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Predaking - Prime Beast Hunters - Voyager Figure

Height: 18cm (robot mode); with a maximum wingspan of 29cm

Articulation: 27 total points - Swivel neck, hinged face; 7 points each arm: Universal shoulder, upper arm swivel, hinge elbow, ball joint wrist, hinged claws; Waist swivel; 5 points each leg: Universal hip, pre-knee swivel, double hinge knee. Plus additional joints in wings and dragon mode limbs.

Colors: Molded black, orange, grey; Painted orange, silver, gold

Accessories: Tail sword; Hydrafire missile launchers, left and right with missiles.

Release Data: Released in the United States in February of 2013 at a suggested retail price of US$19.99

Author: ExVee

Voyagers haven't been well regarded in Transformers Prime. The First Editions were well praised, except for the extended period of not being able to get them in the US prior to the Toys R Us exclusive reissue of that wave. The Powerizer Voyagers from the main Prime line tended to be written off either for changes versus First Edition, the usually useless gimmick accessories, or sometimes both. Beast Hunters is starting in a different direction, largely ignoring choices made for last year's toys. Predaking represents not just that, but also the first beast form at this pricepoint to go along with the shift in the brand's focus.

Predaking is a little larger than the average Voyager last year, and more "back to basics" in terms of execution. This is what many had expressed desires for the pricepoint to get back to, and hopefully Predaking shows promise in how that's been delivered.

Robot Mode

I think the biggest problem I have with the appearance of Predaking is how much area is just smooth surfaces with little to no sculpted detailing. This is exacerbated by other parts which have a great deal of surface variation, causing a visual disconnect between portions of the figure. It looks so much like parts from different things put together without a lot of concern for styles matching. The wings and shins - among the worst offenders for flat surfaces - have Cybertronic text sculpted in, unfortunately I was never very good at reading ancient Cybertronian. I would have to say that these are really not a substitute for adding real detailing to these areas though, and I hope that the sculptor or sculptors did not feel that they were making a valid tradeoff by using this script across the plain, flat surfaces.

A big hit to the robot mode is also an obvious lack of paint. The toy does have quite a few paint applications, but there's many areas that really need them to work. All of the toy's orange plastic is devoid of paint. While I love orange, I can still recognize that some contrasting or accenting color is needed to use the orange well. The wings lost black paint that would have defined the support structure that the "membrane" is spread over. That took a major toll in terms of having the toy achieve a "finished" appearance. Likewise, the spikey orange shoulders look so much like there should have been black paint to help all the sculpted details to be distinguished. On the same line, the torso has a lot of surface variation, but so much of it is just plain black plastic that it's hard to recognize. A little bit is painted in orange and that helps define the chest, abdomen and pelvis, but it's still really hurting for some paint to set off the sculpting.

The articulation is okay. There's things like the elbows being single hinged, and then not even able to bend a full 90 degrees which hurt a little, but some other parts are kind of neat. Largely as a concession for the dragon mode, the wrist is ball jointed, and the hands are claws a lot like what Beast Wars Dinobot had. So while non-typical, the hands get a good range of posing from the way they're built. The neck swivels at the base, but in another move designed to facilitate transformation, the (soft plastic) face is itself hinged, so Predaking can be made to look up or down just a bit. The knees are double hinged, but the construction of the lower leg prevents it from being used as such, so it ends up getting around the same range of movement as the elbows. One of the nicer parts is the waist joint that is completely concealed within the detail sculpting in the torso, but to use it the tail has to be pulled down from the robot's back. It's worth it though just to see such a perfectly disguised joint work.

