Coming from developer Gameloft and currently sitting in an unfinished, early access state, Disney Dreamlight Valley combines Animal Crossing style gameplay with a light RPG progression system. All themed around the characters and world of Disney. Easy for all to pick up and play but with a surprising amount of addictive depth, it utilises its iconic characters and worlds to satisfying effect.
The story surrounds the world of Dreamlight Valley that has been assailed by an unknown entity called ‘The Forgetting’. This thing has caused the world to fall into disrepair, characters abandoning it, as The Forgetting caused them to lose their memories. Your goal is to rebuild the Valley, bring back the iconic characters, help them recover their memories and find out how you fit into all of this.
It’s quite a meta-story as it goes, the whole ‘forgetting’ thing, an analogy for lost childhoods. Where the imagination of a youngster slowly fades, and the memory of a magical time falls into disorder. As a person, like many, who grew up on a diet of Disney and its properties, Dreamlight Valley certainly reconnected me with many iconic characters I had just simply forgotten about.
It’s also a lot of fun to work towards repopulating the land, turning a dark and empty place into a sunny and welcoming hive of activity. Find the characters, help them remember by completing quests and welcome them back to Dreamlight Valley. That is just one part of the game. The other is all about simulating life, with a real-time day and night cycle too.
Build your own dream house with the help of Scrooge McDuck (even though it will cost you). Tend to your garden and cultivate vegetables and fruit under the watchful eye of Mickey Mouse. Fish with the help of Goofy, learn how to utilise magic with Merlin, mine for rare gems with the help of Kristoff and even take part in some wicked schemes with Ursula. If there’s one thing Disney Dreamlight Valley nails, it’s finding ways to keep you busy.
Does it start to get monotonous? Sure. Especially as the two main currencies come from doing daily activities and living within the world. You’re going to have to fish, mine, harvest, cook and so on, just so you can sell what you collect and earn enough money to pay for buildings, upgrades, inventory expansion and more. Likewise, you’re going to have to complete grindy objectives to earn ‘dreamlight’ which is used to unlock the doors into character worlds and to remove the wicked night-thorns blocking access to new areas.
To do everything available in this early access/unfinished game will take a serious amount of time investment. Don’t be surprised if you find yourself losing hours in one sitting to the game.
It’s not all about the grind though, it’s also about completing quests and building friendships with the characters. The former is given in intervals as you work your way to being best friends (maxed out level) with a character. Something that is done by simply spending time with them, having a daily conversation with them or showering them with gifts. It’s simple and pleasant stuff even if some of the quests you do have to complete can get quite tedious.
Almost all revolve around collecting and crafting, yet some of the demands are egregious and really slows progression down. I’m looking at you Minnie Mouse.
It quickly becomes apparent early on that the best way to approach quests is to stock up on items you will need later. Fill chests with stone, wood, gems, flowers etc. all so when the demand hits, you’re not scouring the map and waiting for a specific item to respawn.
While most basic things do reappear quickly enough, the drop rate of some items is quite low. Take trying to find mud for example, one of the more unbalanced basic items to find. You simply dig holes and hope you get mud instead of turf or coins, but the latter two are in far higher abundance than the former. It can be quite frustrating but it’s not game breaking.
Which brings me to the major issues that currently plague Disney Dreamlight Valley and there are plenty. Some, that are nothing more than minor nuisances and some that break quests completely.
Now, it has to be reiterated that the game is in an unfinished state and Gameloft has a long-term plan for it. As of the time of writing, they have already released a significant patch that fixed many issues and will continue to do so as and when it’s needed. However, as of right now, there are a huge number of issues that make the experience that little less magical.
From visual glitches and frame-rate issues when too much is going on, to important items not appearing, the game freezing on the map screen or characters getting stuck and becoming obstructions. There are a lot of issues, and they vary per player. For example, during an Elsa (Frozen) quest, I had to meet her with a potion that would upgrade my pickaxe outside of a cave currently blocked by shards of ice. Shards of ice that I would be able to destroy once she applied the potion to the pickaxe. The problem? Elsa was inside the cave. The one that I couldn’t get in. So, there was no way for me to continue the quest.
Happily, this was easily rectified by rebooting the game, but I am also one of those who suffered the ‘disappearing’ fire extinguisher that meant the WALL-E quest could not be finished. Although, this has now been fixed in the recent patch.
The issues are notable but, and this is really important, forgivable and not just because of its ‘early access’ tag. They’re forgivable because Disney Dreamlight Valley is a lot of fun to play and delivers a really satisfying life-sim experience. In time, with fixes and more content, it’s going to be a really great game. Even if the knowledge that it will go ‘free to play’ is a little worrying.
Disney Dreamlight Valley (Xbox Series X)
The Final Score - 7/10