"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:
- http://amodularlife.files.wordpress.com/2010/09/5014200765_10104848ae_b.jpg [alternate link]
- http://i54.tinypic.com/2q1tnbn.jpg [alternate link]
- http://i55.tinypic.com/fup6pi.jpg [alternate link]
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.