags and baggie full of 8x8 dark bley plates. I found that to be very considerate.
On closer examination, I discovered why there were five manuals (which seemed more than normal, right?): manual 1 is for actually building the set, brick by brick, whereas manuals 2-5 are shorter, and guide the set owner to assemble some pre-designed alternate combinations of 21127. Again, considerate.
Half the fun is had building the set. How fun is it to build and how easy or challenging is it?
You won't get in-progress build shots of 21127 for a few reasons:
- The set is comprised of so many component modules (spoiler: there are FORTY of them) that to do build-progress shots of each would have taken me hundreds of shots, probably.
- Who wants to look at hundreds of build-in-progress pictures?
- Who wants to look at build-in-progress pictures, period? Don't you like surprises?
- So you don't like surprises, whatever. But the build is so simple that even by looking at pictures of the set, you can probably build it without instructions. Blindfolded. With your hands behind your back. On no sleep.
- You're the kind of person browsing a LEGO fan site. Don't kid yourself. You could do it.
- The build was repetitive and basic to the extreme and frankly I didn't have much fun with it. That hardly compels me to have taken build pictures.
- Not that I would have taken pictures.
- For all the reasons stated above.
- Forgot to mention before, but all those pictures would have been too labor-intensive for me. I have a life.
- I feel like you get the gist of how the build went from my list, already, but I'll reiterate: it did not surprise. I didn't enjoy it much.
...Let's move on.
Now that the set is complete, we can critique how it looks from every angle. New or interesting pieces can also be examined here.
A dearth of interesting parts and recolors.
21127 wasn't just a dull build: I also happened upon very few parts that interested me as I assembled each of the set's modules. Here are the only parts that gave me, as a MOCer/modern AFOL, a little pause:
- Gold minifigure legs, without printing (1x)
- Brown 1x2 plate with bar, maybe first time in this color, or at least first for me (2x)
- Nougat 1x2 tiles, because it's a lovely color that isn't used as much as it could be (2x)
- Dark brown Minecraft head cube, without printing (1x)
- Keetorange plant stem (3x, including the extra piece)
- Black 1x1 open stud (3x, including the extra piece)
- Light bley 1x1 open stud (33x, including the extra pieces)
Of these, the light bley open stud is the only part that I consider an actually valuable takeaway here, given how many of them are included. Otherwise, most of these "interesting parts" are me grasping at straws. 21127 is mostly old-school bricks, a lot of old-school bricks.
Some Minecraft-specific elements of note.
21127 also, of course, includes a few Minecraft-specific elements. All of these are printed, not stickers. The set has no stickers(!) which means that these parts' pixelating printing, as it occurs, is all their own.
- Gold box helmet
- Gold breastplate
- White sheep face
- Dark orange horse face
- Red Ghost-face banner (4x)
- Nougat 1x2 brick with box print (2x)
- Nougat 2x2 tile with box print
The Fortress comes with 4 minifigures.
Three skellies versus one Steve. The Skellies all have bows... but only two of them have armor. Steve should really try to go for the weakest one first. Like lions do!
And a horse. And a sheep.
The animals are both brick-built, making use of their respective head-molds to give some more specificity to their shapes. The use of grooved bricks for legs is clever on both creatures. The horse's palomino coloring looks nifty.
21127 actually comprises of forty separate rearrangeable modules.
Once you've completed instruction manual 1, this is what you end up with: 40 modules that, arranged together, create The Fortress in whatever shape you determine. Let's examine the modules individually in turn.
Eight earth-bricks, and one tree.
The most basic of the modules, these earth-bricks (sans tree) act as connector units. The 2x4 bricks stack on top of baseplates placed next to each other to attach them. The tree is like other LEGO Minecraft trees we've seen before. An apple hangs from its canopy. It can be put basically anywhere on the build.
These serve the same purpose as the earthy connectors, but are meant to attach modules which have walls to other ones with walls. The mechanism by which this happens is identical, of course, to the earth-bricks above, but these torch-walls offer an aesthetic difference. Pixelated flames and unapologetic squareness make these modules definitely Minecrafty.
Two planty pieces of ground, one blank piece of ground, and one lonely 6x6 section.
These are the most barren baseplate modules. The two larger ones pictured act as bases of towers, or just as large open spaces, depending on which build of The Fortress you undertake. The undersides of these plates are reinforced and lifted off a tabletop with a few brown bricks, a commonality among most of the ground-level modules.
An armory, a fire pit, and a garden.
Here we have some of the first modules with character to them. The armory consists of a chest with four differently-colored Minecraft swords in it, and next to it, a dummy on which Steve can hang his golden armor. The fire pit's flame is actually removable, leaving behind a dark red 2x2 jumper tile, implying that the flame itself can be easily removed and positioned elsewhere in the Minecraftverse. The garden features a neat row of four flowered plants.
Two windowed walls, and one flick-fire wall.
