Posted by Jeremy on January 7, 2019 at 05:52 PM CST
Back in 2003, when the world was flat, LEGO gave us the opportunity to recreate our favourite moments from The Empire Strikes Back through 10123 Cloud City, which, at the time, was the biggest playset that LEGO had created for their Star Wars license, and offered up all kinds of fun features and new minifigures.
Return to Cloud City™!
Han Solo™ and Princess Leia™ have journeyed to Cloud City™, only to discover it is an Imperial trap! Now Luke Skywalker™ must challenge Darth Vader™ to try and save his friends!
Unique Set Features:
More than 25" in length!
7 mini-figures including Luke Skywalker, Darth Vader, Princess Leia, Han Solo, Boba Fett™, Stormtrooper™ and the all-new Lando Calrissian™
Four separate play areas including Landing Platform for the Twin Pod Cloud Car™ (sold separately as item #7119)
Full Action Play: Blast Luke through the window! Drop Han into the carbonite!
Based on one of the most famous locations from the original Star Wars™ trilogy, this set is the perfect addition to your Star Wars collection! Recreate your favorite moments from Star Wars™: Episode V The Empire Strikes Back, or create your own thrilling adventures!
The build provided three rooms (from right to left: carbon freezing chamber that had a working mechanism, a dining room to trip an Imperial trap and a compartment to act out the Luke/Vader duel) plus a gantry and landing pad annexe son the side and rear. With the landing pad, which was designed to accommodate 7119 Cloud Car but roomy enough to fit 7144 Slave I as well, removed the linear playset happily sat on a shelf and proved to be a very popular set.
Aside from its scarcity, 10123 Cloud City's popularity amongst fans and collectors could be put down to three factors - it was the first LEGO Star Wars set to include a minifig with realistic flesh tones (Lando Calrissian), had the only minifigs of Luke Skywalker and Princess Leia depicted in their iconic Bespin attire and the Boba Fett minifig had unique detailing printed on its arms and legs.
As one of the first Direct-To-Consumer (D2C) sets and it being the pre-shop.lego.com era, it was only available through the shop@home catalogue and brand stores at a very resonable $99.99 price tag. Since the sets retirement in 2005 its value rose on a slow-but-steady trajectory and eventually commanded significantly higher prices on secondary market sites like eBay and Bricklink, with averages of US$1000 supported on both. Curiously though Brickpicker had trending at an average of US$750 for a new set.
Despite playing an enormous role in the second (but fifth episode) movie in the Star Wars franchise Lando's city in the sky has barely registered on LEGO's radar. Ever since 7119 Cloud Car and 10123 Cloud City disappeared from retailers' shelves we have only seen Bespin revisted twice more as 9678 Twin-pod Cloud Car & Bespin and 75137 Carbon Freezing Chamber in, respectively, 2012 and 2016.
With growing interest in a new Cloud City - as evidenced by numerous LEGO Ideas campaigns such as the I Am Your Father proposal which achieved enough votes to make it the review panel - going unrewarded the value of this set was destined to continue to rise. Until, that is, an unusually coquettish announcement by the LEGO Ideas review panel in early 2018 which left fans with the definite feeling that this was about to change.
And change it did when, eight months later on August 21st, 2018, a very well kept secret finally got shared by LEGO - 75222 Betrayal At Cloud City was coming on September 13th for members of the VIP programme and October 1st for the general public, and just like its ancestor from 15 years ago would be a D2C exclusive through LEGOshop.com for $349.99.
That single press announcement at the end of August had the immediate effect of dropping the value of 10123 Cloud City to less than half of what it was before.
While the announcement elicited a great deal of excitement, quite a few AFOLs and Star Wars collectors declared their perturbation in the direction taken - it looked more akin to 75159 Death Star and appeared to be less than display shelf friendly.
Though the size of the set, its price tag and the packaging's graphics screamed UCS the absolute lack of "Ultimate Collector Series" branding had quite a few eyebrows heading north. It was inclusion of the term "Master Builder Series" in the product description that caused the most brows furrowing.
LEGO quickly provided clarification in the form of a non-contentious 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."
With the difference between the UCS and MBS squared away, chances that some wag would give this debut set an "Insult On Hoth" moniker were cut short, and knowing that they could retroactively recategorise - at least mentally - both 75098 Assault On Hoth and 75159 Death Star as MBS, the LEGO collecting community breathed a sigh of relief.
And with a review sample, gratefully provided by LEGO, of 75222 Betrayal At Cloud City at the top of the build list it was time to look up and turn our attention to the Laputa of the Star Wars universe.
