Saturday, May 28th, 2016 at 8:46pm by Andrew, BZPower News Manager
Today BZPower is kicking off our reviews of the summer 2016 Bionicle sets that have been appearing on store shelves here and there around the US and elsewhere. Out of the gates we have 71314 Storm Beast, one of three such creatures in this wave. If you're interested in finding out if this set is worth braving a summer thunderstorm to pick up, read on to check out our video and in-depth review!
BZPower kindly thanks The LEGO group for providing us with this set. The LEGO Group would like us to tell you that the opinions and comments presented in this review are those of the reviewer and BZPower and are not endorsed or backed by The LEGO Group. BZPower is a fan-site and is not a part of or paid by The LEGO Group to give a certain viewpoint on their products or company.
From the design of the box to the instruction manual, these are the first things you see before building the set.
The box design is nearly identical to that of the winter Bionicle sets. The LEGO and Bionicle logos grace the top with the Mask of Control exploding out with some sickly green coloring accompanying it. Storm Beast is front and center, grasping Kopaka's mask in his tail. The mask seems to be dripping as if it's been poisoned or dropped into some slime. Some lightning in the background reinforces the 'storm' aspect of the set's name which is a nice touch. Even nicer though is the small figure of Kopaka looking lost and confused without his mask on the lower right. Along the bottom we have the age range, set number, and its name. The piece count of 109 is not present as this is the European packaging.
The back of the box is chock-full of stuff! First we have three callouts to some action features that the set possess, namely the moving arms, closing jaws on the tail, and the ability for its mask/face to be popped off. Below that we learn that combiners are still around, with Lava Beast, Storm Beast, and Quake Beast being able to combine with Umarak the Destroyer. Below that is a new comic with the same art style as last year and a bit of an inconclusive resolution. At the bottom, among all the legal text, is a scale image of Kopaka's infected mask. It's also interesting to note the Buildable Figures logo in the very bottom right, much less prominent than it is on the Star Wars constraction sets.
Half the fun is had building the set. How fun is it to build and how easy or challenging is it?
Storm Beast has 109 pieces, with many of them being Technic parts. Depending on your tastes, this could be a good or bad thing. Personally I enjoy Technic builds and found the added complexity in Storm Beast to be refreshing. The lower legs, lower arms, shoulders, and much of the back are all built out of Technic parts rather than leveraging existing CCBS pieces. I found it made the build quite engaging and had a good bit of fun putting it together.
Now that the set is complete, we can critique how it looks from every angle. New or interesting pieces can also be examined here.
As I mention above, a lot of the pieces in Storm Beast are of the Technic variety, and of those nothing new really stands out. On the CCBS side, we get a few basic beams, both sizes of the Invasion From Below creature feet, and some other normal stuff. There's a few new pieces and recolors though, so let's take a closer look at them.
The piece that stands out the most is the new mask or head piece. The same one is used in all three beasts but with different colors: Storm Beast's is Earth Blue and Transparent Fluorescent Green. I think the combination works pretty well and gives it some nice contrast without being too jarring. As for the design, it continues the crystalline motif we saw in the armor pieces and masks of the winter sets, making the face look as if it was hewn out of rock itself. It's asymmetric, which is an interesting choice and makes it seem more natural. The piece connects to the 2015 heads in the same way that the new masks do, resulting in a connection that will stay on but also allows for playability.
We also have the jaw piece that the beasts use below the mask to give them a big, gaping mouth. It has two Technic axle holes that go all the way through, giving you a reasonable amount of connection points, although maybe a bar or two would have been cool to sneak in. This piece is also asymmetric and features crystalline or rocky shapes that make it match the mask well. I realize in the picture above I don't have the jaw positioned in the same way as the set, but I think in either configuration they compliment each other nicely.
The next new piece we have for the summer Bionicle sets is the crystal armor. The winter Bionicle sets had armor that utilized the two bars to attach to existing CCBS shells; this piece, however, has a socket joint to connect directly to a CCBS beam or other ball joint. I think I prefer the former method to the latter, but the piece still looks quite nice and natural with an appearance of asymmetry (technically it's rotationally symmetric, so it doesn't matter in which direction you attach it to the arms). The Transparent Light Blue color works well and actually reminds me of the CHI crystals from Legends of Chima.
We also get the new torso piece that was also featured in the Kylo Ren, Finn, and Rey buildable figures. I'm a big fan of the 5M by 7M size and the lack of ball joints on the top half. I think it opens up a lot of possibilities, not just in bipedal figures, but in all sorts of builds using the CCBS system. It has a ton of connection points, nearly all of which are used by Storm Beast, that give it a ton of flexibility. Put these in more sets LEGO!
