Set Review: 9474 The Battle of Helm's Deep
Sunday, November 4th, 2012 at 3:30am by Jason, BZPower Reporter
The Uruk-hai of Isengard are marching across the lands of Rohan, forcing King Theoden and his people to take refuge in the fortress of Helm's Deep. Protecting the fortress are the Ranger Aragorn, the dwarf Gimli, and the Elven warrior Haldir, but can they hold out against the mighty onslaught of Uruk-hai? The Battle of Helm's Deep set captures the epic battle from The Two Towers film, and BZP Reporter xccj takes a detailed look at it. Read on for the review.
From the design of the box to the instruction manual, these are the first things you see before building the set.
Okay, the box is big. BIG. But that's to be expected, because this is a large set. Not only is it the most expensive set in the Lord of the Rings theme, but it is also among the most expensive sets sold by LEGO this year. (7th most expensive, to be precise, according to BrickSet.) Priced at $129.99 USD, this set comes with eight minifigures and 1,368 pieces. Yes, that's quite a lot, and it even breaks the golden ratio of having each piece cost less than 10 cents, which is good for a licensed set!
The front of the box has plenty of statistics printed on it, but the bulk of it is showing off the epic battle going on over the Helm's Deep fortress. The back of the box show a rear view of the fortress, and highlights all the cool action features included in the set. It also advertises that this set could be combined with the Uruk-hai Army set, which would extend out the wall. There's also a teaser for the Lord of the Rings video game. Once you open the box, you get treated with nine different bags of pieces! The next step is to open them one at a time and start building!
Half the fun is had building the set. How fun is it to build and how easy or challenging is it?
It took me roughly two hours to completely build this set. After all, there are nine bags to go through, four instruction booklets to flip through, and over one thousand pieces to snap together. I'm sure speed builders could put it together quickly, but an average builder will require some time to get this structure built. And it's an enjoyable built too; lengthy but not too complicated.
The structure is very compartmental, and the main components of the fortress can be connected together to form the whole of Helm's Deep. The first two bags build the main gate, bags three and four build the curved walls, bags five and six build the tower, bag seven builds the exploding wall, and bags eight and nine build the inner chamber. The minifigures are also placed in different bags, so you get to each one as you progress through the building. The build also allows you to complete a part of the fortress and begin role playing before you continue on. I know LEGO said they were designing Friends sets to be like this, but it works wonderfully here too!
When you're done, you've put together a massive fortress that can hold out against the Uruk-hai army, and even have a decent amount of extra pieces too. Now the true battle can begin!
Now that the set is complete, we can critique how it looks from every angle. New or interesting pieces can also be examined here.
Helm's Deep comes with a lot of pieces; 1,368, according to the box, plus a handful of extras. But the set comes with very few new molds, and all of them are minifigure accessories. The Uruk-hai helmets, shields, and swords are all new molds, as are Theoden's helmet and shield and Gimli's helmet. But none of the molds are unique to this set (although Theoden's helmet is in a new color.) Other rare elements include the dark green flag piece, the black elephant trunk, a new orange brick separator, and the new sword piece.
However, while Helm's Deep is lacking on new pieces, it makes up for it by including healthy amounts of other standard elements. New light grey bricks or plates? This set has tones of them! 1x2 technic bricks with two holes? Light grey facet corner bricks? Swivel Hinge bricks or plates? Yes, there are lots of them! There are a few pieces that should be highlighted. This set comes with twenty-eight 1x1 cheese slopes and thirty-three 1x2 cheese slopes in light grey! And it has forty brick-bricks (1x2 bricks with masonry details) in light grey. Want more of a rare color? There are fifty-three 1x1 sand green bricks, as well as plenty of 1x4 bricks and 1x2 tiles also in sand green. If you're looking for bricks in bulk, this set will work for you.
In addition to the lovely amount of pieces, Helm's Deep comes with eight awesome minifigures. There are four heroes and four Uruk-hai, so for once the battle is evenly matched. (Although, to be fair, in the movie the orcs grossly outnumbered the men.) And these aren't cheap figs either; they're all highly detailed and deserving to be in the largest Lord of the Rings set.
First off, there's Gimli the dwarf, who also appeared in the Mines of Moria set. Gimli has an awesome new beard mold and a very detailed new helmet piece. He also has good double sided printing on his head and torso, but it's kind of useless because his beard and helmet hide most of it. But he's still an awesome dwarf fig, ready to get launched into battle.
Next is Lord Aragorn, who also came in the Attack on Weathertop set. He's in his Ranger garb, sporting dark brown Dastan hair and a now-standard great-sword piece. It's not quite Anduril, but he didn't have that yet in this scene of the movie, so we'll make due. He seems a little plain next to the awesomeness of the other figs, but he's still a decent hero. He has two faces; serious and sneering.
King Theoden is exclusive to this set, and he's sporting fancy decorated armor, headgear, and shield. Underneath the armor he has a dark green undershirt torso. He has two faces; smiling and sneering. This is surprising, because he's the only fig in this set who can smile, but in the movie he was the most depressing character; I don't think he even smiled until the beginning of the third movie! Nitpicking aside, he's a fabulous minifigure.