The wings are kind of their own thing here. I'm not exactly sure what to make of this set up, either. They're riveted to the body just barely below chest level, and then extend some distance straight back before having a hinge to change their angle. Then only a short distance later is another hinge. The two used in combination don't have a necessary use that I've been able to identify so far, and the first hinge itself seems like it's very much adequate to any posing that might be needed that close to the base of the wing. Being attached to the body as low as they are and swept out from the body means that if you want them spread out behind Predaking, they end up almost at waist level. Personal preference will rule here, but this certainly isn't the wing arrangement I'd like to have. The jointing seems to support a position for the wings at shoulder level and parallel to the ground. And as long as you keep the second hinge flat, that can be done without interfering much with the shoulder movement. I can't say I'm a fan of how it looks arranged like this, though.

The robot feet are the last thing I want to touch upon here. Predaking has pretty thick boots, but the feet themselves are built weird. Mainly in that the heel spurs are part of the dragon mode's rear feet, and are made of the same soft, rubbery plastic like the head. While they do function to keep the robot standing upright, they're not as perfectly flat as a rigid plastic element would be, so the stance is a little finicky. And to be honest, I'm not too happy having to make soft bits bear weight over any extended period. I have plenty of experience from other toy lines that has taught me what to expect of this kind of plastic, and the right ways to treat it. In both cases, the usage here strikes me as a seriously bad idea.

Transformation

Predaking has a neat bit where the robot legs fold up to form the rear half of the dragon body, but doing it requires a half-turn of the waist in one direction to make sure the dragon legs are oriented correctly. But most everything appears symmetrical making it hard to figure out which way to go without picking a side at random and doing a test fit to see if you got it right. I also experienced problems getting the tail to align at first, but it was the result of the tail base not being fully seated in to the swivel joint. It's a slide-out style swivel, so this is easily corrected by pushing it in the rest of the way. It's not really a visible problem in robot mode, so you won't know if you've been affected until you get there.

Dragon Mode

The dragon mode might be a little bit easier sell than the robot. In a way it feels more like this is the mode the toy was intended to stay in. That doesn't mean it's without issues, of course. Foremost for me is despite an interesting way of transforming, the back half of the dragon body doesn't come out great. Largely it's a result of not seeming integrated with the forward half of the body. As the robot legs are folded together, that portion of the body widens out at the mid point and then just stops, without continuity in to the rest of the body. It looks more like the rear half is a separate unit attached to the body, or at the most generous, an armor layer over an (extremely vaguely) implied slimmer body structure. That complaint aside, the dragon has a pretty good visual style going. It certainly plays up the mythological angle far more over an attempt to reconcile the dragon idea with realistic reptilian aspects, maintaining internal logic with the Predacon backstory in Prime. Predaking is defined by lots of spikes and organic curves but without any real organic components or hints of organic parts. And neither does it have an overt robotic quality. As it's sculpted I have no problem buying it as what it's intended - a Cybertronic lifeform of a completely different manner than Autobots or Decepticons. The stylistic departure from the standard forms was well accomplished for this toy.

While the already noted lacking deco hurts the dragon at least as much as the robot, the dragon head actually came out with a nice, if minimalistic paint job. The silver and gold paint applied to the soft plastic manage a nice aged appearance and a texture that looks like oxidation and other kinds of buildup you'd expect from very old metal. Whether or not that detail was intentional, it really works in the toy's favor. Seeing it here makes me regret even more the lack of paint elsewhere on the toy, because it's clear there's a lot of sculpt work on this toy that's just waiting to be highlighted in color.

The dragon's articulation is pretty good, though most of it is also the robot's. The rear legs have basic jointing, though it's enough to let Predaking assume a bipedal posture ...if you remove the end of the tail first. The neck has multiple joints, giving some good freedom of movement for the dragon head. The base swivel is really stiff though, so you might find difficulty utilizing that one. Like the base of the tail, it can also come out of box not quite seated all the way in its socket, but the joint is tighter and harder to push the rest of the way. Going back to the task of bipedal poses, I wish the tail had any meaningful articulation since that would help the matter a lot. The tail can rotate at the base, but it serves no purpose in terms of posing the toy. The wings are a little better off than in robot mode, but still lack a set position and look to some degree like they still float around the body instead of growing out from it. I'm thankful Predaking retains enough articulation in this mode that posing is a viable option, but as much from the robot mode is recycled, I don't feel bad for wishing the dragon had a little more than it ended up with.

