Star Wars sets are notoriously mixed in their quality, with plenty of excellent sets alongside some rather disappointing offerings. However, no set that I can recall has ever received such an overwhelmingly negative response as 75098 Assault on Hoth and it is easy to see why. Not only does the set include few new models but the minifigure selection is fairly unimpressive and the play value is significantly lessened by the meagre Imperial forces.
Nevertheless, it would be unfair to dismiss this set as a total failure as there are some positive elements which must be acknowledged, although not nearly as many as one would hope for a set of this size and cost.
Box and Contents
I rarely comment on the packaging but the Ultimate Collector's Series labelling on the box warrants some discussion. I am not particularly protective of the 'UCS' label but there is no doubt at all that this set is not deserving of such a description, instead serving to besmirch the entire range as its weakest member. In addition, the box artwork does this set no favours as its front and back look rather messy to me, although the simulated shine of the Star Wars logo is a nice touch.
The instruction manual is a thick tome of almost three hundred pages, the first eleven of which are occupied by some information about the Battle of Hoth and interviews with the designers. Reading these pages irritated me further as the following comments appeared:
- "For LEGO Direct we have the opportunity to make even bigger, more challenging, models with special attention to accuracy and details."
- "Whereas the Slave I is one big model, the Hoth set consists of many smaller models, some of them with functions. It was more like designing several regular retail sets at once."
- "A new AT-AT just came out last year, so you can still replay the whole battle in style."
- "We just assumed every Rebel base had to have lookouts and we just don't see them in The Empire Strikes Back."
It speaks volumes about the quality of this set that the designer, Hans Burkhard Schlömer, likened the design process for 75098 to creating several smaller sets. I was also frustrated to read a contradiction between the attention to detail and accuracy which is, by LEGO's own admission, integral to the UCS range and Hans' comment regarding the lookout tower. Some artistic license is welcome but not at the expense of a model's appearance and this is particularly true of a UCS set in my view.
Most bemusing of all is the statement that one can complete the Battle of Hoth with the addition of 75054 AT-AT. Unfortunately that set was retired in November of last year so LEGO's failure to reprint the instruction manual with the correct information is astonishing as this is likely to lead to a great deal of disappointment, particularly since this set is obviously designed with children in mind. I realise that the set was intended for release last year, at which time 75054 would still have been available, but that is no excuse for this error which has presumably been made due to carelessness or in an attempt to avoid the additional cost of reprinting the instruction manual. Neither case is acceptable and I hope this will be corrected in future production runs.
Eighteen bags are included, numbered from one to thirteen, along with a pair of 6x24 plates and two rock elements which are loose in the box. I am not going to comment extensively on the build as there are very few notable techniques used and it certainly feels like lots of smaller sets have been cobbled together, akin to 60097 City Square.
Toryn Farr is one of only five new characters included and is arguably the most significant of them, which is testament to the insignificance of the others. Her torso and legs are new and both components are nicely detailed, although the printing on her chest makes no attempt whatsoever to match the parka she is seen wearing in the movie. Instead the design was created for two of the Rebel Troopers included and has simply been re-used here, which is rather disappointing.
Her head is printed with smiling and determined expressions which look fine but her hair is completely inaccurate. This is made even more frustrating as an ideal hair piece already exists and was used for 8831-4 Bride. It even includes a hole on top to attach a pair of headphones like those Toryn wears in the film. This kind of corner cutting is typical of the entire set.
My favourite of the fifteen minifigures is Major Bren Derlin, described on the packaging as a generic Rebel Officer. His head, which is complete with an enormous moustache, was first seen in 75131 Resistance Trooper Battle Pack but his torso is brand new and features a rank indicator as well as some pouches.
The Rebel Trooper helmet looks better than ever in white and is worn by seven of the figures included. The goggles can be placed above the brim or fitted over the face which looks a bit silly due to their size but is a welcome alternative. Derlin is armed with a blaster pistol.
Five Rebel Troopers are included, three of which wear the detailed uniforms first seen in 75146 Star Wars Advent Calendar. The designs printed on their torsos and legs look splendid but it is disappointing to see the same head used for one of the troopers as that in 75138 Hoth Attack, which might be considered an expansion pack for this set.