Finally, we get Haldir the elf. Even though Legolas played a prominent role at Helm's Deep, Haldir get to be the elf fig included here. He has cool dark red and gold torso printing and a dark red cape, and wields one of the new larger bow pieces. His face is very similar to Legolas's, and he can look serious and sneer, just like Aragorn and Gimli. He also had the same blonde elf hair. So, pretty much, he's Legolas in red armor. Still, it's hard to say no to another Elven character, and he did have an important role in the Battle of Helm's Deep, so he can stay.
The Uruk-hai are less diversified than the heroes. Three of them are pretty identical, and only vary depending on what armor and weaponry you give them. They all come with double-sided printing on their torsos and heads. One face shows an angry orc, and the other shows an angry orc with the white hand of Saruman printed on it. The forth is the Uruk-hai berserker, who lacks armor but makes up for it by having interesting torso printing with white handprints. (How would a minifigure like him make a realistic handprint, considering his claw-like hands?) Overall, the Uruk-hai are nicely detailed, but their uniformity shows that they're part of a larger army. It's nice that four were included to go against the four heroes included in the set, so that the numbers are evened. If you really want to build up an overwhelming Uruk-hai force, you can still by some of the smaller army-building sets and send out your orcs to destroy Helm's Deep.
Finally, the last character is not even a minifigure; it's Theoden's horse Snowmane. He's made using the latest horse mold, so that his hind legs can rotate, allowing him to get into an upright position for a charge. While it's cool that a horse mold was included, it's the same brown one that appeared in three other, cheaper, Lord of the Rings set, so it's nothing too exciting.
The pieces and the figs are great, but what really matters is the fortress. And man, Helm's Deep looks awesome. The brick-bricks and sand green shading really makes the wall look realistic, and the various curved sections are all amazing designs. And, for the most part, it looks very accurate to the building from the movie. Sure, the proportions are a little off, but the overall flow is instantly recognizable if you're a fan of the films. However, my main complaint is that this is too large. It's 20 inches (52cm) wide, after all! It's too big for my standard photography area, and larger than any of my display shelves! If you're tight on space, you're going to have trouble displaying all of its beauty.
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?
Helms Deep is full of cool little play features. From cool action features to role-playing aspects, this fortress can keep one entertained. (And, as a bonus, there's not a single flick-fire missile on the whole set! There is a mini catapult, but that at least fits in with the theme.) Plus, as I mentioned earlier, the whole fortress is compartmental, so the various wall pieces can be separated to allow for more extensive play. (Or for getting pictures of more of the details, as I've done in the following pictures.)
The Main Gate offers plenty of features. After all, it's the main point of entry for the Uruk-hai. Theoden can defend the gates by dropping stones or launching them with the mini-catapult. If all else fails, Aragorn and Gimli can sneak out the side door, and use the dwarf-toss launcher to jump on the causeway and fight off the orcs. (Funnily enough, the causeway can open up and show a skull hidden inside it. Just what building materials did Helm use when he built this place??)
The Uruk-hai can also use their siege ladder to try and scale the walls, as long as there isn't an elf at the top to knock them down. On the inside, Snowmane can try to hold the doors shut, but without proper reinforcements, the Uruk-hai can easily break through and bring the fighting to the interior.
The tower is the tallest part of the fortress, measuring 9 inches (22cm) high. There's a ladder that will let Gimli climb to the top and blow on the Helm's Horn. It's not the most interesting part of the fortress, but it looks impressive, and the SNOT (studs not on top) design on the sides is rather nice.
Next up is the drain underneath the mighty wall of Helm's Deep. Unfortunately, Helm made a mistake of using tiles in the wall's construction, so it's barely staying together. All the Uruk-hai berserker needs to do is set off a bomb, and the whole thing will come crumbling down! There's a neat little lever on the back that let's you recreate this explosion, although the actual breaking of the wall is far less dramatic than in the movie. (None of the pieces fly hundred of feet up into the air and then come crashing down on the orc army, for example.) But it's a great feature, and it would've been a huge disappointment if the set didn't incorporate this.
Finally, there's the inner chamber, which is situated behind the main walls of Helm's Deep but not quite connected to them. It also has a nice curved wall feature, but the interior is the best part of it. It includes a thrown for Theoden, a table and chairs for his guests, and weapon storage racks. Here is where our heroes can go and relax after the big battle. (Although, to be fair, this seems more reminiscent of scenes in Edoras, the main Rohan capital.) There's also a mouse included, and what Gimli plans to do with it are up to you imagination.
Once it's all said and done, how does the set stack up? Should I get it?
What's to like?
- Amazing building design, especially the curved walls.
- Very detailed minifigures
- A large amount of useful pieces
- Some cool play features
What's not to like?
- Super expensive
- Extra large in size, hard to find room to display it
- Not many new pieces (but still, lots of descent ones.)
I can't personally say if this is the very best of the Lord of the Ring sets, since this is the only one I've purchased so far. But I am highly pleased with it. The details, features, figs, and pieces are all amazing, and I would easily recommend this set to anybody, be they casual LEGO builders or die hard Lord of the Ring fans. The only reason you shouldn't get this set is because it's expensive, even if you can find it on sale. If you have the cash, get this set now! If you don't, start saving up for it right away.
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