In addition to being an updated version of 2003’s Cloud City set (10123), Betrayal at Cloud City is also the first in LEGO Star Wars’ ‘Master Builder’ series. These seem to be sets that come with the same level of detail (and pricing) as the Ultimate Collector’s Series, but with more of a focus on playing than display. Here’s the full statement:
The Master Builder Series models are large playsets and beside being complex builds they are characterized by having many play features and functions, interior details as well as a range of minifigures. Ultimate Collectors series will remain highly detailed display models providing complex builds with a focus on authenticity and both Ultimate Collectors Series and Master Builder Series will continue as a way to highlight the unique characteristic of each style of model.
Inside we have 2,812 pieces, 20 minifigures, a miniature version of the Slave I, the Bespin Twin-Pod Cloud Car, and Han Solo in his carbonite form. Those minifigures include two stormtroopers, two Bespin pilots, two Bespin guards, Boba Fett, Darth Vader, Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, Han Solo the prisoner, Princess Leia, Leia in a dress, Chewbacca, Lando, Lobot, C-3PO, R2-D2, one of the Ugnaught pig people, and IG-88 the droid bounty hunter. Overall it took around six and a half hours to build, and you can see the time-lapse footage of that below.
The build itself was pretty simple. There are a few fiddly points, especially with the finer details on the Slave I and the railings on the section where Vader lops off Luke’s hand, but otherwise it was quite painless. Assuming, of course, you can follow the instructions properly. There were a few points where I had to go back and work out why I had too many leftover pieces. Even the sticker pieces went into place without too much difficulty.
In terms of unique pieces, the only thing that seems to be brand new are the Cloud Car pilots’ helmets and a pitchfork-shaped piece at the bottom of the antenna-y thing Luke clings onto after losing his hand. That last one is the same shape as the fork in The Empire Strikes Back, which I had never noticed, and there weren’t a lot of images for me to verify. As it turns out, that design piece is only on screen for a few seconds, so it shows how much the designers were paying attention to the smaller details.
The Ugnaught heads also look to have had a redesign, though they are fundamentally the same as they were in past releases. I did notice there are three fencing-style swords in the set, which form part of the weird antenna-looking thing Luke clings onto and ultimately throws himself off. Those swords don’t pop up very often, and in this case there happens to be one leftover for you to do with as you please. There also happens to be a little pitchfork-type thing in the same place.
The set itself isn’t too dissimilar from the Death Star in terms of the build and design, with the base, flooring, and a different quarter corresponding to a different part of the Empire Strikes Back. There’s the Slave I’s landing pad, the carbonite freezer chamber (with the “I am your father” platform), the fancy rooms where Han and Leia discover Lando’s deception, and the prison area where C-3PO was disassembled. The latter also has room for the cloud car to sit, if you want to keep everything together. Both landing platforms are a bit rubbish on their own, because they’re designed to hold the ships in question, and the prison area is quite closed off so you can’t see very much.
The carbonite chamber also has the advantage of coming with a lever mechanism that swaps Han for the carbonite case which can later be added to the base of the Slave I.
What I wasn’t too fond of was the fact that the both the carbonite chamber itself and the Slave I’s landing pad weren’t hard fixed to the rest of the set. Instead both of them are only held in place by soft fit pieces as you can see below. Essentially both sections wobble around a bit, and if you lift the rest of the set straight up they’re left behind.
I imagine the reason for this is because a hard fix would be too weak to hold both platforms in place, should someone lift up the whole set. If that is the case then the soft connection is a much better alternative to having part fall off and shatter because gravity was too much for it. That said, I do wonder if there was a way to redesign the connections and make it possible.
Speaking of which, the same is sort of true for the circular section on the very top of the set, which has been left to balance in place between the four ridges with nothing to fix it to the rest of the set. It also wasn’t good to see that a number of doors only had detailing on one side, meaning the opposite side was just left virtually bare - as you can see below.
One of my favourite parts of the set is the miniature Slave I. It’s far smaller than any of the previous sets, but still keeps all the key details that made the ship so iconic in the first place. Plus it has space for the Carbonite Solo on the underside, and Boba Fett in the cockpit - even if his antenna doesn’t.
I feel like there’s could easily be a market for this sort of set, smaller than the regular starship sets but still bigger and more detailed than the Microfighter range. It’s been done before with Darth Vader’s TIE Fighter from both Death Star sets (albeit with a little less pizzazz), and I’d buy them if they were released as standalone sets. Maybe in the £30-£50 range, depending on the ship.
Despite some of the flaws, Betrayal at Cloud City is a nice set, with enough detailing to make the majority of LEGO purists happy. No doubt some more advanced builders will be working on modifications to improve the various shortcomings. I wouldn’t be surprised if someone went ahead and built miniature versions of the Millennium Falcon and Luke’s X-Wing to match the Slave I. Probably just in time for LEGO to announce its own, similar sets. With Disney promising to slow down the number of Star Wars films that are being produced, the LEGO company is going to have to come up with some way to keep stuffing shelves with new Star Wars products. There are only so many sets that can be remade, after all.
While the shortcomings in the design are relatively minor, there is one key problem with Betrayal at Cloud City. It’s far too expensive. It’s big, and it has a lot to offer, but I have serious doubts that it’s worth £300. There are a lot of pieces in there (2812), but that’s still fewer than the SHIELD Helicarrier, which has over 100 more pieces, and only £30 less than the Bugatti Chiron which has around 700 more. LEGO fans have come to expect the Star Wars markup these days, but this seems a bit much. Even more so when you remember that it only took me around six and a half hours to build.
It’s also quite large. Wider than the Death Star at any rate, though thankfully nowhere near as large as the UCS Millennium Falcon that was released this time last year. It’s going to require a lot of shelf or table space to store. Of course this is, first and foremost, a playset, so make sure it’s somewhere where you or your kid(s) can get to it without the risk of it being dropped. Nobody wants Chewbacca’s bowcaster to go flying down the back of the sofa, never to be seen again.
The question you have to ask yourself before you buy Betrayal at Cloud City is whether or not it’s worth dropping £300 on. Chances are this set is never going to get any significant discount, unless you get lucky on Black Friday or a similar shopping-themed day next year. If you decide that yes it is, you will be able to purchase it for the price of £299.99 wherever larger LEGO sets are sold, including the LEGO Store. VIP members can purchase it right now, but those wanting to avoid LEGO's reward card scheme will have to wait until 1st October.