Accessories

-Sword

...ish. I can kinda see it, it's just obscured through the the embellishments to keep consistency with the rest of the dragon mode's appearance. It's another victim of paint loss though. It seems obvious the textured surface was intended to be painted gold down the length of the piece, but only the chunk at the end get colored in. Contrasted with the black spike elements, the sword would have looked good fully painted.

Keeping with Predaking's non-standard hands, the sword uses side-facing tabs instead of a 5mm peg. It's meant to be tabbed in to a slot inside the hands to let the toy hold it. It's not a good fit, though, and is likely to fall out with just a little bit of jostling. The slot is only in one side of each hand, but probably if the opening had been cut in to both sides, it would have allowed a much more secure grasp of the sword. An alternative is to catch the sword between the claws and close the hand. It'll hold surprisingly well, better than using the tab and slot the toy was designed with.

-Hydrafire Missile Launchers

(don't hydras have nine heads?)

Dragon-headed missile launchers, one left side, one right. These are actually pretty neat. They feel like a refined expression of Powerizer weapons, in having a spring and gear based mechanism to reach their final action. Unlike Powerizer weapons, they don't largely suck or needlessly introduce LEDs to the toy. Pulling a lever back extends the dragon head forward, and if loaded will fire the missile when the launcher is stretched fully straight. That by itself is kind of cool, but what's better is the two are made to link together.

The side plugs on either piece have a gear linkage set up so both pieces will move together just by using one of the levers. It's a simple thing in design terms, but it's a really cool extra function to build in and adds a little to the utility of these parts. Sadly there's not anywhere on the toy made specifically to accommodate the combined launchers. They can attach to Predaking's wrists with a 5mm peg, but the dual launcher will always be off center. And that bugs me. Sorry.


...Unless you wrap it around the wrist and close the fingers around it. Okay!

These are also intended to be used in dragon mode, plugging in on either side of the dragon head. The spacing is too far apart for the launchers to link in this use unfortunately. Since the linked gears make it easier to hold the extra heads at more than the straight and retracted positions, it would have been helpful. The integration with the dragon is not great. It's really obvious these are extra parts added on, not least of all because of the coloring. It's decent enough though on the idea Predaking can sprout a couple extra heads to breathe additional fire at things. But it was more awesome when Cybertron Scourge did it several years ago and a bit better.

Closing Remarks

Predaking is not the same kind of Voyager that the first year of Transformers Prime threw at us. Though there are faults with the execution, it's good to see a shift in direction with the design. Predaking does have faults. If you're handy with a paintbrush, you'd be able to bring a lot out of Predaking as it is. I'll probably end up putting my hopes in the upcoming Ultimate Class Predaking for a primary instance of this design on my collection. The engineering oddities aren't horrible, but they hurt the robot in my view, along with the mismatched appearance between crazy sculpting and largely smooth surfaces. The good news is that all of this is less prominent in dragon mode. So if the two foot wing span of the Ultimate version is a bit much for you, there's still good in this toy.

I hate actively recommending to basically ignore half of a Transformer, but Predaking seems to have suffered in some ways on behalf of the dragon form. It's the mode that the design wants to prioritize, and honestly I suspect a lot of the potential buyers are only looking at it on that basis anyway. The dragon form is Good, but I feel like the whole toy Could Have Been Better, according to the Figurereviews.com Non-Numeric Ratings system. I'd like to see a Predaking with a lot of detailing work done on it. I'm curious just how much better this might have looked if the paint budget wasn't an issue.



ReviewerExVee  
DateFebruary 15th 2013  
Score 5 stars (5 out of 10)  
Reads8897
LinkVoyager Predaking photo gallery  


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