If there are two things I love in life, it’s Disney and the Nintendo Switch, so anytime the two come together, I simply have to make it a part of my world. With this in mind, it comes as no surprise that I’ve kept a keen eye on Disney Dreamlight Valley since its initial announcement, as the game takes us to a world full of Disney characters in a place that’s a bit of a fixer-upper.
You see, Disney Dreamlight Valley is a life sim, so it involves the bare necessities of crafting, cooking, fishing, construction, and of course, welcoming new people to the valley. While the game fits the bill for everything you expect from the genre, there’s one thing you can’t find here that you do get in the likes of Stardew Valley.
It’s unsurprising, but I think I should point it out just in case, there’s no romance in Disney Dreamlight Valley. Instead, in a fashion similar to Animal Crossing, it’s all about platonic relationships. While this might be a disappointment for those that love to build a life with that special virtual someone, there’s simply no chance Disney is ever going to allow that with its characters. I respect that, as I can’t say I ever really think about going to the next level with Donald Duck.
In fact, I rather like that Disney Dreamlight Valley shares this similarity with AC, as friendships are important in life, and the idea that I can become best friends with some of the characters I grew up with fills me with joy. Then there are people such as Elsa and Anna – because anyone that knows me is more than aware that Frozen is my favourite Disney IP. It’s a joy to join the royal sisters on some adventures.
Other characters that you can currently meet in, or bring to, the valley include the aforementioned Frozen characters, Mickey Mouse, Goofy, Scrooge McDuck, Minnie Mouse, Ariel, Kristoff, Donald Duck, Ursula, Scar, Eric, Remy, and more. There are many faces from Disney and Pixar for you to meet. However, I’m a bit disappointed that Mirabel isn’t around.
You might notice that there are some villains to acquaint yourself with in the valley, and when you combine this with some of the dialogue choices you can select, it’s clear that you don’t necessarily have to be the good guy that the heroes of the Disney world hope you are. This leads me along nicely to the narrative, and what exactly it is you need to do in Disney Dreamlight Valley.
The reason you’re here is that you’ve left your big city life behind, and while you journey to your next location, you take a much-needed rest, only to wake up and find yourself in a rather sorry-looking place that’s full of purple thorns and a dilapidated building. Soon enough, you encounter the one and only Merlin, who explains that you’re in Dreamlight Valley, a place that once was an incredibly beautiful haven where many people lived in harmony.
Unfortunately, this wasn’t destined to last, as an evil being known as The Forgetting comes along and sends the valley into disarray, separating all of the biomes through the use of impenetrable thorns. After this happens, many of the characters choose to leave the valley, while those that remain lose their memories and forget some crucial details.
Luckily for them, you’re here now, and it turns out you have a penchant for magic and are able to remove the small thorns that plague the main area of the valley. With this gift, you must clear the starting areas of the valley and reach the castle. After you do, the core goal of the game becomes clear, as you now need to work to bring characters back to the village, build houses for them, restore order to the land, and get to the bottom of who The Forgotten is.
From what I’ve experienced so far, the story of Disney Dreamlight Valley is a treat, and I certainly can’t wait to see how it unravels over time. Of course, there are also plenty of smaller adventures for you to have, as each of your friends in the valley has plenty of tasks for you to help them with. For instance, Mickey Mouse desperately wants Minnie Mouse to return to the valley, and you have the power to make it happen.
Then there are the individual missions you need to complete in the different realms. For example, when you enter the Frozen realm, you find yourself in the Enchanted Forest, where all the spirits of nature are in disarray, so you must help Anna and Elsa calm them down to restore order to the area. Doing so results in Anna coming back with you to Dreamlight Valley. Another of my favourite realms from the ones I’ve been to so far is Ratatouille. Here, you meet Remy in his restaurant, and you must help him with service by creating dishes.
I suggest you start with the Ratatouille Realm as it gives you the chance to learn various cooking recipes. It also allows you to bring the famous little chef to the valley, where you can help him to establish a restaurant, which in turn gives you access to new ingredients. Trust me. You want to familiarise yourself with cooking.
