Having grown up in the era of Disney cinema renaissance, I am well versed in all things mouse. I know a lot of songs by heart, watched every animated movie, and visited Disneyworld on more than one occasion. But what has never really taken hold for me are Disney games – the last one I liked was Toy Story 2 for the PlayStation.
Disney Dreamlight Valley feels like a Disney game created just for me. It combines all the things I love most about games: life simulation, intricate character creation, a large map, adventure, narrative-driven stories, and very cute animals. There are licensed voice acting and music throughout and many, many easter eggs to find for the Disneyphiles among you. It’s a Disney game made with millennials and gen-Xers in mind.
to the unknown
The mysterious ruler of Dreamlight Valley has departed, and in their absence, Oblivion has begun. Ghastly Night Thorns grew in every biome and the characters retreated to their homes and Dream Castle, with most losing their memories. It’s up to you, the magical savior of Dreamlight Valley, to restore its inhabitants’ memories and rid the world of Oblivion. There is no combat in Dreamlight Valley, instead you will use your magic to destroy Night Thorns and complete quests helping various characters in each biome, such as searching for their lost items. Helping the characters is also the way to unlock the Royal Tools, which will help you on your way to saving the valley. Sounding like a pretty basic fairytale adventure so far? Well, not exactly.
With over 40 hours of main story being promised, there are also unique character quests that will unlock tools – such as a fishing rod or shovel – and special rewards depending on your friendship levels with that character. There are realms hidden behind doors in Dream Castle that function as mini biomes where you’ll need to solve increasingly difficult puzzles to unlock even more characters. About two-thirds of Dreamlight Valley’s content will be available when the early access period begins later this summer, with more being added throughout the year.
One of the key elements of Dreamlight Valley is self-expression, whether it’s a stylish outfit or a total rearrangement of one of the map’s many biomes. The goal is not to become a Disney princess, but to express your love for Disney in her own way. Of course, there are plenty of costumes to let you cosplay Elsa if you wish, but originality is encouraged.
Dreamlight Valley’s sandbox elements make you cook, farm, gather resources, and more through interacting with characters like Goofy. It’s an eclectic mix of Dragon Quest Builders 2 versus Animal Crossing as you need to help characters unlock the tools they need and you won’t be able to get everything unless you progress through the story. The more tools you unlock, the more you can do in previous biomes, and so on. You can catch a fish and cook it outdoors on a stove, in your house, or even pay a visit to Remy at the restaurant to cook for the guests. It’s incredibly interactive and offers an experience more like The Sims than you’d expect from your traditional life simulator.
Meticulous planning, comprehensiveness of tenacity
There are also RPG elements to consider; All this saving the world is tiring business, and your avatar will lose energy over time. You can kip your house to regain strength or grab a snack, but unlike your Disney heroes, you don’t have infinite energy to expend. Befriending characters means you can assign them tasks to make your life a little easier, like helping you scavenge for resources. You will have a bigger and better income when you have a friend helping you because you are the best of friends, having a lot of fun together…
The real gem of Dreamlight Valley is the landscaping and world building. Scrooge McDuck owns the store and is somehow less profitable than Tom Nook. It will sell all sorts of items for your home, world, and clothing, though you’ll unlock most of the furniture and props by completing quests and in the open world. There are over 1,000 customization options, so don’t worry about getting bored with your look. You can customize everything from clothes to body type and become whoever you want to be.
You can expand the size of your small dilapidated shack, pick it up and place it in any biome. Want a beach house inspired by Moana and Ariel? Do it! Or would you rather live near Pride Rock and pretend you’re a lion? Nobody is judging here. While you can’t create cliffs or rivers, you can take all the trees and rocks and move them around, creating a truly personalized experience that will hardly look like any other player’s valley. There are plans to link the game to social content, presumably to showcase their weird and wonderful homes, and the team hopes to be able to add co-op later so you can visit your friend’s world.
Currently, items can only be purchased with the in-game currency, Star Coins. They cannot be purchased for real money, although there are plans to make some exclusive items available for sale at the end of the early access period, depending on player feedback. After all, it wouldn’t be Disney without a little extra expense.
You never had a friend like me
Throughout the demo, I got to see some of my favorite characters and charming little details that capture the magic of Disney. While talking to a toy-sized Buzz Lightyear, I spotted Woody walking behind me. As he turned to say hello, however, he fell to the ground and played dead. It’s like Dr Who’s weeping angels only a thousand times less terrifying. After I turned my back on him, he made sure the coast was clear before turning back and leaving.
Each character has their own agenda, showing their feelings towards the Nightthorns scattered across the land – Angry Goofy is hilarious, by the way – and engaging in activities they enjoy, like fishing. You can even befriend the baby bunnies, squirrels, and turtles found in each biome, and once tamed, they’ll follow. Don’t pretend you don’t want a horde of cute animals following you around all the time.
Gameloft plans to update Dreamlight Valley well beyond its planned 2023 release, adding even more adventures and items. Having the option to solve some puzzles, decorate my house, and engage in some good old-fashioned quests sets it apart from its life simulator counterparts. I can’t stress enough how excited I am for this game. Disney content aside, if you’ve fallen in love with Animal Crossing and the like, you’ll be just as obsessed with the Dreamlight Valley life simulation/adventure/throwing clothes experience as I was with We Don’t Talk About Bruno. You can play the early access version by purchasing the Founder’s Pack on Steam or via Xbox Games Pass later this summer, so keep an eye on this space for a release date.