The LEGO Star Wars games are some of the fondest childhood memories for many Star Wars fans, myself included. You didn’t have to be big on LEGOs to enjoy this light-hearted rendition of the Star Wars saga. The aspect of this franchise that I enjoyed the most was the fact that none of the characters spoke. Up until a few years ago, all LEGO characters communicated in grunts and mutters. To me, this was the most endearing part of any LEGO experience: classic Star Wars dialogue being expressed in grunts. So when I heard the characters talking in LEGO Star Wars: The Force Awakens, I wasn’t sure how to feel.
Whether it was a video game or an animated TV short, LEGO Star Wars characters followed a golden rule of speaking without words. It became the signature storytelling style for all their games, including Indiana Jones, Harry Potter, and Batman. That changed in 2012 when LEGO Lord of the Rings became the first LEGO game to feature spoken lines. Dialogue and sound effects from the movies were reused in cutscenes and gameplay. This didn’t take away from the game’s goofy antics, but it gave it a more cinematic feel.
From then on, LEGO games followed new style. Grunts and yells were replaced by actual words and phrases. Some games used dialogue from the films they adapted, like The Hobbit. Others, such as LEGO Marvel Superheroes, even wrote their own lines with new voice actors (leading to some insufferable fart jokes). With LEGO Star Wars: The Force Awakens on the horizon, developer Traveller’s Tales is sticking with that trend. This will be the first LEGO Star Wars game to have dialogue, so to me, it feels a little odd. Should they keep traditional LEGO dialogue? Or carry on the new trend of recycling lines from the films? It’s a fair point both ways.
“It is oddly freeing to have no dialogue to have to follow,” remarked David Collins, voice director for LEGO Star Wars III: The Clone Wars. You could say LEGO Star Wars III helped set the new trend in motion. It was among the first LEGO games to bring in the original voice actors for its characters. However, it did so in the original LEGO Star Wars fashion: grunts and shouts in the characters’ original voices.
That was a key part of the charm of LEGO games. You play in the world of Star Wars, but it’s a different experience from the story. You already know the story and can follow it without understanding the characters. Instead, you play a wackier version of that story where there is no dialogue and you destroy everything in sight. That whimsy is heavily rooted in the nonsensical grunts of each cutscene. Seeing your favorite characters in such a goofy format gives you the freedom to play however you want. That’s what makes each LEGO game so much fun.
With that in mind, a lack of dialogue isn’t altogether crucial to the free-spirited fun of LEGO games. Traveler’s Tales is fully capable of making an ingeniously comical game out of The Force Awakens while using dialogue. You get a little closer to the original story, but it’s still the classic LEGO treatment. From what I’ve seen of the game so far, it’s every bit as light-hearted as the games before it. Besides, there’s really not too much that can take away from the whimsy of smashing LEGO bricks left and right.
There are certain advantages to having dialogue as well. LEGO Star Wars: The Force Awakens features six brand new missions that serve as the backdrop to The Force Awakens itself. One mission entails Han Solo and Chewbacca’s capture of the dangerous rathtars we see in the film. Admittedly, scenes like that will need some dialogue. Unlike the original film, we haven’t seen these stories yet; we’ll need some verbal explanation (even if it’s not in Harrison Ford’s voice). We still get a few puns in there, such as “Wookiee Cookies,” but dialogue can indeed enhance the LEGO game experience.
Should LEGO Star Wars games have dialogue? There are good reasons for and against it, so it really boils down to preference. I prefer to stick to the endearing grunts of the old days, but dialogue isn’t all bad either. As long as there’s a lightsaber to swing and bricks to smash, that’s good enough for me. LEGO The Force Awakens promises to carry on the tradition of free-spirited gameplay, combining the action of Star Wars with the levity of LEGO. It feels odd hearing actual words coming from the characters, but it doesn’t stop the laughs LEGO Star Wars is known for.