Imagine getting up and seeing Mickey Mouse pottering around in his garden while Scrooge McDuck opened his shop, and WALL-E the timid robot looking for flowers to comfort someone that day. It's what you get to experience every day in Disney Dreamlight Valley.
Dreamlight Valley might well be a cynical nostalgia game, in which you construct a miniature Disney theme park village while sprinkling some superficial life-sim elements and leaving it at that. Instead, it's a surprising character-driven experience that's heavily geared on customization, with some thoughtful advice on growing up and a (most) relaxing loop that wants you to have as much fun as possible.
Dreamlight Valley is a Disney story that starts off with a twist on the formula Harvest Moon aided in establishing. You long to come back to the place you were happy to grow up, where everything was possible and the future was bright.
The Ruler suddenly departed, a deadly Night Thorns overran the area, and the valleys inhabitants forgot their purpose in life and left their friends behind. It's also an unexpected and even tragic piece of writing about growing up in general, seeing the world differently than previously.
Although you aren't a Disney devotee, the sadness penetrates into character interactions and quests as well. Mickey Mouse is tearful as he discusses clinging to the promise that he will see again one day.
The goal of your task is to bring the village and valley back to life, while restoring not just its shuttered shops and run-down eateries, but also the hearts of all who live there. This may be done by investing money in Scrooge McDucks' emporium, taking Mickeys mind off loneliness by having a picnic every day, or simply stopping by to chat.
Dreamlight Valley falls into the common free-to-play trap of stalemate behind convoluted grinding. It accumulates when you do almost anything, from planting flowers to selling fish. You must stop and prove yourself worthy by acquiring a special orb.
The first one will get you to level five friendship with three locals, which involves handing out dozens of home-cooked meals or looking for hidden mines that will hopefully provide you with rare gems that will increase your friendship levels significantly. The reward is worth it, since this is the only way to access other biomes in the valleys.
The rewards from most of them, even if it's just seeing how new characters interact with established residents, make it worthwhile. You may also visit smaller areas themed around a certain character such as WALL-E and invite them to stay in the village.
When you arent fishing with Goofy or visiting realms, you have a huge variety of crafting and design options to get stuck into both at your own house and across the valley itself. These options unfold slowly as you discover new recipes, but there is still a lot you can do with just the basics.
Here's an example of Gameloft's more broad design. Disney Dreamlight Valley clearly wants to make itself appealing and enjoyable for everyone. Every recipe, even experimental ones that should be vile failures, produces something useful. Fishing spots resurface in just a few minutes. The entire experience is enjoyable, whether it's short check-ins to get things just right or long sessions.
Dreamlight Valley is a solid choice for Nintendo's hybrid console, theoretically. Camera stuttering and frame rate issues are common in handheld mode, while both docked and handheld mode have severe menu lag, long load times, and a few moments when Dreamlight Valley just gives up and crashes.
Gameloft's non-Switch-specific issues will be addressed as time goes by. This can lead to some confusing moments when you discover something new and don't know what it is, nor where to find it. The quest tracker often gives only vague directions.
Early access games usually have these flaws, and as a result of a bleak future vision, recommending Disney Dreamlight Valley for $30 may not come without limitations, but whats there is fun.
Disney Dreamlight Valley is a joyous, serenity-filled life simulation game that manages to remain heartwarming and charming despite a few Switch-related setbacks. Gameloft will need to keep supporting it with ongoing updates to keep the Night Thorns from creeping back in. However, what's here at launch is moving and thoughtful, and cleverly plays on the nostalgia of anyone who's ever been a Disney fan.
- Strong worldbuilding
- Extensive customization
- Smooth and nearly seamless gameplay
- Charming and thoughtful
- Some frustratingly tedious quest requirements
- Poorly optmized for the Switch
- Could grow stale quickly without regular updates
A 7/10 score goes to your rescue.
Gameloft has provided a copy of the Scoring PolicyReview code.