The basic walls feature a "barred window" motif, in miniature, which is used elsewhere in the fortress design. Tap bricks form the bars. The walls are basic, but maintain the same stripe of dark bley that all other walled elements of The Fortress adhere to. The wall in the middle of the picture has two flick-fire missiles in it. The tips are 1x1 open studs in black. I appreciate these, because they could have just as easily have been normal studs, and I have more than enough of those!
Two waterside gardens, and one wall with waterfall.
The water elements sit lower than other platforms, which creates a nice sense of recession for them. The gap is bridged, in the smaller modules, by waterside gardens. One grows a carrot. The other has a few keetorange sprouts, which I assume are another kind of vegetable. Both feature some basic yet effective cattail plants. The third water module is a fortress wall with a sourceless waterfall coming from it, and a bucket close at hand.
Four tower modules.
Two of the tower modules - the ones with the red banners - are mirror images of each other. The only actual difference is in the placement of their ladders. On the other two modules, the taps-as-bars motif resurfaces, this time in larger windows. One of these ground floor sections has corner walls. The other, fully enclosed, is a prison complete with functional door (by which I mean the door is a play feature, not just that it works). Pressing a Technic lever on the adjacent wall levers the door open.
A stable, and a gate.
A similar function to that which exists on the prison door exists on the gates, only doubled. By pressing a button in front of them, you can make both doors open simultaneously. This is a neat and effective function. The gatehouse itself fits cleanly with other walled sections of The Fortress. The stable does, too, but has a few more dimensions of difference to it, like its tan baseplate, railings/dividers, swinging doors, etc. A bale of hay (I assume that's what the yellow box is?) has its own place on the corner.
Two square roofs, and one triangular roof.
These are the roofs. There's not much to say about them; I find them to be the most boring modules. The square roofs come with detachable fires, just like the fire pit we saw earlier.
The finished primary model.
All these forty modules together yield, first, the finished main model: an enclosed rectangular fortress with two towers and a spacious courtyard.
A few different views of aforementioned primary model.
It looks good, and finished - in a blocky, Minecrafty way - from every angle, since it's a full three dimensional fortress. I appreciate how the "title version" of 21127 feels so complete. The stable in back, the towers in front, the prison at ground level, the gardens, armory, and small pond inside, all feel naturally placed. I get the impression that 21127 was designed with this primary Fortress design in mind, and challenges in making it more modular were addressed secondarily.
The modules, despite their varied designs and purposes, all fit together cohesively, doing a really nice job of hiding that they're even modules to begin with. The chunky, low-walled castle may not look like other LEGO castles, but it definitely has an internal logic that feels very much in-line with the world of the Minecraft game.
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?
Two of the alternate models.
Aside from its few play functions (the opening doors, the flick-fire missiles), the real play value in 21127 is in its potential for creativity and variation. Countless fortresses could be built from this model, by rearranging and recombining its modules in new ways. The official designer imagined three such extra designs, and 21127 includes extra instruction manuals to show you how to assemble these additional combinations. Two of them are above.
I call the first one "The Tower" for obvious reasons. It also has an enclosed castle, but of a smaller size, with larger grounds outside the walls. I refer to the second one as "The Bastion," because it's a more knotted design, with walls becoming new tower foundations, gates leading to nowhere, but really 'cause it just looks like a Bastion I guess.
The third one is just a really long wall. I call it "The Wall." The Wall didn't fit in my photo tent and I didn't find it very interesting so I neglected to photograph it. You can complain all you like.
Once it's all said and done, how does the set stack up? Should I get it?
Steve versus the Skellies.
That's the in-depth review. Let's review (ain't I a hoot?) how the set stacks up.
What's to like?
- Second-biggest Minecraft set to date, if you go in for that
- 36 total 1x1 open stud parts included in the set!
- No stickers
- Many different types of modules, and they all work together aesthetically
- Door play features are neat and function swimmingly
- Main "title model" is a complete-feeling fortress with Minecrafty character
- Modularity = endless combos = lots of play value
- Inclusion of additional suggested designs is a nice touch, to open one's mind
What's not to like?
- Skeletons and Steve aren't new figures
- Build is boring and repetitive
- Very, very few interesting bricks, especially when you exclude Minecraft-exclusive ones
- Flickfire missiles count as a play feature?
- "Title model" feels smaller than expected (a function of its denseness)
- I don't play Minecraft so I find the design uninteresting and flat
21127 is probably an important set for a LEGO Minecraft collector to have. A big, solid fortress with lots of detail and the virtue of easy, successfully-designed modularity, it looks and feels like something out of the game, which you can shape or reshape however you want. However, as the set offers little in the way of new or interesting parts - especially when you subtract Minecraft-specific elements - it's pretty horrendous as a parts pack, if that's what you're after.
"You don't belong here!"
A big thanks to Aaron for reviewing the set, and of course thanks to LEGO for sending us a copy. If you're interested in more reviews, just keep checking back on BZPower for them along with the latest LEGO news and discussion!
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