While those three troopers are equipped with rifles, two more come with blaster pistols. They wear the same uniform as Toryn Farr, with attractive printing on both sides of the torso as well as on the legs, suggesting that they are of a higher rank than the white-uniformed soldiers. One has a fairly rare head which is printed with a beard but the other uses the same head as one of the other Rebel Troopers. A total of ten different heads are used between the thirteen human minifigures included which is simply not good enough.
Luke Skywalker wears a similar uniform with a dark tan colour scheme although his has a belt and an additional rank indicator. His head is printed with a smile on one side and some wounds inflicted by the Wampa on the other, a new design which is pleasing despite being unnecessary in my opinion.
Luke is armed with a blue lightsaber and wears a white helmet like the Rebel Troopers, although the shape of the helmet leaves a tiny bit of his face exposed at the back.
With Luke included it is only right that Han Solo should be as well. A very similar figure, with a hood rather than hair, appears in 75138 Hoth Attack which greatly reduces the appeal of this one. However, the torso and leg printing is impressive while his head is printed on both sides with a smile and a frown. It is also worth noting that the printing on the back of the torso is exclusive as it shows the jacket with the hood folded down.
Han is armed with a blaster pistol but is without his hood which is slightly annoying as he spends a significant amount of time wearing it, particularly when rescuing Luke.
Wedge Antilles and Wes Janson fly under the callsign of Rogue Three at the Battle of Hoth, successfully toppling an AT-AT and escaping the field unscathed. This is the first time that Janson has been seen in a set and his helmet features new printing as one would expect but the figure is otherwise unremarkable, with the same head as Wedge and the typical Rebel Pilot attire which has been in use for a few years.
Wedge's only previous appearance came in 6212 X-wing Fighter but his helmet printing has been updated since then to be more faithful to the movie. It is frustrating that the same head, albeit double-sided, has been used for both pilots as the characters are sufficiently important to warrant new designs. This is yet another example of a corner which has been cut, something which I do not expect of a set costing so much.
K-3PO only appears very briefly during the Battle of Hoth but I am glad to get an extra droid to populate the base and the figure looks splendid, with plenty of printed detail on the torso and legs. K-3PO last appeared in 7666 Hoth Rebel Base but this figure is much improved, with a yellow highlight in each eye and intricate designs on the front and back of the torso.
I like the red spots on his chest in particular as these offer a welcome splash of colour which breaks up the primarily white colour scheme very effectively, as do the yellow eyes.
R3-A2 is equally impressive, due in no small part to the trans-black dome which looks great in contrast with the white and orange colours of his cylindrical body. I must mention that orange is not an ideal colour for the droid as the plating in the film is actually closer to flame yellowish orange but I am still pleased with this pair of droids.
Two Snowtroopers are included to represent the Empire, a pathetic number given the title of the set. Nevertheless, the minifigures are exceptionally accurate to their onscreen counterparts and I like the relatively new design very much. Each trooper is armed with a standard blaster as well as a fabric kama and a backpack. They share the same Clone Trooper face beneath their helmets which is fine, although I would welcome some variety.
The presence of the Wampa cave has been a point of contention but I am glad to see the Wampa appear again as it is several years since 8089 Hoth Wampa Cave was retired. The figure is scaled nicely beside a minifigure and the layered fur looks rather nice in my opinion, as does the printing for the face and nails.
I like the differing orientations of the arms too and the hands are shaped to hold a brick, minifigure or bar which is useful. The Wampa may have no place in the Battle of Hoth itself but it I think it is worthy of inclusion as it offers some additional play value and allows newer LEGO Star Wars fans an opportunity to add this figure to their collection.
No Hoth set would be complete without a Tauntaun so I am glad of its inclusion here. The element which forms the head, body and legs of the creature was first introduced in 2009 and it looks as good now as it did then, with accurate printing on the head and poseable arms. A saddle and reins accompany the Tauntaun which allow a minifigure to be placed on top. Alternatively, you can fit a brick into the gap left by the saddle but there is nowhere to store the riding equipment which is somewhat disappointing.
