ezehogan wrote:I suppose the subject of "decline" is a matter of personal opinion and tastes. I am more interested in sets that try to capture a more realistic feel than a "playset" or extreme "fantasy" feel. The more outlandish the sets became, the more turned off I was by them.
Yes the Forestmen are mostly fantasy but the concept of bandits living in the forest was not far fetched and their buildings and hideouts did not seem too fanciful. On the other hand the Fright Knight's have no foothold in reality and the buildings were poor to boot. High towers with no substance and giant rocks used as gates scared me into a darkage.
I couldn't agree with you more! This was almost exactly how I was going to start my statement as well. I've always been a huge fan of Lego castle sets since I was a kid. I loved the older castle sets, have both the Black Falcon Fortress and the Black Monarch's Castle among many of the smaller sets. My favorite faction has always been Forestmen. I used the stare at the catalogs that came with the set showing the other sets in the series especially enjoying how Lego designed the scenes showcasing them all. Then Robin Hood Prince of Thieves came out and my young, impressionable mind kept that love going to new heights. What really made it for me back then was that while they weren't historically accurate, they were realistic enough to actually feel like I was living in a medieval age when I played with them in my youth.
Then came the dragons... and my dark ages hit right around the time the Dragon Knights sets started to roll out. For me, and coming from my own experience, that started the decline for the castle series since it started to become more into the fantasy realm and the realism of the golden age was lost for me. By the time Fright Knights were around, I didn't even know any of the new sets from then on. Since I was well into my dark ages for some time, I don't think I'll comment on the sets like KKI and KKII other than seeing them in stores in passing and not liking the designs much. Although, I did pick up Vladek's Dark Fortress, only cause it was on sale at Target for half on a black Friday, but it didn't have the same feel as sets of old that I remembered so fondly. I certainly didn't care for the colorful knights at all, as well as the unrealistic flaming catapults that really aim more to serve an 8 yr old's interactivity/playability than being anything realistic.
That all changed with Medieval Market Village. It was love at first sight, and suddenly I was 10 years old again studying every detail on the box. That pulled me out of my dark ages in an instant and into the Kingdoms line which I just had to get everything of. The realism was back for the most part. Finally we had people in a civilized setting. No more dragons, Orcs, and whatevers (hopefully) and the new (thankfully human) factions reminded me of the old sets with great minifig designs that look realistic and have a nice variety.
The only draw back that I've seen with the new sets lately is on the castle walls where stickers need to be applied instead of being printed on, other than that I love the king's castle! The only thing they need now enter a new Golden era in my eyes is the addition of modular civilian castle sets, such as a new guarded in, blacksmith shop and armor shop, as in the old sets, that can be incorporated into the castle walls which would further expand upon the Kings Castle. I would have loved to see that on the smaller outpost attack set currently on sale. While it works perfectly fine as a stand alone set, if it was able to be added to the Kings Castle as a modular unit, it could have taken it to new heights.
So while most of the folks agree that the decline was from the Fright Knights through KKII for various reasons, I do see the sets coming back in a big way that's very reminiscent of and maybe even be a new golden era. I just hope that Lego keeps playing their cards right in the upcoming sets in the series. Oh and a new Forestmen revamp along the lines of the current sets, that actually live in a forest setting, would be awesome (with bows from that elf minifig from series 3!)
The older I get, the more I realize that common sense isn't so common...