Darth Vader's foreboding fortress on Mustafar was introduced during Rogue One: A Star Wars Story and has subsequently appeared in several different comic series along with the recent Star Wars: Secrets of the Empire VR experience. This imposing structure has therefore become quite prominent within the Star Wars universe.
Nevertheless, the announcement of 75251 Darth Vader's Castle came as a wonderful surprise. The fortress looks absolutely fantastic and represents a significant departure from previous Star Wars models which is always welcome. Furthermore, the set contains 1060 pieces and costs £119.99 in the UK or $129.99 in the US so it appears to provide reasonable value for money.
An updated version of Darth Vader was created for 75093 Death Star Final Duel in 2015 and its design has remained consistent since then, featuring a large helmet that consists of two elements. Removing the uppermost section reveals Anakin Skywalker's scarred visage and leaves another component, placed around the neck, behind. This matches the movie quite closely and the pale head underneath looks great.
The vital life-systems computer on Darth Vader's torso is decorated with some colourful buttons and he wears a metallic silver pauldron which protects his shoulders. Unfortunately, the back of the torso is not printed but this is obscured by a soft fabric cape so the absence of printing does not bother me. As usual, the Sith Lord comes with a red-bladed lightsaber.
In addition, the set includes an exclusive Darth Vader minifigure without his iconic armour. Instead, he wears a black breathing mask for submergence in a bacta tank, taking inspiration from Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. This element has not appeared in black before but it looks marvellous and I love the unique facial expression with closed eyes.
Some narrow veins and integrated mechanical details are printed on both sides of Darth Vader's torso. These look suitably grotesque and the legs are decorated with a black harness, drawing comparison with Luke Skywalker from 75203 Hoth Medical Chamber. Strangely, the right arm is pearl silver while the left arm is white which is not entirely accurate. In fact, the Sith Lord's right arm should feature more flesh than the left but this inaccuracy is minor.
Darth Vader's bacta tank is flanked by two Royal Guards in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story and they also accompany the Sith Lord here. These minifigures have become fairly common in recent years but the latest version, wearing a dual-tone red and dark red cloak which is made from a spongy material, is only available elsewhere in 75159 Death Star.
The red mask looks superb and I like the creases on the front of the torso, although there is no printing on the back. The legs also appear rather plain but any further detail is probably unnecessary when the minifigures are compared with their onscreen counterparts. Both guards wield simple Force Pikes that consist of just two pieces.
A lone Imperial Transport Pilot completes the minifigure selection. This character is based upon Star Wars: Secrets of the Empire, in which some Rebel spies disguise themselves as Imperial personnel in an attempt to recover intelligence. Athex wears a pilot's uniform with blue highlights during this mission and the minifigure looks brilliant, sporting the same helmet as the Hovertank Pilots from 75152 Imperial Assault Hovertank.
His chest armour, on the other hand, more closely resembles that worn by a Stormtrooper which seems odd, although this design is accurate when compared with the source material. Athex does not remove his helmet during the virtual reality experience so a standard Clone Trooper head is found underneath and he comes with a blaster rifle, as one would expect.
The Completed Model
A miniature rendition of Darth Vader's TIE Advanced x1 accompanies the fortress. The vehicle is large enough for a minifigure to sit inside but is evidently smaller than minifigure-scale. Its proportions could certainly be improved but this design captures remarkable detail and feels sturdy so it is ideal for play. In fact, I would love to see a range of popular vehicles that match the scale of this starfighter and the Slave I from 75222 Betrayal at Cloud City.
This model bears an inevitable resemblance to the vehicles from 10188 Death Star and 75159 Death Star, both of which are constructed at a similar scale, but employs several unique building techniques. The wings, for instance, feature some 2x2 angled tiles which form an attractive shape and the section behind the cockpit has been streamlined. Moreover, the latest version of Darth Vader's craft is slightly larger than its predecessors.
The cockpit is extremely cramped but there is enough room to place Darth Vader inside, albeit without any controls or a translucent viewport. Instead, a printed trans-black dish covers an opaque 4x4 round plate which looks superb from the exterior. Two stud shooters are mounted beneath the cockpit. These weapons are much larger than the laser cannons on previous versions of the TIE Advanced x1 but they are integrated neatly.
Click hinges form the angular solar array wings on either side of the fuselage and these look perfect in relation to Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope. I like the smooth tiled surfaces and the wings are connected to the cockpit using Technic axles, ensuring their absolute rigidity. The dark bluish grey power converters on the outside of each wing look great too.
The rounded fuselage is fairly simple but it represents a significant improvement upon past models and includes some lovely mechanical detail. Darth Vader's lightsaber can be kept on a clip towards the rear of the vehicle. This storage solution looks rather rudimentary but fulfils its purpose, thereby completing an excellent rendition of the TIE Advanced x1.