The minifigures are of a reasonable standard on the whole but several important characters are missing such as Princess Leia, Chewbacca, General Rieekan and Romas Navander, not to mention the lack of Snowtroopers. If we are to assume that someone purchasing this set has never bought a set based on Hoth before then these characters are vital and their absence is unacceptable.
The Completed Model
The distinct lack of Imperial forces has been a source of frustration for many fans and I must concur. An E-web blaster cannon and a speeder bike makes for a paltry assault and the play value is therefore hampered enormously, despite the fact that play features have been jammed in wherever possible. The speeder bike has only been updated by the addition of some stickers and it looks fine as a result, with room for a pilot to hold onto the handlebars.
The E-web, on the other hand, is laughably poor in its design. It is over ten years since the cannon first made an appearance in 4504 Millennium Falcon but this model is worse in every respect. Not only is it hugely oversized but it is more fragile, less accurate and now has an ugly stud shooter thrown on top. The charge pack is also far too big and the hinged top leaves an unsightly gap even when it is closed, although it is a satisfactory method of storing some extra studs.
A trench forms the primary defence for the Rebels and this is angled nicely to create some visual interest. From the front the trench looks quite impressive and offers plenty of protection for the troops but I am not keen on the light bluish grey highlights which are spread across the front. These would look far better in white as the trenches consist only of packed snow in the films rather than of rocks, although there is some exposed rock on Hoth.
The line of turrets is rather intimidating and each one is placed on a 4x4 space so you can easily swap them around to alter the shape of the defences if you wish. I like the heavy blasters mounted on the parapet and the DF.9 anti-infantry turret is a decent model too, although it also has some grey elements which look out of place. The access hatch on top is especially ugly and the spring loaded shooters look tacked on, with little attempt to hide them.
Perhaps my least favourite element of the entire set is the P-Tower turret, an anti-vehicle weapon which is seen extensively on Hoth. A near perfect rendition of the cannon appeared in 75014 Battle of Hoth but that superb design has been thrown away in favour of this shambolic creation, which scarcely resembles the actual turret. A six stud shooter has been jammed onto the front of the dish and it looks dreadful. The function works well but the mounting wobbles as it is turned and feels fragile as a result. Some extra ammunition is included but no effort has been made to hide them, with the instructions instead suggesting that you stack them up beside it, as shown above. This turret, like the others, can be rotated on its base and can be moved around to change the arrangement of the defences.
A second DF.9 battery can be clipped to the gateway which forms the core of the set and this turret can also be easily removed and moved around if you wish. The snowy base is lined with tan and dark tan plates which are intended to represent the duckboards and compacted snow seen in the trenches in the film and I think this works quite well despite the simplicity of the technique. However, I do not think that this second turret is necessary since 75138 Hoth Attack is already available should you want to expand the Rebel defences. Instead it seems like a rather dubious attempt to justify the price of the set.
Another clip is found at the other end of the entrance and this is used to attach the ion cannon. This and the shield generator are the only significant models included which have not been seen before and it is easy to see why in the case of the ion cannon. This is a huge emplacement in the film and it requires a larger model to really do it justice. This effort suffers as a result of its small size and the spherical shape has not been captured particularly well in my opinion, although it is certainly recognisable as the v-150 Planet Defender.
The interior is a little more impressive as there are some nice consoles and room to seat a minifigure which can be fully enclosed by lowering the hatch on top. I also enjoy the dual firing system which has been implemented to fire two missiles in quick succession, although this is at the cost of the gun barrel looking remotely faithful to the source material. There is space on either side for the spring loaded shooters which would have allowed a more accurate barrel to be fitted while the play feature remained but this opportunity has been missed and we are instead left with a model that looks awful.
Matters only grow worse though as the rear of the ion cannon is one of the worst aspects of the entire set. As you can see below, a jumble of colourful Technic elements have been left totally exposed and it looks dreadful. Unfortunately these pieces are also visible from the front if you raise the angle of the turret, making just about every aspect of this model a failure in my opinion. This is the final section to be constructed and it epitomised the entire building experience for me.