Rather than do all the fun work ourselves we decided to bring in an apprentice to help - someone whose integrity wouldn't be compromised by the offer of free LEGO, had enough time on their hands to really get into the build and brought sufficient interest in LEGO that meant they'd put some real effort into getting their thoughts down on paper. Step forward Xavier, the 13-year old TFOL who was instrumental in the completion of our Build, Play,Love review of the 75192 Millennium Falcon set. His long history with LEGO - he built the 4,163 piece 10253 Creator Big Ben when he was 11 - meant tackling this 2,812 part classic (which took him just under 10 hours) was as easy as taking a disassembled protocol droid off an Ugnaught.
Before we delve into the contents of the box let's consider the packaging. Typically it is made a few elements - the layout, graphics and name.
The presentation of this set is in the same style as recent UCS sets like 75192 Millennium Falcon and 75181 Y-Wing Starfighter and has the distinct higher-end graphical layout that characterises those sets aimed at adult collectors without the confusion of the "Ultimate Collectors Series" branding.
Now take the set's name. The inclusion of "betrayal" is more evocative than LEGO's typical vanilla titles, and joined with the build's series of playable environments from The Empire Strikes Back we are clearly being directed towards role play rather than display.
Even before you start the build you get a sense that the finished product is going to be big, because the interior of the box is packed with bags of bricks - this set isn't the usual bag of potato chips. Twenty-six bags (numbered one to thirteen) to be precise, a white box with the same kind of line art last seen in 75192 Millennium Falcon, a stout instruction manual and not one but two sticker sheets.
Unlike its predecessor, which had a mere three rooms, this version has a grand total of 15 chambers, split into four quadrants. Whether it is intentional or not, each of the quarters is like its own district. From the top right, going clockwise, they are security/enforcement, arrivals/departures, entertainment/residential and finally refining/processing.
The section that plays host to Cloud City's law men is probably the most interesting - and sinister. The inclusion of the droid works is a no brainer and the red corridor is a great location to act out out important conversations, plus dedicated parking for the Twin-pod Squad Car is nice too but the interrogation room and torture chair are a lot darker than the usual LEGO fare. If asked by a younger LEGO fan what these two features are for we suggest going with meditation room and massage seat.
Xavier found that there were some good play features, like the sliding doors and the movie-accurate detailing, and went so far as to rewatch The Empire Strikes Back so he could play out Han's interrogation and the sonic attack on Chewbacca in the holding cell. And if you're less into making Han scream and more into relaxing a Princess, you can retask the room per the previous paragraph.
Continuing our tour takes us to the main transportation hub, which would appear that all the in and outbound traffic of the sky city uses. There is no need to purchase any additional ships to extend play as it comes with a Twin-pod Cloud Car (complete with its own pilots) and a midi-scale Slave I, both of which Xavier fully enjoyed the medium-scale detail of. You're not going to squeeze anything other than one of the MicroFighter or midi-scale Millennium Falcons on it though.
In addition to the circular landing pad, which is a monument to tan and looks a touch odd in the middle of a quarter circle, is a small balcony and a sliding door that leads to the city's suburbs. A mundane section it might but Xavier proclaimed it to be a fast and fun one.
The very Scandinavian decor of the arts and accomodation quarter belies the intricate decor, as Xavier puts it, that mirrors the original's detailing. After the security zone this is the busiest area; with a dining-slash-conference room, a sculpture lounge, a public promenade which features a water fountain and wall art and is perfect for ambushes on curious droids.
Xavier exclaimed that "all throughout this part, the little tiny details make this build all the worthwhile like in one of the corners of the dining room there is a small model of Cloud City."
The build, as with this review, saves the best for last - the freeze chamber and the "sensor array". That's gantry to me and you. Don't expect the functionality or the detail of 75137 Carbon-Freezing Chamber but it plays its part well and you still get to say "Han goes up. Han goes down." If this doesn't quite do it for you then check out Brick Fanatics who have photo-instructions to modify it. And if that leaves you wanting more have a look at the first issue of their eponymously titled magazine because it has an even bigger expansion.
Xavier's main feedback for the designers of this build was the complexity of the freezing chamber made things difficult "because of all the little technic pieces it was hard to know where things went and I did one thing wrong it messes up the entire build." On the positive side he loved the simplicity of the sensor array and had fun acting out the climatic father/son face-off.
In his conclusion Xavier went on to express that 75222 Betrayal At Cloud City was "fun and challenging build" that had a great balance of cool play features but was still detailed and interesting enough for collectors. His concern for the structural integrity of the framework was palpable but ultimately it proved to be unnecessary. When asked for what his favorite part of the build was he didn't hesitate to nominate the Cloud Cars. The straightforwardness of their construction, the clean lines and its swooshability won the day.