Speaking of cooking, it’s one of the most important things you can do in the valley for a variety of reasons. First of all, it provides you with hearty meals such as Disney Dreamlight Valley crudites to replenish your energy, which you need to perform various tasks such as fishing and mining. Not only that, but one of the best ways to forge strong bonds with the residents of Dreamlight Valley is with gifts, and it just so happens that most of them share a strong love for cuisine. There are many recipes out there to enhance your repertoire, and Remy is always on hand to let you know how tasty your meal is shaping up to be.
Fishing, mining, and construction also play a pivotal role in the establishment of friendships, as characters such as Moana and Goofy enjoy fishing and are more than happy to spend time with you to do this activity. You also have the option to give them certain types of fish as gifts. As for mining, not only can you get crafting supplies from it but gems too, which also make fantastic presents. Of course, you can’t bring people to the valley unless they have a house, hence the importance of construction.
Many of these activities exert energy. When you become too tired to perform more tasks, you can either return to your house for instant replenishment or eat a good meal. Usually, I’m a sceptic when it comes to this sort of system, but the use of energy in Disney Dreamlight Valley is done so well. At no point do I feel it’s unfair or that I have too little energy to use.
Better still, as you strengthen your bonds and level up your friendships, you increase the rank of your avatar, which in turn gives a permanent increase to your energy bar. So you see, the team at Gameloft takes care to ensure you can always perform daily tasks to help rebuild the valley.
It should come as no surprise that the valley is huge, and not all of it is accessible immediately. Thorns block access to various areas such as the beach, forest, and mountain pass. This is where dreamlight comes into play. This magical type of currency is something you earn via the completion of daily tasks such as harvesting vegetables or cooking a meal. You can see what’s available to complete via the dreamlight selection of the pause menu.
I love the variety of the different areas of the valley. The meadow holds a certain charm, while the beach gives you access to the ocean where that fresh sea air brings a sense of calmness, and the forest is ethereal in its beauty, despite its darkness. Though perhaps I hold a certain fondness for the Forest of Valor due to a certain ice house that appears there. As soon as I set foot in the building, I can hear a very familiar tune, one that’s about being who you are and not letting the past hold you back.
That actually brings me along nicely to one of my favourite things about Disney Dreamlight Valley – the sound design. The first time I heard that famous tune that all Disney fans know (the Walt Disney theme, the one that plays at the start of every movie), a wave of nostalgia hit me. It gave me goosebumps and took me back to being three years old at Disneyland with my mum for the very first time. It’s a memory I hold dear, so for a game to take me there is something special.
Depending on what area you’re in or what houses you visit, you can hear specific Disney tunes, from Let it Go to the Walt Disney theme, Part of your World, A whole New World, and the Ratatouille main theme. It’s all so wonderful to hear and is complemented nicely by a rather peaceful soundtrack as you explore the valley.
Okay, I think it’s clear that I’m in love with Disney Dreamlight Valley, and I’m certainly happy that it’s a part of my world, but there are some issues in the performance department. To be more specific, the game kicks me out once every hour without fail, and while this isn’t a deal breaker, it’s annoying when I’m nearly done with a quest, only to have to repeat certain steps again. Plus, loading times on the Switch are longer than on other platforms, so it feels a bit monotonous when you have to constantly wait to get back in.
Furthermore, I find myself in the unfortunate position of being unable to bring the loveable planet-loving robot known as Wall-E to the valley. Why, you ask? It’s simple. The mission has glitched out to the point where a task I’ve completed is on repeat and is impossible to finish again, so the poor lil bot must stay in the scrap yard in his realm. However, I do have to point out that the game is in early access, and this is the period in which Gameloft is likely to patch issues such as this.
I certainly believe these problems are an easy fix and have no doubt that by the time the full launch is here, I’ll have Wall-E in my valley where we’ll both have a grand old time together doing the gardening. Despite its performance hiccups, I can’t deny the beauty of Disney Dreamlight Valley, the game looks visually stunning, and I look forward to seeing what my valley looks like when I finish renovating it.
On the whole, I can’t recommend Disney Dreamlight Valley enough. I certainly think the founder’s pack is a worthy purchase to gain access to the game. Better yet, you get to create a whole new world, and that’s something that Disney and life sim fans alike can enjoy. So go on, meet your childhood heroes and don’t just be their guest – be their neighbour and friend.