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Mega Bloks: Goblin Zeppelin Ambush hands-on

Mega Bloks Goblin Zeppelin Ambush handson Not ready
Can you guess what happens when you lose your digital camera the night before you receive a preview set of the newly released World of Warcraft Mega Bloks? If you guessed the preview gets delayed by two weeks while you desperately search for your camera before breaking down and buying a new one, you're right!

The most common gripe people seem to have with World of Warcraft licensed Mega Bloks isn't an actual critique of the product -- it's the fact that people want LEGOs rather than Mega Bloks. The comparison is unavoidable, and even this hands-on contains a bit of it. But after having played around with this set for some time, and equipped with experience with LEGOs since I was a child, the comparison between the two companies feels increasingly inappropriate.

Yes, both companies produce toy building blocks, but the goals of the two products feel different. To me personally, it feels that the goal of LEGOs is to build, whereas the goal of Mega Bloks is to play. There's overlap in these activities, the creativity of building is absolutely an aspect of play, but the two products approach the activity from two different directions. They just happen to meet somewhere in the middle.

Rigging your zeppelin

The zeppelin, the focal piece of this set, is a surprisingly solid build. Given the nature of the object with its massive top-heavy balloon, I expected that the end result would be a mess of barely connected pieces, constantly falling apart or tipping itself over. For the most part, that's not true. The balloon portion of the zeppelin is relatively light compared to the base, keeping the build mostly stable. The rigging that connects to the balloon is also pinned in place in multiple locations, ensuring things won't simply fall off.

Mega Bloks Goblin Zeppelin Ambush handson Not ready
The exception to this is the silver wing pieces that attached at the bottom. The build instructions tell you to assemble these as one of the first steps in building your zeppelin, but they don't attach very tightly to the zeppelin's body and stick out very low. Keeping them attached as you build is an exercImageise in frustration. Every time you tip the zeppelin around to plug in a new piece, they fall off. I ended up throwing both wings aside until I was finished with the entire build. Really, that's not a big deal -- they attach in a place where it's easy to put them on as the final step in the build, but figuring that out did tax my patience.

The blocks themselves are solid. As a novice block builder, I was initially baffled at how many custom pieces there are in the set. I couldn't imagine what some of them could possibly be used for, but as I progressed through the build, I realized how well everything fit together. The pieces that made no sense at first glance with their odd shapes and unusual angles turned out to be really cool details overall.

The one problem that lingered throughout is the attempt to simulate wood grain in the colors of the plastic. The dark browns have spots of lighter brown swirls throughout, which I initially thought was a manufacturing error. It isn't; the light swirls were represented in the pictures of each block in the instruction manual. Knowing what that swirl was meant to be didn't help much. It still looked wrong.

Luckily, the color swirl isn't prominent enough to make the build look bad as a whole. With the exception of the back of the ship's hull, you usually don't notice the effect at all unless you examine each block closely, which makes its inclusion even more strange -- it's only noticeable enough to look like it shouldn't be there.

Mega Bloks Goblin Zeppelin Ambush handson
In the end, the little oddities didn't matter. I was too impressed at how all of the seemingly random pieces came together to form a great replica of the iconic Warcraft zeppelin.

Men of action

While LEGO figures always have the same iconic LEGO look, the figures in the Mega Bloks set are distinctly Warcraftian. While you'd never see a detailed worgen, goblin, or tauren head on LEGO figures, that's exactly what you get in this set. The goblin rogue, worgen rogue, and tauren paladin are exact recreations of characters you might see in the game.

Their accessories are much the same. You're given a stock of Azerothian armaments to give them as you please. These accessories aren't generic swords, axes, and flails you'd find in standard medieval fantasy toys but the truly wacked-out items you would find questing in the MMO.

Mega Bloks Goblin Zeppelin Ambush handson
Overall, I was surprised just how much detail goes into these figures, considering they're around two inches tall. In fact, I wonder if the level of detail on an item so small may actually be a detriment. There are a lot of moving parts involved and only so much room for those parts. It results in a lot of pieces that could be easily lost, which isn't a new problem when it comes to block-based toys. How many blocks and block accessories did we all lose as children? All of my little pieces are currently being stored in a red Solo cup on my desk so I don't lose them. Let me tell you, confusing that cup for the cup holding my poison of choice this past weekend was one hell of a surprise.

Mega Bloks Goblin Zeppelin Ambush handson Not ready
The one thing I would categorize as a real problem is the fact that some of the figures' legs fall off extremely easily. They don't fall off on their own if you just let the guy sit around -- they aren't that loose -- but you're going to be snapping a few legs back in place over the course of a play session. I hope your tauren paladin is specced holy, because he has a lot of healing in his future.

Sweet, sweet loot

What's MMO-inspired swag without random loot drops? All of the World of Warcraft Mega Bloks sets come with a small black pouch containing a piece of mystery loot for your figures. My pouch contained a little replica of Shaarde the Greater from The Burning Crusade's Mana Tombs. Mega Bloks Goblin Zeppelin Ambush handsonPretty cool!

Realizing the sword was a piece of Burning Crusade history led me to examine the other pieces of gear from the set. The dagger is the Shard of Azzinoth dropped by Illidan. The other sword is a commonly used Wrath of the Lich King model, and the axe is an old favorite from classic World of Warcraft, the Axe of Rin'ji. It's really rather cool that the items included in these sets aren't just from the latest expansion, but from the entirety of WoW's history.

Purchasing additional sets won't only allow you to build bigger, better projects, but it also will allow you to play out bigger, better stories within Warcraft mythos. While I only have the goblin zeppelin right now for some small-scale PvP combat, picking up Sindragosa would allow for some pretty cool opportunities to play out encounters such as the ones in Dragon Soul.

It's possible that many of us as adults have moved past the stage where that sort of outlet for our imagination still interests us. That doesn't mean your children have, if you have them. And if you don't, maybe you have family members who do. Pick up a few of these sets for them. You may be surprised how much fun they have. Just don't ignore that choking hazard; there are some seriously small parts in these sets.

World of Warcraft Mega Bloks are available in stores now. The Goblin Zeppelin Ambush retails for $64.99 on Amazon.


Filed under: Analysis / Opinion

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