We don’t typically review Early Access titles, but there was something about Disney Dreamlight Valley that lured me in. Maybe it’s my love for Disney? Maybe it’s my need for an Animal Crossing-like fix? Or maybe it’s because it’s a genuinely enjoyable life-sim that is a LOT better than I was expecting?
Whichever way you look at it, I’ve loved my time with Disney Dreamlight Valley so far. Sure, it has some issues (especially on the Nintendo Switch where I’ve been playing), but it’s a very impressive use of the Disney licence in what is a genuinely addictive and fun experience.
Check out some screenshots down below:
Disney Dreamlight Valley lets players create their own avatar as they delve into life in a world built entirely around Disney, with plenty of much-loved characters to meet and familiar lands to explore. It’s all about living your life, furnishing your home, gathering resources, and helping others out, with activities aplenty as you look to thrive within the land. That’s not to say that there isn’t an overarching narrative driving things on though, with the mysterious Night Thorns taking over the world and making the folk that inhabit it lose their memories. It’s up to you to get rid of these Night Thorns and bring back the joy and happiness to the world.
Your general day-to-day tasks include cleaning up Night Thorns, planting seeds and harvesting what grows, catching fish through a neat little mini-game, finding recipes to cook up some tasty meals, mining minerals by hacking at rocks, crafting and placing new furniture in your home… you know, the typical stuff you might have done in similar titles such as Animal Crossing or Stardew Valley. Disney Dreamlight Valley wears its inspirations like a badge of honour and doesn’t do a whole lot to differentiate itself from them, so you’ll definitely feel a sense of familiarity if you’ve played titles like those before.
That’s not a bad thing, of course, whilst Disney Dreamlight Valley brings plenty of its own little ideas into the mix to give players a bit more purpose whilst playing. The most obvious addition are the Quests, which see players having to complete a variety of different missions for the characters they meet in order to progress the story or earn some rewards. The vast majority of these Quests consist of simple tasks and mostly boil down to acquiring the necessary items, but they do give the game a more established sense of progress to work towards.
“Whilst each Realm you visit isn’t particularly large in scale, they’re expertly crafted to capture the essence of the movies that inspired them with their familiar sights and sounds.”
What makes the Quests especially endearing is the fact that they come from well-known Disney characters, with the likes of Mickey Mouse, Goofy, Moana, and WALL-E some of the early characters that need your help. Not only does encountering them feel special as a fan of the characters, but they’re also written in a believable way that makes you feel like you’re actually *there* interacting with them. There isn’t full voice acting so there isn’t as much of a cinematic sense of presence, but the wonderful locales you find them in as well as some recognisable background music helps ensure their appearance feels a bit more magical.
Speaking of locales, you’ll get to explore a wide range of Realms during your time in Disney Dreamlight Valley, with each one unlocking when certain requirements are met. It’s worth bearing in mind that this is an Early Access release so there aren’t an abundance of Realms to visit right now, but being able to explore areas based around Frozen, Moana, and WALL-E felt wonderful. Whilst each Realm you visit isn’t particularly large in scale, they’re expertly crafted to capture the essence of the movies that inspired them with their familiar sights and sounds. They also bring with them plenty of goodies that tie into the main game, with new items or crafting resources found across each area.
As you complete tasks or perform activities in the game, you’ll earn a special currency known as Dreamlight by hitting certain requirements. These are simple enough to meet but take some time, with tasks such as gathering a specific amount of resources, selling a set amount of vegetables, or making a bunch of friends becoming more costly as you progress further through the game. Thankfully, you won’t have to go out of your way to perform these tasks; they’ll complete by naturally playing the game, with the things you have to do to progress or earn money typically tied to earning Dreamlight anyway. It’s where the grind of Disney Dreamlight Valley will kick in though, especially since having Dreamlight can be imperative to your progress.
