Disney Dreamlight Valley is like Animal Crossing with more story and less waiting. Excellent quality of life features mean a whole lot less faff than Nintendo's life sim though; your watering can is never empty, tools never blunt or break, and stamina can be renewed by munching down on a handful of berries – which are plentiful around the Valley. There is a day and night cycle that's linked to your own, but very little is limited to waiting for the next physical day, a la Animal Crossing. And what's more, Gameloft is already smoothing the slightly rough edges that the game arrived with at its initial Early Access launch back on September 6, with updates, patches, and more to address community feedback.
Release date: Early Access on Sept 6, 2022. Full release 2023
Platform(s): PS5/4, Xbox Series X/One, PC, Switch
Much of that has been around resource scarcity and balancing, which meant an influx of Dreamlight Shards hitting player letterboxes in the early weeks, but it does still feel like the game is missing a few additional tutorials here and there to better explain some of the elements resource gathering does involve.
Thankfully though, the game has never been bereft of things to do, especially if you're happy to occupy your time with a little bit of busywork – and if you're familiar with life sims like Stardew Valley, then you will be well familiarized with such tasks.
The main currency used to unlock new areas of the Valley (the expanding area which houses your villagers) and new Realms (more on those later) is Dreamlight, which can be earned by completing tasks such as fishing, farming, cooking, and chatting with your friends. Daily tasks that constantly replenish are great for quick wins, and are also complemented by longer-term goals like getting all your friendships to a certain level or farming a certain amount of vegetables. The more you unlock in terms of areas and characters, the easier it is to earn more Dreamlight, which is a nice touch.
Other currencies include good old-fashioned money, which can be obtained through selling the items you gather or grow, and there's also XP which can be earned by ticking off tasks given to you by the various Disney and Pixar characters that you'll befriend.
You've got a friend
If you want to fill the Valley with your favorite heroes and villains, you'll need to deal with a phenomenon known as The Forgetting. Horrid thorns block off access to homes and entire regions, and also blight its inhabitants with nasty cases of memory loss. Merlin, thankfully, has it together enough to know the Valley needs help, both in clearing away the vines and in bringing back all its residents – he also knows that you're the only one that can do it… you magical thing you.
There's a brilliant character customization tool too, with so many clothing options to discover
Thus your new life in Disney Dreamlight Valley consists of helping the residents that have managed to survive through The Forgetting, like Scrooge McDuck with his general store or Mickey Mouse with his community garden, while also reaching out to those who left the Valley behind. This happens mainly through unlocking themed Realms using Dreamlight. Although the Dream Castle is pretty packed with doors to each of the Disney and Pixar universes, there are only four Realms available at the time of writing – Moana, Ratatouille, Frozen, and Wall-E. Each Realm offers at least one character to coax back to the valley, and they come complete with their own storyline and set of quests that directly reflect the movies they're born out from. Whether you're cooking with Remy or exploring with Moana, it's always a nice surprise to see what adventure each Realm will take you on.
Admittedly, the Realms are more compact than I imagined they'd be – particularly poor Wall-E's – but you'll nevertheless find yourself returning to them as you begin to complete each character's quests and level up your friendships with them. This is key to progression in Disney Dreamlight Valley, as simple acts of kindness – like hanging out, exchanging gifts, and simply checking in on your new buddies every day can help take your friendships to the next stage. Doing this will not only give you fun quests to carry out, but it also gives you access to themed items and outfit options for each character. Interestingly, some of the quests can also unlock a new tool upgrade that can help clear an obstacle or access a new area. None of that is made that clear, unfortunately, but it's a fun surprise when something unexpected happens by spending more time getting to know someone.
A whole new Valley
The final piece of the whole 'living alongside my favorite Disney characters' fantasy to life is some truly brilliant dialogue and narrative flourishes. . Disney Dreamlight Valley isn't afraid to have some fun with these iconic figures, and even have a laugh at their expense, all the while making great nods to those who know the associated movies inside out. It's this attention to detail that makes Disney Dreamlight Valley feel like a sim for Disney fans of all ages. Accessible enough for the younger generation, the personality to appease older Disney fans, and the depth to offer a viable alternative to games like Animal Crossing and Stardew Valley. .
Disney Dreamlight Valley also has something else to compete with those games too – it's Star Path feature. It's essentially Disney Dreamlight Valley's answer to a Battle Pass, and is available to buy using premium (aka real-money) currency. It gets you access to exclusive cosmetic items themed around a specific area and each one lasts a month before it resets. The first was Pixar themed, for example, and October's has a decidedly more spooky theme. Thankfully that premium currency is bundled in with the various Early Access bundles you can buy, but if you're on Game Pass (where you don't get any premium currency for free), you can still earn it. The good thing is, either way though, it's entirely optional, and the cosmetics are grouped in a way that you don't have to unlock every single item to get the thing you want higher up the chain. It's surprisingly fair, and I hope that continues throughout the game's lifetime.
Disney Dreamlight Valley is a really interesting addition to the live service game space. It's fun, offers up plenty of content, and it's well thought out. Designing and planning out how you want your Valley to look is also very moreish, and I wonder if it will spawn the same kind of community engagement there as Animal Crossing: New Horizons did. After all, island planning is a serious business, but now it's infused with Disney magic. There are still some quirks and bugs to iron out, but that's what this Early Access period is for (the full game launches as a free-to-play title in 2023). I can't wait to see where it goes from here.
Scar has arrived in Disney Dreamlight Valley with the October 19 update, and although it runs the risk of moving the dial towards the villainous, it's actually a welcome relief to see his snarl looming across the plains. This is the first major update for the game since its Early Access launch, and adds not only Scar himself but a new storyline to explore.
His home has been added to the Sunlit Plateau, so there's no need to go through a realm or another quest to unlock him. Along with his own friendship quests, his core narrative is a new expansion of the main story and involves going deep into a mine, crafting explosive ginger beer, and working with Merlin. It's pretty fun, and one of the more complicated story quests available in the game so far. However, it's also one of the first to use real-world days as a marker for mission progression. It's admittedly a little jarring as none of the other missions have taken several actual days to complete, so it's an interesting glimpse into what else Disney Dreamlight Valley will do in the future.
There's another larger Disney Dreamlight Valley update dropping in "late Fall" that will introduce a new Toy Story Realm, additional characters including Buzz and Woody, and more. However, Scar's presence has served as a good stopgap, particularly when it comes to better incorporating the Sunlit Plateau area of the map, which previously was little more than a space to gather unique resources.
Disney Dreamlight Valley was reviewed on PC (and Steam Deck) using a code provided by the publisher.