Review: 31004 Fierce Flyer

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31004 Fierce Flyer2013 marks the 10th anniversary of the introduction of what are now called Creator sets. Originally called Designer sets, they were groundbreaking at the time because, until then, LEGO System sets for older children were all based around minifigs and to minifig scale.

2003's line up of Designer sets included robots, wild animals, micro-scale aircraft and trucks, all without a minifig in sight. Their instruction books were very hefty, packed full with instructions and inspirational photos. My favourite from that first batch was 4101 Wild Collection, which contained instructions and photos for 63 models, surely some sort of record!

Since then I've always had a soft-spot for large Creator animal sets, be them dragons, dinosaurs or real-life animals. This year's Creator animal set is the subject of this review, 31004 Fierce Flyer, with which you can make a bald eagle, a scorpion or a beaver.

Unfortunately in about 2008 LEGO stopped providing inspiration for alternative models in the form of photographs and I heard that it was because customers were complaining that instructions for them were not provided, which is a great shame. So, we have to make do with '3-in-1' these days.

Contents

One thing that has remained the same since 2003 is that Creator sets are chock-full of standard parts: bricks, plates and slopes. There is rarely a specalised single-use part in sight, and this set is no exception. One thing you do tend to get a lot of, particularly in the animal sets, is hinges and joints of one kind or another, to provide articulation and enable the construction of angles that would not otherwise be possible, and also parts to represent claws and teeth.

31004 Fierce Flyer

The Beaver

The first of three models to make is the beaver. It's not a bad effort. I'm not totally convinced by the feet, but they have to be quite large to enable him to stand up and balance.

31004 Fierce Flyer

31004 Fierce Flyer

The Scorpion

This is the weakest model of the three. The tail looks the part, but scorpions have eight legs and huge pincers, not the feeble efforts we see here. But I guess it's recognisable for what it's supposed to be, the tail ensures that.

31004 Fierce 
Flyer

31004 Fierce Flyer

The Bald Eagle

I believe that the process of designing Creator models starts with a single 'headline' model, which in this case is the eagle. The designers then see what else they can make with the same set of pieces, and will adjust the parts palette if needed to allow them to make decent secondary models, whilst not compromising on the design and aesthetic of the main model. I guess that's obvious really, but it does help explain why one model is superb and the others are usually just so-so.

The Bald Eagle certainly is superb. It looks stunning when perched with its wings folded. The feet are somewhat over-scale compared to the real bird but there is a lot of articulation in the joints to enable the claws to be folded so as to hold prey.

31004 Fierce Flyer

What is really excellent about the eagle is that, using a combination of click-hinges and plate hinges, the wings can be moved from a folded position to a spread configuration, as shown below.

31004 Fierce Flyer

The ends of the wings and tail look suitably 'feathery' thanks to the 1x1 tooth plates.

31004 Fierce Flyer

Overall opinion

I really enjoyed building this set. I don't normally build the alternate models because they can be a little disappointing compared to the main model, but for review purposes I forced myself. I have to say that yes, they were disappointing in this case, but the quality of the eagle more than makes up for that; it's very cleverly designed and a superb display piece.

Creator sets may not be the most exciting models in the LEGO aisle but personally I think they are among the best and the closest to a 'pure' building experience you can get (without resorting to buckets of bricks). They are also the best value; licences and minifigs push up prices and these have neither of those.

This set costs $15/£10 for 166 pieces, which works out at 6p or 9c per piece. This compares very favourably with the similarly priced Star Wars set 75001 Republic Troopers vs. Sith Troopers which weighs in at 20p/20c a piece.

If you want to get back to basics and experience a 'real LEGO build' with a infinitely reusable set of parts, I highly recommend this set as an introduction to the joys of doing so.

24 comments on this article

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By in France,

I think it's a beaver, not a chipmunk

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By in United Kingdom,

I built the eagle from this set, and I really like it. I didn't buy it though, I built mainly from collection and a couple of BL'ed parts. I found it was slightly overpriced at RRP. Part out value at BL is about £8.30, and that is based on average prices. And as these are standard parts, you can often get parts significantly cheaper than that.

