With the celebration of 25 years of LEGO Star Wars continuing into the summer sets, the next wave promises even more classics in brick form, accompanied by exclusive or sought-after figures. And there’s nothing quite as classic as the Imperial Star Destroyer, appearing in the first few frames of A New Hope. It’s a subject that LEGO has returned to over and over again throughout that quarter of a century. But what is the culmination of those 25 years of design and re-design? We find out in LEGO Star Wars 75394 Imperial Star Destroyer, 1,555 pieces strong and retailing for US $159.99 | CAN $209.99 | UK £149.99. This I-class staple of the Imperial Navy hits store shelves on August 1st and is available for pre-order now from the LEGO website.

Box and contents

We begin, as all our reviews do, with the packaging. This ISD arrives in a box adorned with the Star Wars logo, a brilliant shot of the ship in action, and a line of 6 minifigures in the bottom right corner. We also see the promise of a Cal Kestis minifigure in the box, commemorating the 25th anniversary of LEGO Star Wars.

Flipping the box around, we see the Star Destroyer unfurled, revealing the ship’s deck with all the control panels and such manned by the minifig team. Inset pictures showcase some of the additional play features, which we’ll get into later on. The background is slightly confusing, as the ISD appears to have landed on a dock of some kind. Maybe this has been retconned, but I didn’t think these ships were designed for that in the SW universe.

The unboxing was a bit of a surprise for me. This container opens by cutting tape all along the sides and lifting the lid. It’s the same design as was used in LEGO Ideas 21349 Tuxedo Cat, and I’m a fan. You can already see all the paper bags sitting within just waiting to be opened.

There are 14 of those bags in total, with all but one of the internal bags also being paper. I’ll include shots of the bag contents as we work through them during the build process. Also contained within the box is the thick instruction book and a sticker sheet. As this is a set more intended for play than display, there are no inserts about the designers or subject matter. But, judging from that sticker sheet, this set does promise an excess of control panels. How very Imperial of them!

The build

This Star Destroyer begins with the open command deck, coming into shape right away with bag 1. There’s not much detail here yet, except for a few monitors and boxes containing thermal detonators and a pair of scanning binoculars. I remember the part from back in Rock Raiders sets when it first debuted, and I’m thrilled it’s still seeing print, though now in white.

Bag 2 forms a central pillar and a pair of workstations on the main deck. There are lots of little details hidden in there, but my favorite bit is definitely the swiveling hologram on the right of the bridge. I just want to huddle all the minifigures around it and have a conference about how to eradicate those Rebel scum! And I don’t know what’s in that blue canister, but it sure looks important. It’s also notable that this pillar contains an Technic rig that allows the ship to be lifted up after it’s fully assembled without placing strain on the more fragile parts of the build. We’ll look at that when everything’s put together.

With bag 3, the nose of the ship comes into form. Including another pair of workstations, this is a great example of the bi-level organization of the ISD’s bridge. Vader can walk above, interviewing bounty hunters and staring down at his peons manning the computers below.

Our next bag, number 4 for those counting along at home, frames the model and adds some much-needed structure for the rest of the build. Utilizing common practice for these kinds of Star Wars ships, a combination of Technic and hinge elements create that isosceles shape we expect. However, I did enjoy the surprising use of a 2×4 tile held by a pair of clips to box in the engines. This bag also brings us the end of control panel-palooza, lining the walls of the ship with 2×6 tile instrument panels and laying in a pair of great-looking holo-screens on the main deck.

The engines and main tower come together in bag 5. The designers employ wheels once again as spaceship thrusters, showcasing the versatility of these LEGO parts. But beyond that, there’s not much special about this step. It’s all prepping connections to make the ship’s bridge (not the playset bridge hidden inside) at the top of the tower.

And as boring as bag 5 was, bag 6 makes up for it with some wonderful LEGO shaping. Utilizing bar-and-clip connections along with wedge plates and a little bit of SNOT work (that’s Studs Not On Top), a detailed version of the ISD bridge comes to life. This feels like something more at home in a build for adults, and the detail is appreciated here. So, too, is the stability of all these features. Nothing on the bridge feels at risk of snapping off during play. And nothing grinds my gears like when a tractor beam targeting array snaps off while I’m trying to remake the encounter between Vader and Admiral Motti!

Onward into bag 7, and the start of the hull flaps that will conceal the bridge playset within. This first bag in the four-step process makes the underside of the left “wing.” While it is an expert stack of sandwiched plates, it’s a little light on the details. I do like how it connects with the technic bricks used in the frame, coming in up and under the build instead of attaching to its face.

Bag 8 handles the top portion of this “wing,” with some light details and texturing (called greebling by us LEGO nerds). While this isn’t done so much with parts (like the 1×2 ingot piece used here), the studs themselves are employed to add that texture, with tiles interspersed to give those studs that are present more textural meaning, so to speak.

We’ll lump bags 9 and 10 together, as they repeat the same steps as bags 7 and 8, just mirrored for the other side of the build. Stacking all these plates isn’t the most fun thing in the world, but it goes a lot faster than in some other sets (I’m looking at you, LEGO Star Wars 75367 Venator-Class Republic Attack Cruiser).

