Shortly after the opening of Disney Valley of Dreamlight, I find myself standing inside Mickey Mouse’s house. I take a moment to appreciate all the little details, like a corner clothing stall featuring the mouse outfit from Fantasia, sofas in Mickey’s iconic style, and a closet stocked with several pairs of his signature white gloves, all from the decoration fits perfectly with the character. Mickey happily wanders through the house as I do and, feeling like a big kid who just found him at a Disneyland theme park, I finally have to introduce myself. True to character, the mouse expresses his delight at seeing me there in a fitting “Oh boy!” fashion, and then I’m presented with three answers to choose from. Naturally, I tell him that I am a huge fan, and it is at that moment that I realize that I have not stopped smiling since the moment I landed in this magical valley.
Disney Dreamlight Valley feels like a cross between Stardew Valley and Animal Crossing. Villagers have their own houses, just like Animal Crossing: New Horizons, and features like crafting, cooking, farming, fishing, and more remind me of ConcernedApe’s farming sim. The big difference, however, is that I’m playing as a Disney version of myself who is trying to get to the root of a strange mystery by helping and befriending the likes of Goofy, Mickey, and Scrooge McDuck. While I only get a chance to try out a few of the quests and activities that will be available during the early access launch on September 6, I can see myself falling under the spell of Disney Dreamlight Valley.
A dream is a Wish Your Heart Makes
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If you’ve ever wanted to become a Disney or Pixar character, Disney Dreamlight Valley is here to try and make that wish come true. Before I got caught up in the demo, I spent an inordinate amount of time with the creator of the game character. Initially, you select any of the preset characters which you can then fully customize to your liking. Choosing from a selection, you can change each facial feature and add makeup with customizable colors and styles. There’s also a huge selection of hairstyles with two color options to add highlights, along with a variety of skin tones and different body shapes to choose from. Fortunately, if you want to change your look or modify a particular look, you can customize your character at any time while in the valley by accessing your clothing inventory.
Like Stardew Valley, Disney Dreamlight begins with you leaving city life behind. Only instead of walking away from her office job to move to his grandfather’s farm, she returns to a place where he spent his childhood to get a reprieve from life’s responsibilities. After I fall asleep, I am transported to the Valley of Dreaming Light, where Merlin from The Sword in the Stone is waiting to greet me. The wizard explains that I am the one who is going to save Dreamlight Valley, a place that was once full of happy villagers thanks to the magic of the Ruler who mysteriously disappeared. In the absence of the Ruler, everyone has been affected by “The Oblivion”, which has taken away the memories of the villagers. Strange, spiky Night Thorns can now be found all over the landscape, blocking paths, trapping villagers, and even blocking the entrance to my own valley dwelling.
Fortunately, I have the power to harness Dreamlight magic, allowing me to get rid of the thorns and enter my new home. Much like Animal Crossing: New Horizons, your house is pretty basic to begin with, but it doesn’t take long before you can start imprinting your personality on the space. I always enjoy having lots of customization options in games like these, so I can experience my adventure in a style that suits me, and Disney Dreamlight Valley certainly doesn’t disappoint in this regard. With a plethora of Disney and Pixar-themed furniture and apparel to create and purchase for your character and your home, it’s guaranteed to make any fan’s heart soar.
Once I’m done checking out my house, my first quest leads me to find royal tools scattered around the square and nearby meadow, which will give me all the means to gather resources. Just as your farm in Stardew Valley is covered in weeds and rocks when you start, the plaza area outside my house is covered in thorns that need to be cleared. Every time you use a tool or your magic, your energy meter will deplete, and if it runs out completely, you will become exhausted. To get more energy, you must return home, which immediately replenishes the bar, or eat a snack, whether it’s fruit you’ve picked, vegetables you’ve grown, or eventually food you’ve cooked. It’s very easy to get used to, and since there is never a shortage of fruit to snack on in the plaza, lack of energy rarely hinders me as I pick stone, remove thorns, or plant and cultivate.
Friendship, love and care.
Where Dreamlight Valley shines, though, is in the way it encourages you to befriend and meet its lovable characters. In the Valley, the level of Dreamlight magic you have can be strengthened by performing acts of friendship, love, and care. While you can remove the smaller thorns early on, you need a certain amount of magic to get rid of the larger thorns that are blocking new areas. Helping the villagers by completing their quests will help your magic become more powerful and will also strengthen your bond with them. It also has a set of additional objectives known as Dreamlight Duties that work similarly to the Nook Miles reward program in Animal Crossing: New Horizons, with daily objectives like collecting a certain amount of fruit or fishing that will earn you more magic.
While you’ll naturally want to meet and spend time with the cast of classic Disney and Pixar characters faithfully brought to life, growing your magic is an added motivator. In the opening areas that I can explore, there are three villagers to meet along with Merlin, each with their own set of quests for you to complete. My first encounter sees me with Scrooge McDuck, who is trying to restore his business in the valley. The thrifty, money-loving duck aptly runs the local clothing and furniture store, which has evidently been affected by Oblivion and the Night Thorns. Taking on a series of quests leading up to the store’s grand reopening, I quickly begin to feel like my presence and efforts in the valley are making a difference.
In addition to helping villagers, you can also foster friendships by chatting, giving gifts, or inviting them to hang out with you. Whether it’s for a quest you’re doing, or you just want some company while you explore, having the option to have a villager tag with you is a welcome feature. Goofy, for example, is the character who teaches me how to fish after helping me fix my rod, which is one of the actual tools you find in the valley. I always like to invite the cute cartoon dog to join me while I play the fishing minigame where you have to line up the rings in time to catch a fish. Oh, and as a bonus, you can take selfies with characters in the valley, which, admittedly, I spend way too much time doing. As you spend more time with the villagers, your friendship level will increase, rewarding you with a selection of new items and Dreamlight magic.
The first area I unlock with my magic is the big, magical Dream Castle where you can unlock and visit nearby kingdoms. I waste no time clearing the thorns on the portal door that is available to me during the preview, which leads me to “an ocean with a demigod.” The same excitement I felt when I first met Mickey or Goofy returns when I get to see Moana and Maui for the first time. Just like the characters in the Valley, Moana needs my help and I start completing some quests.
Just about everything about Disney Dreamlight Valley made me smile. While it’s hard to get a sense of the game’s longevity from this early preview, I can’t wait to spend more time with this world in Early Access this September, and when Disney Dreamlight Valley officially launches in 2023. Drop in because you love Disney and Pixar, or because you’re looking for an alternative life simulator After immersing yourself in hundreds of hours in Animal Crossing and Stardew Valley, early signs point to Disney Dreamlight Valley as a welcome alternative.
Are you thinking of more exciting releases on the horizon? Stay up to date with our summary of new games for 2022 and beyond.