Originally a Playstation exclusive but now also available for PC, Horizon Zero Dawn was a groundbreaking game with a visionary plot. This 2017 role-playing game was a foray into the unfamiliar for the developer, Guerilla Games. A title like this was a massive change from their usual fare and some within the company saw its development as a huge risk. Though the plot and gameplay went through plenty of changes before it was released, the Tallneck was an early mainstay amongst the creature designs. Before the game even hit the shelves, fans were excited about the concept art featuring this peaceful, iconic giant. The giraffe-like mechanical beast soon became a recognizable symbol of the game that now extends into its sequel, Horizon Forbidden West, currently available exclusively for the Playstation 4 and 5, and fan-built LEGO models of it have been quite popular. The release of this new installment was a perfect reason to make official the relationship between Guerilla Games, LEGO, and their mutual fans. Enter the Horizon 76989 Tallneck. This 1,222-piece set will be available worldwide on May 1st from the LEGO Shop Online for US $79.99 | CAN $99.99 | UK £69.99. It comes with one Aloy minifigure, a small Watcher, and the towering Tallneck on a display base featuring scenery elements of the game. If that interests you, turn on your Focus and let’s get ready to Override this big guy correctly.
The LEGO Group provided The Brothers Brick with an early copy of this set for review. Providing TBB with products for review guarantees neither coverage nor positive reviews.
Unboxing the set and contents
The stand-out, mechanical construction of the game’s fauna intrigued audiences about the world they would be entering and what else they might find among these new wilds. Plenty of LEGO model interpretations of the various beasts have been explored quite well over the years (looking at you, Marius Herrmann), but the Tallneck by builder Wayne de Beer was one of the first fan-built models to gain a fandom of its own. Though Wayne didn’t have anything to do with this new set, back in the day copies of his original model made their way to Guerilla Games studios and Hideo Kojima (the legendary auteur of the Metal Gear Solid franchise). Though it was a definite fan favorite at the time, new parts and inventive techniques at LEGO helped the set’s official designer Isaac Snyder make a much more detailed and realistic version at minifigure scale.
As is common for the 18+ line, we get a tasteful black box emblazoned with the Horizon Forbidden West logo under a backlit picture of the full model. The back has the same logo in the top right corner above the schematics of the build. The box is pretty tall at 13.5 in or 34 cm. Under the back view of the model are close-ups of an alert Watcher and Aloy (incorrectly) overriding the Tallneck (we’ll get back to that). Sandwiched between them is concept art of the game showing Aloy looking over the wilds at a roaming Tallneck.
Inside the box, you’ll find 8 numbered bags along with a loose 16 x 8 green plate, a green zipline hose, and a sticker sheet. Also, of course, the instruction booklet.
As is typical for big, IP-related sets like this, the first few pages of the booklet are dedicated to celebrating elements of the game while linking it to the model itself. I found it pretty interesting to see LEGO “reviewing” the set themselves with callouts to new building techniques. Though the techniques they use may be “new” to official LEGO sets, the community of fan builders around the world has been using these methods for years. Of course, some of those builders, like Isaac, now work for LEGO so I guess they really built a role for themselves that made an impact on the company.
First off, this minifigure is probably one of the best of all time. Aloy quickly became one of gaming fans’ most beloved RPG protagonists. Her curious, inquisitive nature paired with her iron will and intellectual power make her a formidable opponent for man and machine. Aside from the body and new face prints, Aloy’s hair is also new. Its dual-mold soft plastic shows off her iconic braids while also making space for her Focus. More on that in a bit.
Prints on the legs, arms, front and back torso all show that LEGO really wanted to do this character design justice, though the accessories aren’t quite as perfect. I get why LEGO went with a white bow and arrow instead of creating a new futuristic version but the construction of the spear almost makes up for it. I say almost because it sacrifices the Override module for feathered details. A splash of color is worth it, it looks beautiful, but it is also why we ended up with a promo image of Brick-Aloy stabbing the Tallneck in the head. As players of the game will know, that’s not how you get your maps, kids.
Spear issues aside, the printing on Aloy’s head includes a small silver triangle with a line through it, meant to be visible inside the blue ring in her hair. This is her Focus, a major part of gameplay and a relic of a bygone world that Aloy must come to understand to save the present and the future. The blue ring around it represents a holographic display that reveals elements and tracks around Aloy throughout the game. Both expressions are typical to Aloy and part of the reason fans loved her, from disbelieving, sly smile to genuinely surprised awe.