“Exploring the world, meeting new characters, getting cool new furniture for my home, helping folk out, building friendships in the world, and making new discoveries… every aspect of the game appeals to me massively and I’ve been completely hooked in.”
You also have an energy bar to fill that determines what actions you can or can’t do, which is an early sign of the game’s eventual free-to-play setup. Of course, you can either wait for this to recharge or you can use food items to refill it, with those aforementioned recipes offering a good boost to your energy. In fairness, I haven’t hit a point yet when playing where I HAVEN’T been able to rejuvenate my energy meter, though I feel that might change when the game officially leaves Early Access.
The whole Early Access situation is actually a bit of a weird one with Disney Dreamlight Valley. You have to pay if you want to play Early Access, but when the game officially launches, it’ll be free-to-play. It almost feels like players are PAYING to test the game out for the publisher, which is a bit of a weird situation. Don’t get me wrong, you’re getting plenty of bang for your buck here and the promise of additional content throughout this Early Access period has me excited to come back for more, but some players just might want to wait until the game is free before they play it. On the flip-side, a lot of the free-to-play mechanics that COULD come to the game aren’t so heavily integrated here, so I think Early Access players are given an easier ride where their time is better respected. It’s all speculative really, but it is a peculiar situation to be in as a player.
Regardless of the Early Access issue, I’m having a LOT of fun playing Disney Dreamlight Valley and am glad I’ve been able to dive into it early. Exploring the world, meeting new characters, getting cool new furniture for my home, helping folk out, building friendships, and making new discoveries… every aspect of the game appeals to me massively and I’ve been completely hooked in. Whilst similar titles like Animal Crossing brought plenty of charm, everything within Disney Dreamlight Valley is a million times more iconic – it has made even the smallest of things in the game all the more appealing, whether it’s the furniture I place, the land I’m exploring, or the NPCs I’m interacting with. As a die-hard Disney fan, it offers everything I could have asked for.
Check out some screenshots down below:
That being said, there are plenty of things about Disney Dreamlight Valley that don’t feel perfect right now, especially on the Nintendo Switch. I haven’t played on any other platform yet so I’m not sure how the game performs elsewhere, but there are regular frame rate stutters, long loading times, and input lag when playing. Even simple things like loading up menus seems to have a delay to it, whilst the fact you can’t sort the items you’ve obtained feels like a big oversight. I’ve suffered through a few crashes when playing too, and whilst I haven’t lost a lot of progress, they’ve been frequent enough to be a nuisance. At the end of the day, the game is in Early Access so a lot of these problems will be ironed out, but it’s worth noting that Disney Dreamlight Valley isn’t always super user-friendly when playing on the Nintendo Switch right now.
Hopefully, these problems will be fixed sooner rather than later because, those issues aside, I’m very excited about the future of Disney Dreamlight Valley. There are plenty of aspects of the game I haven’t touched upon in this review, but the thought of visiting new worlds, meeting new characters, seeing new items introduced, and having new features to tinker with has me really hyped. The gameplay is already engaging and fun, but the seemingly endless possibilities offered by Disney means just about anything could happen in the game. If it lives up to what I’ve played so far, I can see me easily spending hundreds of hours in my own little Disney world.
Disney Dreamlight Valley Review
Disney Dreamlight Valley is a wonderful life-sim experience that offers engaging gameplay, fun tasks to complete, and a host of familiar sights and characters. If you’re a fan of Disney it’s simply unmissable, even in its Early Access form where a lot of content is missing. With almost endless potential for new Disney content coming soon though, there are plenty of reasons to be excited about the future.
It is far from perfect right now, with some technical hiccups, crashes, and awkward elements of the UI clear signs that this isn’t the finished product, but things are looking very bright for Disney Dreamlight Valley. I’m intrigued to see how the free-to-play elements play out after it leaves Early Access, but as it stands, I’m loving being in this charming Disney world.
Platform(s): Nintendo Switch (Reviewed), PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, PC