How do the new LEGO 90th anniversary sets compare to their inspiration?

The recently unveiled LEGO 90th anniversary sets have exposed some groundbreaking new approaches to LEGO set design.

10305 Lion Knights’ Castle and 10497 Galaxy Explorer are two of the biggest reveals from LEGO CON 2022. Honouring the 90th birthday of The LEGO Group, these sets pay tribute to bygone LEGO themes: specifically, Castle and Classic Space. These were two of the first LEGO themes to include minifigures, and their subsequent development has earned them plenty of older LEGO fans.

The new sets honour these past themes in slightly different ways. 10497 Galaxy Explorer sets out to recreate 497 Galaxy Explorer with modern elements and techniques, whilst also making some necessary upgrades. Our closer look at 10497 Galaxy Explorer exposed a number of changes and improvements to earlier design techniques.

10497 Galaxy Explorer

In an interesting twist, it seems the set can even be rebuilt into other Classic Space models. This allows it to scratch more nostalgic itches than we previously expected. It’s also a level of flexibility that the Classic Space theme lacked.

10305 Lion Knights’ Castle is a more interesting set here (although, given it’s vastly more expensive, it’s not necessarily more desirable). While it takes its cues from the early days of the Castle theme, it doesn’t have direct analogues in the way that 10497 Galaxy Explorer does. 6080 King’s Castle seems like the closest starting point, but 10305 Lion Knights’ Castle sharply deviates from it – even excising the king altogether.

A major point of difference is its more organic shaping. Previous LEGO castles of this ilk have been much boxier in their overall design. While it facilitates play (and allowed them to be opened up more easily) the open space in the middle didn’t always facilitate play scenarios.

LEGO icons 10305 lifestyle featured

10305 Lion Knight’s Castle is more uneven, (and therefore more visually enticing) putting its interior space to better use. There are actual rooms this time around (which even recent sets like 70404 King’s Castle lacked) which greatly expands both play possibilities and display potential.

There’s also more realistic features, like thatched roofs, arrow slits and a greater array of greenery around the castle exterior. These have been hinted at in previous sets, but they’re applied more effectively in this case.

Another appealing design choice is the inclusion of multiple factions (like Lion Knights, Black Falcons and Forestmen) in a single LEGO set. While this did happen occasionally in prior LEGO Castle sets, it was the exception rather than the rule.

10305 Box6 v29

From that perspective, 10305 Lion Knights’ Castle may the best 90th anniversary LEGO set to date. Not because it’s the biggest, or the most expensive, but because it builds meaningfully on the foundations of its predecessors. It takes what the LEGO Group has learned over the last nine decades and shows us what LEGO is capable of. That’s something that the other 90th anniversary sets have so far failed to achieve.

Of course, with a price tag of £349.99 / $399.99 / €399.99, it’s still a tough choice for most LEGO fans. With luck, we’ll get an anniversary set that better balances price and innovation in the future.

LEGO 10497 Galaxy Explorer can now be pre-ordered at LEGO.com for £89.99 / $99.99 / €99.99. It’ll release on August 18. 10305 Lion Knights’ Castle can be purchased at LEGO.com from August 3 for VIPs, and from August 8 for everyone else.

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