Play Along... I mean come on, what do you expect me to say? Finally a company who intends to release tons and tons of product for the Lord of the Rings film trilogy? Of course I love 'em! Sure some of the product isn't the best out there, and some of the larger sets are not typically movie accurate, but who cares? Play Along has four, repeat four gosh darn waves planned for only five damned months! That's more than ToyBiz in its first year with the license. Plus we get figures and characters that Mr. Falcon and Mr. Nee seem hell-bent on keeping from us. *coughcoughBalrogcough*
I love Play Along because I love LotR and I'm a battle builder. Do I expect everyone to love "Armies of Middle Earth?" No. But you gotta at least give Play Along "mad props" for giving LotR the attention and volume of product it deserves!
With this set we get three swords and three bases. The bases are all figure specific, meaning that they have specific holes or pegs that can only fit with one particular figure. The bases definitely fulfill their purpose - they allow the figures to stand - but they are fairly bland and I'm sure that at some future point in time I will lament the fact that I cannot swap them around betwixt characters.
The three swords appear as movie accurate as is possible on that scale, and I dig 'em all. Sting is cast in the same translucent blue-ish plastic as the figure, which is certainly better than having it fully painted. Also, Frodo's head is removable which means his cloak is removable, too. The cloak, with sculpted on backpack, is done pretty well, and its wind-swept sculpt really matches the violent environment of the Shadow World.
Normally we'd discuss the articulation, here, but really, what articulation? Both Nazgul have neck articulation, one has a swivel joint on his left bicep, but other than that there's nothing to report. I definitely would prefer more articulation, but the very action-oriented sculpts might hamper such things. Frodo is articulated at both shoulders, the waist, and the neck. While not "fully articulated," the articulation here does allow for a far wider variety of poses than the Nazgul.
Frodo is cast in a clear plastic with a slightly blue tint to it;
he then has a very light black wash over him. I've never been a fan of clear figures, and would far more prefer a Twilight Frodo to be painted in gray scale as opposed to just being cast in translucent plastic, but the powers that be feel differently. In all honesty, the black wash on Frodo isn't necessary at all, but does highlight the sculpt in the few places the wash is apparent.
As for the Nazgul, they are cast in black with a blue wash over the majority of their cloaks, and a brown one towards the bottom and on the boots as well. The armor is either painted silver with a black wash or just a very heavy silver wash over black plastic (the more I look at them though the former possibility seems the more likely). The paint jobs are quite good, especially for this scale of figure, but in good light, the blue wash on the cloaks does seem a little too blue, and a darker shade would probably have been better.
The sculpts are very good, especially for this scale. There is very little (if any) texturization, which is the way to my heart, but I ain't complaining. The Nazgul, though, are a little too static for my taste. I wish that they were a little bit less action-posed and with a little more articulation which would all around lead to a greater possibility of variety amongst one's collection. Also, I really would have liked the Nazgul's hoods to be carved in more. As they are they just end and become a flat wall with very little depth. I would definitely have preferred a hollower look to them. As mentioned before, the Frodo is sculpted generically enough with a decent amount of articulation that allows him to be placed into a much wider variety of poses than his adversaries.
I think the thing to keep in mind when dealing with not only these, but with all of the AoME product is scale. While it isn't the greatest sculpting ever, its definitely a lot better than anything else done on a 3" scale; just think of those goofy, awkward little Applause PVC's. These dance circles around those ("invisible" circles in Frodo's case [ba-dum-CHING! thank you]).
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