Darth Vader's pyramidal fortress is even more impressive. Its dark silhouette looks absolutely fantastic and the fortress measures 41cm in height so is large enough to capture the majestic appearance of its source material, despite being vastly scaled down in relation to the movie. Furthermore, the black and dark bluish grey colour scheme works perfectly, especially in combination with the trans-red windows.
A stream of trans-orange lava flows underneath the fortress and into the valley where Darth Vader was defeated by Obi-Wan Kenobi. This stands out against the surrounding walls and the cliffs on either side look superb, using 8x8x6 rock pieces. I was not certain whether dark tan would feel appropriate here as the rocks appear much darker in the movie but it actually works perfectly, presenting a contrast with the castle while also maintaining some realism.
Mustafar's perennially sombre aesthetic makes it difficult to assess the precise colour of Darth Vader's fortress onscreen. It appears to be almost entirely black but the introduction of some dark bluish grey streaks on this model is effective, creating an appealing texture. The trans-red windows look good too, especially when they are lit from behind and their beautiful pyramidal shape is revealed.
A large hangar bay is located beneath the castle. Stickers are applied to the columns around this room and their design appears consistent with Imperial architecture across the galaxy, although printed parts would have been preferable. The hollow base provides remarkable support to the model, ensuring that it can be moved around with ease.
Darth Vader's TIE Advanced x1 fits very neatly inside the hangar but leaves little space for minifigures on either side. You can still seat Darth Vader inside his starfighter though as the cockpit opens forwards and there is plenty of room to display some minifigures in front of the TIE Advanced.
The dark side of the Force has a powerful influence on Mustafar, accentuated by an ancient Sith cave beneath its surface. This shrine bears little resemblance to the cave that appeared in the Darth Vader comic series but it looks wonderful, featuring a Sith holocron which is flanked by two hooded statues. Sith symbols decorate the walls and a pearl dark grey lightsaber hilt, perhaps belonging to a bygone Sith Lord, is hidden inside the rock face.
Furthermore, a red kyber crystal can be found inside the rocks on the other side of the castle. These functions have been implemented quite well, although the surface is not entirely smooth when the hinged panel is closed. This area also includes storage bays for some stud shooter ammunition alongside a docking station where the Mouse Droid can recharge. Previous renditions of these little droids have remained almost identical but this design is unique and I think it looks superb.
A black staircase allows Darth Vader to enter his fortress from the hangar bay. Such mundane details are frequently excluded from location-based Star Wars sets so I am delighted to find a staircase here and the opening door on the next level looks brilliant. A sliding design would have been ideal but this hinged configuration is a reasonable alternative in my opinion.
Darth Vader suffered terrible injuries following his duel with Obi-Wan Kenobi so must periodically bathe in a bacta tank. This trans-light blue cylinder is familiar but features a darker colour scheme than the bacta tanks from 7676 Republic Attack Gunship or 75203 Hoth Medical Chamber. The angular doorway on one side of this chamber looks good and I like the control panel, monitoring Darth Vader's vital signs, against the opposite wall.
The bacta tank opens upwards on a hinge and can be removed entirely, providing easy access to the minifigure inside. The tank stands on a black podium which looks superb but the reddish brown plates on the walls appear slightly out of place. Fortunately, these only become clearly visible under particular lighting conditions and their dark colour matches the surrounding shades of black and dark bluish grey quite closely.
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story and the Darth Vader comic series have explored little of Darth Vader's castle, compelling the designer of this set to include a few interesting details which have not appeared in any canon material. It seems likely that Darth Vader would maintain a meditation chamber inside his personal abode and this example looks magnificent, including far greater detail than the version from 6211 Imperial Star Destroyer.
The top half of the meditation chamber opens smoothly on a hinge, revealing a space for Darth Vader inside. Its white interior corresponds with the chamber from Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back and you can keep the Sith Lord's lightsaber on a peg beside the wall. Furthermore, this area of the fortress includes a holographic figure of Emperor Palpatine so the two characters may conspire together.
The uppermost level is occupied by the impressive rotunda where Darth Vader meets Director Krennic during Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. Its decorative floor lighting is heavily reliant upon a large sticker but I think it would be difficult to capture such detail without using a sticker at this scale. A stud shooter is also situated between the spires and this is mounted on a ball joint so it has a great range of motion.
75251 Darth Vader's Castle is undoubtedly among the best Star Wars sets that I have constructed in 2018. Its monolithic exterior looks spectacular on display and includes wonderful detail, despite being fairly monochromatic. I am particularly impressed by the trans-red windows and the trans-orange lava flow which really captures attention at the base of the fortress. The small TIE Advanced x1 is also very good, offering excellent play value.
The minifigure selection, on the other hand, is somewhat disappointing as Director Krennic and Vaneé, Darth Vader's loyal attendant, should have been included. Nevertheless, this is an excellent set and I think its price of £119.99 or $129.99 is quite reasonable so I would certainly recommend adding it to your Star Wars collection.
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