Disney Dreamlight Valley review: “Like Animal Crossing with more story and less waiting”

Donald Duck is having yet another breakdown in Disney Dreamlight Valley. We’re talking full-on lying on the grass, kicking and screaming, flippers and feathers almost a blur, to the point where it’s just getting a bit embarrassing now. But it’s also my fault. All Donald D wants is a home, but his houseboat was flooded and now I can’t find the rope to help him repair it. Seaweed, it turns out, is the most valuable resource in the Valley – it’s literally rarer than gold.

Fast Facts: Disney Dreamlight Valley

(Image credit: Gameloft)

Release date: Early Access on Sept 6, 2022. Full release 2023
Platform(s): PS5/4, Xbox Series X/One, PC, Switch
Developer/Publisher: Gameloft

Resource scarcity has been a consistent theme throughout the time I’ve spent with Disney Dreamlight Valley, ahead of its Early Access launch on September 6. Seaweed, which is supposedly plentiful in several regions of the Valley, is AWOL – despite being utterly crucial for crafting twine and rope that are key to completing many of Disney Dreamlight Valley’s earliest missions. Thus, Moana’s boat goes unfixed, Wall-E’s garden remains a ruin, and Donald continues to be homeless, almost a week (and nearly 40 hours) later.

Hopefully, such rare drops are just a symptom of Disney Dreamlight Valley’s Early Access status – something that can be tweaked with an update in the weeks to come as developer Gameloft continues to refine the rough edges. But it’s not an endearing feature at this stage, especially as the game doesn’t do much to guide you forward once you do hit a wall. Thankfully, there is plenty to do 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 or Animal Crossing: New Horizons, then you will be well familiarized with such tasks.

Disney Dreamlight Valley

(Image credit: Gameloft)

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. The more you unlock in terms of areas and characters, the easier it is to earn more Dreamlight, which is a nice touch.

Dreaming of seaweed

Disney Dreamlight Valley

(Image credit: Gameloft/Disney)

Disney Dreamlight Valley is like Animal Crossing with more story and less waiting. Excellent quality of life improvements mean a whole lot less faff; 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. 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.

It’s all about you

Disney Dreamlight Valley

(Image credit: Gameloft)

There’s a brilliant character customization tool too, with so many clothing options to discover

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.

Disney Dreamlight Valley

(Image credit: Gameloft)

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.

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