The other brand new model is the shield generator. An entire module is missing for reasons unknown and the snow which is packed around the generator looks disappointingly uniform, failing to give the impression of a structure which has been built into the snow and naturally covered by snowdrifts. The small size of the shield generator is not an issue in my opinion as a model of the accurate size would be enormous and this smaller version is sufficient. The unusual shape of the generator has been recreated perfectly and it looks fine from the front, but for the absence of the fourth module.
Poor finishing at the back of each model is fast becoming a trend for this set as an unsightly lever is fitted which is far larger than it needs to be. A few more pieces would resolve this issue and this becomes increasingly annoying during construction as more situations like this one arise.
However, I do like the exploding function activated by this lever. The three sections are not held in place by any studs and can easily be thrown into the air, although they are liable to wobble even when you are moving the model around. If only the AT-AT which causes the explosion were still available for sale!
From the outside I think the gates look quite impressive, with nice interlocking teeth on the doors and natural shaping of the snow on either side. There are some exposed rocks on Hoth but the sides of the entrance are covered with snow in the film so the dark bluish grey rock pieces which support the structure look out of place and should have been replaced with white ones. I am not keen on the top of the gateway either as it looks very flat despite the few slopes which are spread around. The turret mounting points on top are not accurate to the movie but they do not bother me too much as I appreciate the customisation which this allows.
In addition to the significant flaws which I have already described there are plenty of minor ones which are particularly frustrating since they could easily have been resolved during the design phase. The most notable of these is the use of a red 1x1 brick with a stud on the side which leaves a patch of red visible among the white pieces. This detracts from the appearance of the model to some extent and the required brick already exists in white so it could have been avoided.
While the front of the entranceway looks good, the back is absolutely appalling. Much like the ion cannon, a selection of colourful Technic pieces have been left exposed when they could easily have been covered. The liftarms are successful in strengthening the model but no attempt has been made to disguise them and they look terrible. Worse still is the reverse side of each door. These are pointlessly littered with light bluish grey parts which completely ruin the appearance of the doors from this side. The gear used to open the doors is painfully obvious too, although they move smoothly so I have no complaints with regard to their functionality.
Opening and closing the doors is very satisfying but flying the snowspeeder through them is not as there is hardly room to squeeze it through. Less than a half stud of clearance is left on each side and the craft can only just about pass between the teeth of the doors, as shown in the image below which has the doors opened as far as they will go. Flying it through without hitting the sides is almost impossible.
The lookout tower which is offset to the left of the entrance is an inexplicable inclusion. The designer claims that it is based on the towers seen on Yavin IV and that Hoth must have similar structures but we do not see them in the film. Evidently he was unaware that we do see lookout posts on Hoth in the film and they look nothing like this, instead consisting of trenches much like the main defences. Moreover, a minifigure looks ridiculous when stood on top, as shown on the box.
This is not a bad play feature but the method of lowering the tower is pathetically rudimentary and it cannot be hidden away entirely, spoiling the appearance of the model from the front and back. Evidently the "special attention to accuracy and details" which is given as a maxim of the Ultimate Collector's Series range was lost at some point during the creation of this set.
Separate modules can be fitted to the back of the gateway to form the interior. The first of these is also the least interesting, consisting of a crane and a Tauntaun pen, neither of which was really necessary in my view. The feeding station offers plenty of room for a couple of Tauntauns but is rather boring and I would prefer that this had been left out in favour of a medical bay or a larger command centre.
The rotating crane can be used to lift crates out of the cargo sled and it works reasonably well, although the tap at the end of the boom sometimes comes off as there is little friction between it and the Technic pin to which it is attached. A small fuel pump is included too and this is decorated with a sticker, complete with some Aurebesh text which reads 'alert.'
The command centre is fitted on the opposite side of the gate, leaving a space between the structures for a few vehicles and minifigures. As one of the most prominent sections of Echo Base, I had hoped that justice would finally be done to the extensive command centre when news of this set first emerged in December of 2014. The result is very disappointing though this version is smaller than the previous effort, with just one holographic display and two little consoles on the walls. The main display is decent and I appreciate the inclusion of some clips to store weapons but that good work is quickly undone by the two trans-red missiles which are haphazardly attached to the wall. It is bemusing that a better storage solution could not be found.