Aside from the Tallneck, another common machine from Zero Dawn got its own official LEGO version. The Watchers are attentive but predictable protectors of other machines and though they can be easily subdued with a stab to the eye or a jab of the Override module, they still pack a punch. Well, a kick, I guess, since they don’t have any arms.
Its construction is pretty simple, relying on some small, offsets and color choices to mimic the game version at this scale. At first, I thought it seemed too small but after comparing it with the minifigure and my memories of the game, I actually think it’s perfectly executed. Some details are sacrificed (as they are for the overall model) but I don’t think this scale would hurt any similarly sized creatures should LEGO (or fans) choose to build some companion machines. I’m just glad they included transparent red, blue, and yellow studs to represent the various levels of alertness these little buggers can have.
The base structure utilizes studs-out building and repeated large elements to create a slim profiled black frame. The interior of the structures uses bricks with studs on the side to provide connection points for the scenery elements to come later.
Building the scene consists mainly of building up patches of dirt, stone, and grass to texture the ground. Foliage from the game comes in the form of red and blue flowers along with large green reeds capped with maroon. The reeds or grass are clearly meant to represent the grasses Aloy can hide in to remain unseen by the wild machines. The red and blue flowers struck me as the medicinal herbs and berries that you’ll find while foraging. A young white and black birch with bright yellow and medium orange leaves takes up some vertical space along with the ancient, degraded traffic light post on the opposite side. The four Technic pin plates blend in as broken down parts of the environment but they are also where the Tallneck will attach later.
Time to do some core work. When I first saw images for this set, I wasn’t certain if it would be poseable or not. Its static stance led me to believe that this was a display piece only, with very limited mobility. Though in some ways that’s true, the poseability we got was more than I expected. As you can see below, the legs will at least move back and forth since LEGO included a new 1x2x1&1/3 click socket, element number 80431, which is effectively a thinner redesign of the old 2x2x2 socket brick that was retired in 2006.
As you can see from this underbelly shot of the torso, the new click sockets are 1×2 standard bricks with the classic click joint assembly centered on one side. The previous version of this piece had bulky, odd dimensions which limited their functionality but this smaller, flusher piece opens the door for more compact, rigid figure constructions.
The numerous different orientations of studs within the body provide plenty of connection points to hide the wild colors used on the interior structure. Stickers help add details that can’t be brick-built or would be too bulky to try to pull off. LEGO might be trying new things with this but they aren’t getting too complex on us. At this stage, we’re just starting to get something recognizable as the Tallneck body.
Pay attention during the construction, especially during this phase. After attaching the beginning of the neck panels to the front of the torso, it will have you add this sub-build to its back. When I first did this, it kept coming loose. It wasn’t until later that I realized it was because the 1×1 double-sloped bricks underneath it were at the wrong orientation. I actually left the mistake in the pictures, if you’re curious. While it doesn’t prevent the sub-build from sticking in its place, it does make it a lot easier for it to come out.
The neck is probably the most repetitive part of the build, aside from the plethora of symmetrical elements before and after it. The stacked, paneled style of these creatures’ long necks is as iconic to them as their big, flat heads. Speaking of, the final portion of this assembly is attaching two click-hinges where the Tallneck’s head will attach.
Attaching the neck only takes a bar and some bushings to secure it. It’s simple but it’s best to put it on its side to do this. That is, unless you have a third arm or a friend to hold it while you try to find the holes.
This portion doesn’t move at all, aside from a small wiggle. After it’s attached, gold clip arms provide connection points for golden Uruk hai swords. In-game, these structures provide jump and grab points for Aloy to climb up to the disc head.
The back and front legs are relatively similar with small structural and design differences to match the source. Unfortunately, these thin legs aren’t flexible at all. It would be nice to see LEGO make a smaller scale click-assembly for Technic pieces—something like the angled bar connector in the center made with complimentary clicking sockets. You’d still need a pin to connect them, but they’d make the whole thing that much more flexible. The feet, as it says in the manual, were apparently “carefully designed to get the right shape” though they seem to be missing some toes in the front. They do still fit the overall creature design but I’d like to see what other options LEGO passed up since these really only match the back feet. They are neat but I’m sure fans will have fun modifying this set as they see fit.