Now there’s that big boxy hole to fill on top of the ship. Bag 11 steps up to the challenge beginning the section that includes the turbolaser array. This has got to be the coolest play feature of the set! Pushing a pulling a tab at the back of the ISD will cause the turrets to swivel back and forth in unison, thanks to some neat “gearing” of a male hinge piece wedged between a pair of 1×1 inkwells. Once assembled, we’ll look at how the play feature functions.

Bag 12 finishes out the top of this chunk, smoothing out the top and adding a missile shooter. There’s also a door to allow access to that handle from all the way back in bag 2. Again, we’ll get into play features as we check out the finished model.

Just as with the hull cover, the final 2 bags build out the other half of this central section. Everything is mirrored on this side, as well. And the last bag also includes the Cal Kestis minifigure, which we’ll look at in the dedicated section.

This central plug fits into place with gravity on top of the model, and the finished Imperial Star Destroyer comes into being. Between the loose fit of this roof section and the fragility of the hull wrap, using that central Technic handle to move the set is essential!

The minifigures

We’ll begin with the crew of this ISD. Numbering 6 in total, the crew consists of Darth Vader, a Stormtrooper, Imperial Gunner, Commander Praji, an Imperial Crew Member, and Imperial Navy Trooper. All torsos have front-and-back printing, with only two-sided printing on the heads for Vader and the Navy Trooper. I really like the printing on Vader’s head, specifically, as well as the dual-molding on the Stormtrooper helmet. Only 4 of the 6 have legs with front printing. I’m certainly happy with the detailing of these figs, and they feel like a more fleshed-out crew than would’ve been possible in a LEGO Star Wars set only a few years ago.

But they aren’t the reason you’re reading this section, right? I’m sure all of you are excited to see the Cal Kestis figure from the Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order and Survivor video games making an appearance in LEGO form. He appears with a blue lightsaber and 4×6 stand printed with the “25 Years of LEGO Star Wars” logo.

His torso features front-and-back printing, as does Cal’s face. The front of the legs also are printed, and I believe every printed piece is exclusive to this figure. Before continuing, I should first say that I’m not much of a minifigure collector. But my honest reaction to Cal is “That’s it?!” There’s finally a reference to these terrific, beloved SW video games, and a bland fig with a lightsaber is it. No poncho, no bag, no accompanying droid. I was hoping for an execution closer in quality to Saw Gerrera and this is coming up well short of that.

The finished model

I’m so used to treating these “finished model” sections as a space to talk about the displayability of a set. But that’s not what you’re going to want to do here. LEGO Star Wars 75394 Imperial Star Destroyer is made for play! But first, you’ll need to move it from the build space to an appropriate place for creating your own canon. Be sure to use the Technic handle hidden in the center of the ship for transport. It’s sturdy, easy to access, and very much feels like the culmination of 25 years of LEGO shipbuilding in a single feature.

While you’re playing, you’ll likely signal to the Gunner to fire the ion cannon. By pushing down on this Technic beam, you can make that happen, shooting a spring-loaded missile out of the front of the ship. Loading the missile was a little difficult for me, but I imagine kids will have a better time of it.

That same gunner is going to want to activate the turbolaser turrets. And by sliding tabs on the back of the ISD, this is simulated as well. I absolutely love this design, and it’s definitely the highlight of the build for me!

Finally, we should get access to the bridge playset inside. Time to unfurl the ship’s exterior and get to interrogating the Princess!

Conclusions and recommendations

I don’t say this about LEGO Star Wars sets all that often anymore, but LEGO Star Wars 75394 Imperial Star Destroyer might actually provide value equivalent to its price. While it is slightly over the $0.10 USD per part that we LEGO enthusiasts shoot for, the fig count is high and the play features are plentiful! While I wouldn’t recommend it as a display piece, as I think there are far better options currently available within the same price point that do the job better, this is absolutely the kind of set which gets to the heart of LEGO Star Wars. Build it with your kid and go on some adventures across the galaxy. Grab some X-Wings and TIE Fighters from the Star Wars Advent Calendars and recreate some space battles, switching between microscale spaceships and the minifigures on the bridge. Just make sure you put all those well-made features to use.

I know that’ll be an unpopular opinion, but this isn’t a set to buy for the minifigures. While the crew is superb for this as a playset, none of them stand out as unique enough to justify the purchase. And don’t spend $160 USD on that Cal Kestis. He’s 100% not worth it! You can do much better making one of your own from other minifig parts, adding in all the detail and accessories that such a fig deserves. Plus, given LEGO’s track record with buzzworthy figs, he’ll probably be appearing in a Jedi: Fallen Order battle pack in a couple of months anyway, poncho and all.

Available for pre-order now on the LEGO website, and shipping August 1st, LEGO Star Wars 75394 Imperial Star Destroyer is composed of 1,555 pieces and retails for US $159.99 | CAN $209.99 | UK £149.99.

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