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Sunday, October 17, 2010

LEGO Hero Factory 2011 preview -- An opinion

"LEGO Hero Factory V2.0"

You've most likely seen the "leaked" 2011 LEGO Hero Factory preview images by now, but if you haven't, here are some links to bring you up to speed:
The first thing that's important to keep in mind is that there is no guarantee (nor implication) that these are final production items that we're looking at.  For all we know, these images could have been intentionally released by The Lego Group to stir up conversation within the community and get some useful, frank input and ideas for alterations.  Then again, these may be "final draft" images, one step short of production.  There's no way to know.  For sake of discussion, though, I'm going to assume that these are pretty much final, and share my impressions. 

I'm going to start with the heroes and a bit of retrospect.  I'm a heavily invested Bionicle fan, and though I was sad to see the Bionicle series come to an end, I found the new Hero Factory line to be a great follow-up, at least in concept.  While the Bionicle universe relied on heavily-developed characters and a rigid "canon" timeline & story, Hero Factory begins with the premise that good guys are created from scratch in a factory, and bad guys can be dramatically varied and come from a limitless number of places, for a limitless number of reasons.  Hero Factory is designed at its core (no pun intended) to spur creativity and imagination.  The first series of sets, though, didn't quite make good on this concept.  They looked really great, in my opinion at least, but their construction was very simple, and many of the parts were too distinguished and character-specific.  You can put a Stormer helmet on absolutely any MOC, and it's going to be a Stormer MOC.  It takes a Bionicle MOC-maker with an existing stash of parts to produce a truly unique Hero Factory character.  I wish they had instead set up the heroes to be extraordinarily modular, and released just a few full hero sets, accompanied by a line of "build your hero" sets with mix & match parts. 

With the 2011 series, it appears they've taken a gigantic step in the direction I had hoped for.  Armor pieces are non-unique in shape.  Arms are jointed.  Weapons consist of multiple parts.  Going even farther than that, Hero helmets appear to be now generic, with interchangable visors, headsets, targeting sensors & sights, etc., to distinguish the characters.  I think this is a very important move for Hero Factory, farther away from the Bionicle series, but I'm not entirely happy with what I'm seeing in the pictures.

First off, when you look at all of the hero canisters lined up side by side, they all look the same, if you just ignore the colors.  The head-borne accessories are too small, detailed, and subtle to make these look like distinctly different individuals.  The arm & leg armor pieces have too little variation in shape.  The few thorn-like pieces they add on for texture on some sets do nothing to distinguish the characters. The weapons of at least Stormer, Evo, Nex, and Furno are all dominated by a common piece that makes them look too similar.  I'm a bit surprised that they came up with a new hero core design, too.  That's unfortunate, unless the 2010 cores will still fit.

I believe the number of pieces per hero set is now perfect.  The number and location of replaceable and interchangable parts is well-planned.  It's the add-on parts themselves that lack variation.  We should have spiky armor, metal plate-like armor, and smooth armor styles.  These parts could be shared & mixed between different character sets with the use of different colors.  Helmet accessories should be significanly bulkier and more distinct, adding more to the shape of the face, rather than just offering different eye styles as they mostly do now.  Imagine the "build a hero" set idea I mentioned above (rumor has it Lego may offer something similar, but only as an online service).  Imagine the possibilities for useful, inexpensive collectibles.  A weapons pack.  Armor packs.  Accessory packs (jet packs, skis, wheels, etc.).  Each could be packaged with a different unique Hero Core. 

Alright, on to the villains.  The 2010 Lego Hero Factory villains were good sets.  Each was distinct in stature, color, power, and fighting style.  In 2011 we're moving into an element-dominated series with Fire Lord and his minions.  I'm okay with that.  I would even be okay with a few years of this concept -- next year has chilling ice villains, the year after that has fast-moving jet-powered air villains, etc.  What I'm not so happy with are the color mixes we see in this year's sets.  They're using black and silver as the base colors, and that's fine.  They bring in red, orange, and yellow to represent the fire element.  I get that.  However, these colors appear to be randomly assembled from set to set, with no continuity, no real theme.  What's up with that?  Each character looks to be made of parts from three different sets, each focusing on a different color range.  Fire Lord himself may actually be primarily a combiner, but surely the others are not, and they all need work.

Overall, I think the 2011 Hero Factory series, as we've seen them so far, could use a new round of R&D.  I like all of the new ideas, but the execution is not yet mature or ready for prime time.  I've got my fingers crossed that the next pictures we see will kick things up to a new level of visual impact and completion.

11 comments:

  1. I agree

    I do not like the new accessory's on the head pieces. And the 'Build a Hero' set idea is great. It would be awesome if LEGO actually did that. I do hope that these sets are a lot better when they come out as real sets, good ideas but to many random colours and accessory's.

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  2. I agree with you exactly. I was very dissapointed with the head variation, but I am very glad the arms and legs can bend. I like the weapons, escept the Fire Lord's. I am dissapointed it is just a meteor blaster with furno's blades.

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  3. I used to be a good boinicle fan, when they cancled it it was sad, but then came along hero factory, I was a bit dissapointed with 2010 sets, beacuse they looked like "agori" (from Bionicle) but, bionicle's not comin' back so I bought them they were actually pretty cool, but OH MY GOSH 2011 SETS ARE OFFENSIVE!!!!! Oh well might as well, I mean fire lord looks cool

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  4. Hero factory has KILLED bionicle.

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  5. @anonymous Nov. 7th: No, Lego "killed" Bionicle. They discontinued it after a 9 year run. Less & less people were buying them. That's the way it goes.

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  6. A build a hero thing would be really neat. I hope that those preliminary images weren't as sleek as the sets; the pics show them kind of bulky.

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  7. I loved the bionicle series, and am sad to see it go, but I think lego is trying to hard to make another theme like bionicle, without to much money being put into it. I hate how each character has no past, and is just "created in a factory." just like the sets themselves. I loved how in bionicle each character had a backstory, so you can get to know the characters better. I recently entered a contest featured in a lego magazine, and I made a Hero that was a volenteer, instead of being the exact same as everyone else in his battilion. Way to go, lego. >:( :,(

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  8. I think the 2011 hero factory sets are awesome compared to what the heroes started out as in 2010. The bad guys are also pretty good too.

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  9. The new hero cores do not fit on there chestplate.

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  10. I know this post is a bit late, but, Fire Lord's concept set looks better than the official set.

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  11. I agree.Fire Lord does look WAY better in the proto type pictures.I love Fire Lords claw thing.:)

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