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By in United States,

shop.lego.com does call the first build a beaver.

I love the Creator sets and they see robe gaining focus in my collecting, especially the buildings. They have a good sampling of important pieces.

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By in Brunei Darussalam,

Looks like a mighty stand-in for Lord Gwaihir!

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By in United Kingdom,

Doh! I should have read the description, I'll change the words. That does explain why his feet are so huge!

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By in United Kingdom,

I don't think they know what it is. Some sort of 'Random Rodent'. Maybe it's one of Terry Pratchett's 'Deformed Rabbits' - you know, the thing you make when you're trying to do a shadow-puppet rabbit with your hands.

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By in United Kingdom,

I pick up the Creator pods every year and enjoy them very much, these kinds of models do not tend to interest me so much, Lego animals simply do not work aesthetically for me (except for in the most skillful MOCs).

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By in Norway,

I combined one set with the 9496 Gandalf Arrives. Looks epic with him on its back.
You must remove the brown (2x4) slope piece first, to make a "seat" And add a 1x2 brick on its neck to fill out the gap.

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By in United Kingdom,

^ That's exactly why I built one!

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By in United States,

Hmm, I almost bought this a few weeks ago, I think your review has made me want to buy it again. :P
By the way, is there a dark brown 3x3 plate? It looks like there is…

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By in United Kingdom,

I just bought this set yesterday and it is definately s great little set by the looks.

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By in Netherlands,

Huw, you've built the legs differently: the right side has studs facing front, left studs facing backwards. Sloppy! ;-)

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By in United Kingdom,

^ So I have, well spotted :-)

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By in United Kingdom,

After reading this review, I have just ordered this from Amazon. I had been considering purchasing it anyway, but the review helped me make my mind up. Hope it arrives soon.

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By in United Kingdom,

Great review!
I bought this set last month for 10€ and think it is worth much more given the quality and playability of the main model. However, I think the beaver looks decent, albeit using only a fraction of the parts provided. And I think the scorpion is quite cool. Many hinges to customize, and a great tail which makes it really nice to look at.
What I also love about this set is the colors provided: How many brown parts did I own before obtaining these? Not too many I think.

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By in United States,

"I don't want to use a picture and my imagination to play with! I just want to be a fat lazy child and have every piece shown exactly where it's supposed to go!" - Children today.

I have my old instructions from the 90s where they don't tell you what pieces to add in the corner, and they had 10 parts added at a time, not two. Just proving we are devolving at an alarming rate.

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By in United States,

I always collected LEGO vehicles and houses. I might just put a eagle in there too :)

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By in Chile,

The Green Brick Giant. I agree.
Until 90's existed a lego alike brick toy called TENTE ( spanish ). Not a clone of lego, but similar. A 120 pieces set had 10-12 steps building instructions.
And Tente fans call today lego instructions "mentally retarded"

However. This set it's very very nice looking...at least main model.

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By in United States,

One thing I wish they'd do for the creator sets that I think would make them much better would be to include a small number of pieces that are specific to models 2 and 3. The rule seems to be that EVERYTHING in the set has to be included in model #1, and 2&3 have to be built out of that. If 2&3 could have even a few pieces that are included just to make those models nicer, I'm sure they could make much nicer ones.

Maybe along the lines of 10% of the set size, 5% per model. For this set, it would only be an extra 16 pieces. That's almost nothing, but would easily be enough to fix the scorpion's impacted fangs and goofy front legs, as well as make a few improvements to the beaver (such as replacing the yellow bits with brown.)

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By in United States,

Tente sets had lots of specialized parts, some of them large, so instructions didn't have to be detailed. I think comparing Tente to Lego, which has many smaller parts, is totally unfair.
Tente fans should reevaluate their life choices. :D

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By in Chile,

Tente builders plays both Tente and Lego, and cry for not compatibility. Me too.

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By in United States,

Looks a lot more like a squirrel to me than a beaver.

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