Review by EVA_Unit_4A
-- WARNING --
According to the manufacturer, this product is not recommended for children under the age of 7 years as it contains many small parts which a child could potentially choke on.
On the Sentai Mountain, humans work side-by-side with intelligent robots in mines. They use large excavation machines to dig out, gather, and transport mined rock to the surface. Unfortunately, an error occurred in one of the machines, and it sparked a vicious rebellion. Robots turned on their human masters, and through the fighting a series of mysterious explosions blasted the mountain into two halves. The robots were eventually driven deep into the newly-formed canyon far below. Years later, the robots returned, having quietly converted their mining machines into combat-hardened Battle Machines. In a surprise attack, the robots were able to conquer half of Sentai Mountain, additionally taking hostage thousands of human workers and their families. Anticipating their return beforehand, the wise and noble Keiken-sensei gathered together all the people, technology, and resources that he could and created Exo-Force- a defense screen of hardened battlements with tall gates, powerful weapon turrets, advanced research and development laboratories, and their own designs of brand new Battle Machines piloted by elite teams trained under his leadership.
At first, the first Sentai Fortress proved quite a challenge to the robots and their megalomaniacal leader, Meca One. But with access to greater resources and with more ruthlessness, the robots were able to make a heavy strike on Sentai Fortress enough to break it, forcing the inhabitants and survivors to flee higher up the mountainside. The robots limped back to their own side of the mountain…
Fortunately, Keiken-sensei was aware of a legend about the ancient Golden City where the first inhabitants of Sentai Mountain made their base of operations. After successfully retreating there, it was discovered that it was indeed a pinnacle of high technology, and its central computer systems gave them access to powerful new technologies and Battle Machines to replace their war-torn ones. While this did not grant them room for expansion enough to attempt an assault on the robots’ side of the mountain, the lessons learned there allowed for new Battle Machines and technologies to be developed. Desperate to get it’s claws on this technology as well, Meca One launched another heavy assault. But this time, it was able to use one of it’s many copies to kidnap and then impersonate Keiken-sensei in order to expose the city to attack! While Exo-Force was once more fortunate to drive the robots back and keep the Golden City secure, the disappearance of their leader left a large gap in their hearts which could not easily be filled…
The gold-plated leader of the robot army, Meca One, is known for its ruthlessness, its cunning, its intelligence, and its superiority complex. It was the first to rebel, and lead all of the robots into conflict with their creators, so it has been there from the start and has seen it all. The first thing it realized was that when together, humans are very resourceful. So when Meca One led its new army of Battle Machines against the Sentai Mountain, it was not only able to take the more-plentiful resources, but also rob them of their fighting spirit by abducting their family, friends, and co-workers. Knowing that a counter-attack might upset that advantage, it ordered thousands of prison cells be constructed at the base of the mountain before the invasion began, and then moved all of the prisoners there… except for the ones it forced into working in the mines without robot help. But this new Exo-Force human resistance had proved more difficult to overcome than initially expected. With the discovery that Sensei Keiken was leading them, Meca One realized that he might be the only one capable of bringing it and its army down. But Exo-Force’s resistance was also due to its access to the superior technology in the Golden City. So Meca One sent one of its many copies covertly to the city fortress, and had it abduct Keiken-sensei so that they could now gain access to that same information.
Before the robots rose out of the deep crevice of the Sentai Mountain to begin the war, they had hidden themselves in the deep jungles at its base. There, they encountered the wild and untamed creatures that roamed and were very well adapted to living there. As the robots’ continued failure at defeating Exo-Force became more than a nuisance, one of the ideas that Meca One dictated was that there may be more to a Battle Machine than armor, power, and weapons. There was also stealth and cunning. In the deep jungle, these are attributes that must be attained if they wished to keep their dominance. And so the robots took nature, and twisted it and improved on it for their own purposes. The Dark Panther is far more agile and maneuverable in the jungles than the earlier but more powerful Thunder Fury. New construction techniques allowed for lighter materials to be used to lessen its weight; this coupled with new hybrid motors allows it to jump near a hundred feet in a single bound! Then, as it clings to the massive trees with the paired sharp talons on each foot (which double as slashing weapons), it can hide right as Exo-Force’s Battle Machines pass unawares directly below. Then when their backs are turned, it can blast at them with twin composite laser cannons under the cockpit and an ion cannon turret mounted on its back. And if the Devastator at its controls wants to get up close and personal, it can use a series of leaps and twirls which allow the Dark Panther to dodge most close-range fire but still utilize the five long spikes on its chassis to gouge deep into Battler Machine armor. To add to this, the Dark Panther mounts two Iron Drones mid-body with their own laser rifles; or when need-be, they can detach from the Battle Machine and take off independently through the jungle in their matching hover jet packs!
