Game: Disney Dreamlight Valley
Genre: Adventure, Simulation
System: Nintendo Switch (also available on Xbox, Playstation and Steam(Windows))
Age Rating: EU 3+| US Everyone
Basic edition US $29.99 | UK £24.99 | EU € 29,99
DeLuxe edition US $49.99 | UK £41.74 | EU € 49,99
Ultimate edition US $69.99 | UK £58.49 | EU € 69,99
Release Date: September 6th, 2022, free to play in 2023
No review code was provided, I bought the game myself.
As you can see in the About section on the site, I’m a woman in my late 50s. I should know better than thinking that living in a make-belief world makes me happier. But despite my age, the message hasn’t sunk in yet. I’m adamant that I’m going to stay young at heart, enjoying my video games and enjoying getting lost in places like the Magical Kingdom in Walt Disney World. And really, what’s wrong with that?
For several years I have wanted the ultimate Disney game. Disney Magical World on the 3DS was a hoot to play, I loved it. It wasn’t as good at Animal Crossing, but it did have a lot of charming qualities. Now, instead of a Disney Magical World 3 on Switch, we are now getting a totally new Disney game on Switch as well as on Steam, Xbox and Playstation. Disney Dreamlight Valley is here.
Released as an Early Access game, you can buy various versions of the Founder’s Packs. They give you access to the game, and cosmetic goodies as well as an amount of Moonstones. The final game will release for free in 2023, with purchasable expansion options to enhance the gameplay.
I am a Magical Hero
Starting up Dreamlight Valley, you have a choice to customise one of the standard characters or upload an avatar you made in the Disney Dreamlight Valley Avatar Designer Tool. This is a free program that allows you to create and customize your own avatar before you jump into the game. (you can find it here: Steam, Microsoft, Epic Games). You don’t have to use that however, you can also tinker with one of the standard characters and change just about everything, which is what I did.
Of course, I didn’t come into the Dreamlight Valley by coincidence. No, when I was met by Merlin he told me I was the magical hero they had been waiting for. Dreamlight Valley was once an idyllic land. A place where Disney and Pixar characters lived in harmony, until the Forgetting. Sounds scary right? Night Thorns grew across the land and severed the wonderful memories tied to that magical place. With nowhere else to go, the hopeless inhabitants of Dreamlight Valley retreated behind locked doors in the Dream Castle. Only a few stayed behind, and while befriending and helping them, I eventually had a chance to find characters that have left and bring them back.
Exploration and Quality of Life
Dreamlight Valley is big on a sense of exploration. With so many realms to travel to, there’s constantly a lot to see and find. There’s Remi’s realm, which you need to enter to ultimately get the restaurant in your valley up and running. There are tropical islands for Moana, there’s Wall-E to help with your gardening and many more. You need Dreamlight to open up the closed sections of the world, and you gather Dreamlight by doing the regular tasks. For example, harvest 5 different vegetables, catch 3 fish, cook 3 meals and so on.
When they made this game, they paid excellent attention to quality-of-life interaction. Things like your watering can and pick axe are easily accessible. The watering can is never empty, and when you want to water your patch, it automatically does several squares at a time. Harvesting crops can be done for all squares with one push of a button and holding it, though it doesn’t always work perfectly. When you get a quest it can easily be followed, and the items or materials are marked to make it easy.
I do wonder how things in Dreamlight Valley will work out once the game is released for free in 2023. I think they need to be very careful to not turn this into a money-grabbing game, that would spoil a lot of the fun. If they want to, I can already easily identify some timers and currency/dream shards etc that they could work with. But the statement now is that they will just bring expansions that you can buy with the free base game.
Dreamlight Valley versus Animal Crossing
I’ve seen Dreamlight Valley described as Disney’s answer to Animal Crossing. To me, it’s not the same kind of game. In Animal Crossing there are no goals, the laid-back feel is there in spades, and if you want to get busy re-designing your island, befriending your neighbours or spending the day fishing, you can. In Dreamlight Valley a lot of the sim elements I love are present: farming crops, fishing, cooking, and crafting.
Plus, you can get creative with your clothes, house and the outdoors as well. But there’s a much more prominent storyline and goals to be met. Not timed, but when you see that the Pillar of Friendship needs to be freed from the sickening thorns of the Forgetting, you can’t help but strive for that. This means there’s a constant stream of tasks and quests. I’m not saying I don’t like that, mind you, but to me, it feels totally different from Animal Crossing.
It is clear though that a lot of the game mechanics are the same. You gather Dreamlight, which you could compare to Nook Miles Points. And Scrooge McDuck gives Tom Nook a run for his money. Dreamlight Valley has a staggering amount of collections, in clothing, furniture, recipes, gems and more. You can also gather memories, some in the form of pictures looking at their old lives, snippets of the Old Ruler’s Lost Diaries, or in the form of puzzle pieces. There is such a lot to do and collect that it can sometimes get overwhelming.
Cinematic Quality and Sound
Graphics is where Disney and Pixar shine most, of course. I was reminded of how you sometimes watch a commercial for a new game that looks brilliant. And then you see the small print: “the footage shown doesn’t reflect actual gameplay”. More often then not, you’ll only see the cinematic quality in cutscenes in between the gameplay. In Dreamlight Valley what you see is what you actually get.
The game looks amazing, every little bit of it. I was walking on Moana’s tropical island and couldn’t quite believe how lush and colourful it looked. The icons for furniture and clothing look every bit as great as when you actually place them or put them on. Everything is fantastical and sparkly, I love it.
When you go into a shop or house the background music is relaxing and fitting. In your own home, you can set the music reminding you of one of Disney’s or Pixar’s many movies on your little radio. Outside, you hear sounds of little squirrels puttering about or a leaf rustling. Then all of a sudden a Disney musical score sounds, taking me back to the Disney Parks or a Disney classic we watched. It’s soothing to just let the musical score take you along, even when you’ve got the game opened up but aren’t actually playing.
There’s a niggle too: the Switch version of Dreamlight Valley is a bit buggy and lags. The waiting times are on the long side, and getting the game connected to the internet isn’t working well for me. But, as this is Early Access, I think it will ultimately all be corrected.
At first, I felt a little overwhelmed by all that Dreamlight Valley had to offer. There is just so much to collect, so many things to do and so many tasks and quests. Added to that, Gameloft is sprinkling treasure chests into the game daily and sends mail containing all kinds of goodies. I mean, isn’t this little fellow brilliant?
By now, I’m wholly committed to the game, and loving my time with all the familiar characters. The only reason I’m not giving it a Two Thumbs Up at this time is because of the bugs and other things that need adjusting. But, after all, that’s why it’s an Early Access version.
This is a must for any Disney fan, and if you’re into simulation games, this is one for you too. You can wait for the free version, but I must admit I’m happy to pay the price for my Basic Edition.
Final Verdict: I Like it a Lot