Moving onto recolors, we have Kopaka's mask from the winter set. The piece came in White with Silver Metallic and Warm Gold with Transparent Light Blue in the earlier set, but now we have it in White with Transparent Fluorescent Green. The combination looks downright sickly, with the green making its way all the way through to the bottom of the mask in places. If it wasn't co-injected with white, it might not be as obvious, but here it stands out. On the top, where it's primarily Transparent Fluorescent Green, the white is unobtrusive and gives the green a more solid appearance. I love how the mask looks in these colors, and I think the only thing I wish they had done was to give it a 1x1 round plate for the eye.
Now we'll look at the rest of the recolors. The chest armor is not new in black, but the printing here is unique to Storm Beast. I think the colors match the rest of his scheme well and continue the natural crystal look from the other pieces. Next we get the new Bionicle head in a color other than Silver Metallic for the first time. The Transparent Fluorescent Green is nice, but maybe a bit too much, especially when paired with the 2015 eye piece in the same color. The claws with clips are seen in Transparent Fluorescent Green for the first time as well, which is cool. And the 4M armor shell appears in Earth Blue for the first time. Unfortunately there are only three of them, and this is only the second CCBS part we've seen recently in just that color. I would love to get some more elements in this hue, because it looks awesome!
Pieces are great, but obviously we care about the completed set too. I had been worried about the color scheme, but I think the Earth Blue and Transparent Light Blue compliment each other nicely and the Transparent Fluorescent Green adds just the right amount of contrast. Unfortunately, I feel like the red 2M Technic axles add the wrong kind of contrast and stand out like a sore thumb from some angles. Most of these are a result of the custom builds of the legs and arms, and while I appreciate the unique shaping we get there as a result, sometimes it's okay just to use a CCBS beam. The arms are especially awkward because you end up with the empty socket from the small creature foot sticking out. It's not the worst thing, and it almost goes along with the rocky-motif, but to me looks kind of unfinished. I do like the torso, shoulders, and head - they come across as broad and strong and just a bit too wide to give Storm Beast a bit more of a monstrous look.
Turning Storm Beast around, things don't fare as well. I like the tail utilizing the Shadow Trap pieces and the Earth Blue shell, but the rest of it looks very exposed. I understand that it's for the play feature (which I like a lot and we'll talk about soon), but we've seen from Star Wars that you can have buildable figures that have play features and look good too. I'm not suggesting we need to have a completely clean look, but a CCBS shell or torso armor could have helped make it look smoother without compromising the playability in my opinion.
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?
So what does all that Technic stuff on the back do? Using the smaller ball joints, it creates something similar to a marionette mechanism, so that by turning the tail in different directions you can control the arms. You can move each arm independently up and down or move both arms up and down in either the same direction or opposite ones. This is probably the coolest play feature I've seen in a normal-sized constraction set, and it works quite well. It really takes the gear joints to the next level. While the arms are a little less sturdy and don't always stay in place as well, I don't feel that it compromises the poseability by much.
In addition to the arms, the back of the box also advertises that you can pop off Storm Beast's face/mask. You do this by hooking under the beast's jaw and pulling forward or by hitting the back of the eyes like with last year's Toa. The end of the tail can also open and close thanks to the use of the Shadow Trap pieces. Unfortunately, unlike the Shadow Traps, Storm Beast does not us a click hinge here and the mini-balljoint pins don't provide a whole lot of friction. As a result it can flop open and closed a little bit and will not hold its position if you try to put Kopaka's mask inside like the box shows.
Despite to elaborate play mechanism, Storm Beast can still hold a number of poses and has a good range of motion. His arms are a little short-changed with only shoulder and elbow articulation because of his large hands, but he does have moveable fingers to make up for it. Also, because of how it's mounted, his head has limited side-to-side movement. I didn't find these to be deal breakers though and still had fun trying to find cool poses to put him in.
Once it's all said and done, how does the set stack up? Should I get it?
What's to like?
- Best play feature in a $20 or less Bionicle set
- Earth Blue shells
- Decent variety of new parts and recolors
What's not to like?
- Red axles distract from color scheme
- Back could use something to help smooth over the mechanism
- Exposed sockets on the hands
Based on my time with them at Toy Fair earlier this year, Storm Beast is my favorite of the three summer monsters. He has an awesome play feature and a build that I enjoyed, even if the overall design has some room for improvement. He also has a couple of nice parts, although probably not enough to buy him just for that. If you like to play with your toys or check out cool Technic techniques, you should definitely pick up Storm Beast. For everyone else - I'd suggest waiting for a sale or for the Earth Blue shells to come out in other sets.
Thank you all for checking out our review of Storm Beast! With luck it gave you some good information and helped you form your own opinion on the set. We'd love to hear what you think of the set and this review, so head on over to the Talkback to let us know. This is just the first of five summer Bionicle reviews, so keep checking back for more, right here on BZPower!
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