Of course, paneling the legs to cover up dead space and structure is the next step. The upper and lower legs utilize offset pentagonal tiles centered in the shins to cleanly transition to the modified bricks above them which nicely flows into the thickness of the stacked plates in the thighs (glutes?). Modified bricks on hinge plates also cleverly house the connection points for the base in their heels. You can see on the bottom of the foot that there’s a hole for the Technic pins to attach to the base.
**Warning: Trying to stand the Tallneck up at this point will result in hilarious headless mecha chicken hijinks.**
The front legs are a bit bigger and taller than the back ones. This creature’s body and gait were modeled on a giraffe, after all. Bulky paneling yet again matches the thighs (deltoids? I’m not familiar with the muscles structure of these eldritch horses, what can I say?). Offset pentagonal tiles show up again, this time leading to a slope and another set of hinged joint coverings above the feet.
With the front legs and feet attached, the headless mecha chicken is gone. Horizon requires you to rebuild or repair broken Tallnecks throughout your journey, so seeing this whole thing come together will surely be nostalgic for fans on many levels. There’s still tons of fun to be had though since we’re on to the head next.
Attaching the dome, er…disc of this massive surveillance machine takes us back to the building of the display base, as the two are somewhat similar. Yet again, studs-out building techniques are used to make identical sides to the Tallneck’s large, round head. These attach to a central structure with the other side of the click-hinges used to attach the head to the body. Each panel includes bricks with studs on the side in various orientations to finish the structure and for details to be attached underneath and on top of the head. Stickered slopes cap off each side while two triangular structures finish out the back of the head.
The top of the head gets an oblong, round plate structure attached to it, using macaroni tiles to secure each plate.
A stickered tile attaches to the round plate in the center, representing the cables to the access point that Aloy can use to Override the machine for mapping data. Small stacked slopes finish the final bit of roundness in the head. The flat antennae structures jutting out of the back are upsidedown vehicle skis secured together with inverted tiles and attached with mixel joints. All of the exposed grey and orange plates and modified tiles are clever ways to emulate the technical, mechanical features of the head. Brick-built details like this balance out the use of stickers for finer details.
The completed model
The full Tallneck stands on its own without the base. After attaching the head, the whole build feels pretty sturdy and stable without any anchoring. The biggest issue is lining up the toes and the feet with each other to flatten the Tallneck’s stance. That slight problem pretty much disappears once you attach it to the base though. But before you get to that, its four tail-like structures have to be built using snowboards and click-joints. Attach these to the nozzles on its rump and now you’re done.
Take a look at it from a few different angles and appreciate the detail.
Attached to the base, the whole scene really comes together. Feel free to jump around and dance a bit. This thing is just as cool as I hoped it would be.
Conclusion and recommendation
I had way too much fun creating scenarios between Aloy, the Tallneck, and the Watcher. The one issue I had was not with the set itself but rather the choice in advertising on the box art. The cover art will definitely grab the attention of people that have no idea what Horizon is (they got me with Overwatch, after all, which I’d never played). But the back of the box portrays Aloy using her spear incorrectly, and with the amount of care LEGO put into nodding to the fans and the source material, you’d think they wouldn’t mess up such a minor detail. It also would’ve been cool to see a new wing/feather piece that clipped to the side so they could make an Override module printed piece instead of ignoring it. Maybe a half-sized candlestick? Criticism as small as that barely makes a dent in how awesome this set ended up. Unlike the Overwatch line which focused on characters and vehicles meant for play, this set is meant to be more of a functional display. They’re both very different types of games, of course, but Horizon still offers a slew of characters, creatures, and different scenery for LEGO to make use of if they choose to in the future. I’d love to see a Thunderjaw or Snapmaw alongside this model one day, or even a series of smaller builds around villages, ruins, and moments in the game. We could get a Rost and a young Aloy if they featured some flashbacks. Until such dreams are officially realized, I’ll rely on the LEGO community to keep pumping out awesome models of their own to match it, and I’ll give a hearty recommendation to this Tallneck set.
The LEGO Group sent The Brothers Brick an early copy of this set for review. Providing TBB with products for review guarantees neither coverage nor positive reviews.