Behind the command centre is the Wampa cave. This little structure consists of white and light blue bricks which give the impression of ice. Luke can be suspended from the ceiling as he was in the movie and an attempt has been made to replicate the scene in which he pulls his lightsaber from the snow with The Force. This feature is borrowed from 8089 Hoth Wampa Cave but it does not work very well, only pushing the lightsaber partly out of the snow.
Lastly come the two Rebel vehicles, a cargo sled and a snowspeeder. The sled is very basic in its construction but is faithful the source material and has room for two crates as well as a driver. Wheels are found underneath which allow you to roll the model around and a hinged flap is attached at the back for loading and unloading. Two pairs of macrobinoculars are stored in one box while the other contains a couple of blaster pistols.
This is the seventh minifigure scale model of a snowspeeder and I think it is the best one yet, although very few improvements have been made since 75049 Snowspeeder was released. The angled armour plating of the craft is very difficult to recreate at this scale but the design has been improved significantly in recent years, most notably on the wings where the shape is almost identical to the vehicle in the film.
The harpoon at the rear can be let out by turning the gears on either side of the cable reel but it does not fire from the stud shooter. Instead a trans-red 1x1 stud is placed there to simulate a laser cannon. Two more projectiles are fitted underneath but these face forward to attack enemies head on.
There is room for two minifigures to sit in the cockpit, although it is a tight squeeze. Control panels are situated at both ends and there is a 1x2 jumper plate between the seats which can be used to store a blaster. The cockpit has remained unchanged since the first model of a snowspeeder was released in 1999 which is unfortunate and a new, more accurate, piece is required. However, I think this is the best that can be done using only existing elements.
The snowspeeder is one of the best parts of the set but its appeal is lessened slightly by its similarity to 75049 Snowspeeder which was released in 2014. The two models are almost identical in design, with the colour scheme and harpoon being the only apparent differences as the older one actually fired the harpoon rather than a stud.
It is a shame that no significant improvements have been made since the 2014 version as this is still not a perfect model but I like the new colour scheme very much and it is nice to have two snowspeeders that match.
This is an awful set. Almost every section is rife with issues and the minifigure selection does little to make up for this. Clearly the set has no right to Ultimate Collector's Series designation but more damaging in my view is the fact that the individual models are not very impressive. Most feel unfinished or are lacking in detail and some of the design choices which have been made are simply bewildering such as the absence of a fourth shield generator module or the lack of space to fit the snowspeeder through the doors. Corners have been cut all over the set and even the minifigure selection is fairly weak as the few new characters which are included are not particularly appealing and many important minifigures have been left out.
Furthermore, the price of the set is beyond what it should be. The numerous small models do not form a cohesive whole and it looks fairly sparse when laid out so I see little justification for the price of £219.99 or $249.99. Sometimes the cost of producing new parts can inflate the price but that cannot be the case here as no new pieces or elements in new colours are included. Even more astonishing is the lack of new printed designs for the minifigures. Only five new torsos have been introduced along with two new heads and this detracts quite significantly from their quality which is a shame.
However, this set was clearly designed with play value in mind and in that regard I think it succeeds to some extent as there are lots of features and most work quite well. The large number of Rebel personnel also increases the play value as there are plenty of figures to man every turret and vehicle with some left over as infantry. Furthermore, some of the models included are impressive and I would be pleased if the snowspeeder, cargo sled and doorway were included in a smaller set. Unfortunately, the playability is hamstrung by the lack of Imperial forces and the poor planning involved in the production of this set given that 75054 AT-AT is no longer available.
I do not recommend this set, particularly if you have already acquired some of the earlier models based on these scenes. If 75098 Assault on Hoth combined the best versions of each vehicle and structure seen on Hoth in one set then I would recommend it to LEGO fans who have not purchased previous Hoth sets but in its present state I think many of the earlier models are better than these. My initial assessment of the set was fairly critical and it is equally unimpressive in person. This is far from the worst set ever made but it is certainly a low point for the LEGO Star Wars theme in recent years. Hopefully it will bounce back with 75159 The Death Star.
This set was provided for review by The LEGO Group but the review is an expression of my own opinions.