Though its army of Devastator and Iron Drone robots is superior in many ways to humans, Meca One was reluctant to admit to itself that they, too, were not well-equipped to move in among the vines, branches, sharp rocks, and the foothills of the mountain. So a new type of mini-robot was designed to act as a scout for the Dark Panther. Equipped with six pointed legs of its own, it can also float over short distances. It is also equipped with two short-range lasers, adding to the Dark Panther’s overall firepower by working in concert with the Iron Drones to create a confusing crossfire pattern which could turn any Battle Machine into scrap with a lot of holes in it. Though more limited in its intelligence to prevent Exo-Force from capturing one and learning anything from them, it is still smart enough to avoid being detected by hiding in radar shadows, or hack into and disable enemy Battle Machines.
The Dark Panther (back) continues the trend of non-humanoid-shaped Battle Machines, this time drawing more heavily on the animal world for inspiration (as most of the robot army Battle Machines will for 2008 …) The cockpit section up where the head should be has nothing definable as either feline or animal. Again, here are two new yellow slanted vent 1x2 plates attached underneath the armor. The mid-body and upper front legs feature five of those new pointed hybrid-material plates which were previously mentioned in the Chameleon Hunter review, though this time they have contrasting purple ABS and yellow PVC coloring. The ion cannon on its back is attached to two joints which allow it 90-degrees of movement up and down, and three of the long spikes are interspaced between the joints. The front and back legs are built almost exactly the same, with the exception of those hybrid spikes on the thighs of the front legs. Ratcheting joints are at the body, while four ball-and-socket joints occupy the ankles.
Lego Set #8115 comes with a traditional silver Devastator minifig with a red #2 Technic rod placed in the back of its head to make red eyes. No weapon is provided for it. The set also comes with two additional Iron Drone minifigs, which lack the red Technic rod. This is so that the jet packs can attach to them. The packs feature two minifig-sized buzz saws which act as flip-up rotors for lift. While they are rather back-heavy with the jet packs on, they won’t fall over on a flat surface. Both Iron Drones are provided a hand-held weapon. Similar to those found on the Striking Venom, the Iron Drones- when hooked up to their jet packs- attach diagonally to the body of the Dark Panther, and then can act as 'intelligent' point-defense turrets.
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Normally, when a Lego set needs specific details on a part, such as a control panel or flag, the image is printed or painted directly onto specific parts. Exo-Force continues for its third year by using stick-on decals; something that is becoming more commonplace in other lines of the Lego System. There is a small sticker sheet which provides allegiance markings, warning symbols & notices, and names- some of them written in Japanese text! Translations of the Japanese text are given on the sticker sheet, but do not go on the parts. This allows for a wider range of piece marking without Lego having to create a completely different piece each time, and merges the Exo-Force and Japanese toy influence closer together. Whereas in the debut 2006 line some sets had a few conflicts where decals would cover more than one part and would make it impossible to separate again unless they were cut (or not applied to begin with), this has not been a problem with since and was not present in the 2007 line. And so there are no conflicts in Set#8115 from the 2008 line.
The new common gimmick for all of the 2008 line is these new mini-robots. Each one attaches to a Battle Machine. These are not new minifigs, but small Lego parts put together to make unique designs for each set that stands roughly as tall as a minifig. On the human-operated Battle Machines, there is a decal showing the forward profile of its mini-robot as well as the term “Spy Drone”. (Yes, this term is in conflict with all promotional materials- where they are called “mini-robots” instead.) When attaching them to their parent Battle Machine, they fold up and collapse down into a smaller form, though nothing is removed to accomplish this. Be aware that the connection between mini-robot and Battle Machine is not always perfect compared to the instructions, so you’ll have to tinker around until you find an appropriate position for everything, though you won’t have to remove any parts to do so. (It’s really no big deal, and you’ll get used to it quickly enough.)
For Set #8115, the mini-robot (back) forms an inert lump of machinery attached to the Dark Panther’s neck. It implies the appearance of a spider (two-part body) but has only six pointed legs. The two transparent neon-green eyes are mounted on a swivel joint just like those found on the ion cannon, so it can look up and down. The back half of its body can also bend up and down a little, but this is only due to the parts used. Six more yellow pincer claws like the ones found on the feet are attached to black Exo-Force robot minifig arms, and each can bend up and down a fair bit, to the point where you can balance it on a minimum of three legs. The Dark Panther neither loses nor gains any extra function(s) when the mini-robot is removed; if anything, it shows how thin and weak-looking the neck really is.
For 2007, Exo-Force’s official website was upgraded with a new Code Brick Central section to accept specially-designated Exo-Codes which would be found in each set released. These alphanumeric Exo-Codes would grant access to special information and online goodies- wallpaper, screensavers, decals for your personal Lego profile, etc.- related to that one set from which the code had come. Apparently it was successful enough because the Exo-Codes are back for 2008. (Alas, they didn’t make new mini-movies of the Battle Machine’s in action like they did last year!) However, unlike the codes that were pre-printed onto flat 1x2 bricks in 2007, the new Exo-Codes are now printed onto decals which are then applied to the cockpit canopy of each set. Be aware that you must be signed up with a free Lego online profile in order to access the new information (of which they will also remind you).
Something that a lot of people noticed was when none of the 2007 sets were used to make alternate and combined models on the box art and website like they were in the breakout 2006 line. Well, you asked for them, and you got them back! While the singular alternate models have not come back, each 2008 set has instructions which can be found in the somewhat-elusive Build It! section of the website to combine two or three Exo-Force sets into one!
Set #8115- Dark Panther can combine with Set #8112- Battle Arachnoid to form a scorpion-like Battle Machine.
Set #8115- Dark Panther can also combine with Set #8117- Storm Lasher to form a tall humanoid Battle Machine with a large claw.
Aside from the fact that its name is a bit on the redundant side as some Exo-Force sets’ names tend to be (what is a panther other than dark!?), two thoughts came to mind when I had finished building it: “AT-AT”, and “oliphaunt”. This set has no feline characteristics to it as its name would suggest, except perhaps in the form of the paired claws on each foot, and even that’s a stretch. The forward-bending tail is more like a scorpion’s, though the accordion-like movement of those triangular spikes is kinda cool. (Putting two more spikes in the front thighs didn’t really help.) Having the two Iron Drones as turret gunners was a very awesome idea on the Striking Venom, and it has a similar feeling here, so I’m glad they used it again instead of making it a one-time shot. (Though, if it were me, I would’ve designed them to be held completely vertical and facing outwards.) The jet packs are… acceptable. (How often do young Lego maniacs try to create mechanical backpacks for minifigs…?) As I said, the head has no animalistic feature to it- no eyes, mouth, ears… nothing! However, if they had used the cockpit-separating idea here instead of needlessly on the Battle Arachnoid, it might have worked better and made more sense for the mini-robot to drive the Battle Machine while the Devastator coordinated from the air. (You could separate the cockpit here, but it’s not really made to do so.) You would have expected poseable knees for a set like this, but we didn’t get that, which really hinders how you pose this thing. (I even tried reversing the joint part on the back knees to give it a different and more ‘realistic’ look like it is on the front of the box, but it wasn’t any better.) Perhaps the most redeeming quality was the mini-robot. I don’t know why- it just looks cute, and it’s somewhat poseable too. (Must be a cute anime monster-thing…) Plus, it covers that super-thin neck when it’s attached. Honestly, I am not super-thrilled with this set at all. It says Exo-Force, but I think the designers got a little distracted when they were making it, and it shows. Yeah, it works and it’s stable ‘n all, but due to personal taste, I do not really suggest getting the Dark Panther. I’ll hang on to it, but I think it’ll start collecting dust in a dark corner here real soon…
|Posted 29 February, 2008 - 05:14 by EVA_Unit_4A|