With its life simulation Disney Dreamlight Valley, developer Gameloft storms onto the stage shirtless and flexes its muscles like Maui, where other life sims occasionally struggle to make intriguing use of the characters that inhabit their communities. This is an addictive combination of quests and a progression system more typically seen in RPGs with city planning from games like Animal Crossing, even in its unpolished early access condition. With a Disney theme and an all-star ensemble of beloved characters, all of that becomes absurdly difficult to put down. It really deserves the early access title at this time, but it’s already far too simple to lose dozens of hours in this wonderful simulation due to some dull quests, several bugs, and an incomplete final act.

You develop a community, make friends with famous characters, and are sort of scared out by Mickey Mouse’s expression in Disney Dreamlight Valley’s homey premise. You’ll struggle to find room for all the useless goods in your inventory that you absolutely cannot live without, learn how to fish from Goofy and secretly think he’s your real father, and get incredibly depressed when you visit Wall-planet E’s and recall how depressing the movie was. Your ultimate objective is to bring every memorable and skillfully written Disney character to your town, develop friendships with them, finish a tonne of fetch quests to get access to new places and new powers, and accumulate enough wonderful fortune to construct your Disney dream home. Disney Dreamlight Valley should feel familiar if you’ve played Animal Crossing previously, even though it doesn’t hesitate to veer from the established loop of farming, fishing, and mining that is the mainstay of its competitors.

The main distinction is that Disney Dreamlight Valley, wisely, places far less emphasis on the actual village-building and item-collecting aspects that predominate in other games. Instead, it relies on its most important asset, the characters themselves, who are the ultimate unlocking to pursue. For nearly 40 hours, I happily raced on the grindy hamster wheel after completing the necessary missions to persuade Moana or Ariel to finally settle down in my neighborhood — not bad for early access.

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Disney Dreamlight Valley makes an attempt to tell a serious story, something you might not expect from a Disney nostalgia simulator where you hang out with a sailor duck and chef rat, but it does so better than I had anticipated. Although the plot of that story is absurdly ironic, I have to give the developers credit for their originality. As soon as you arrive in Dreamlight Valley, you learn about a terrible disease called “The Forgetting” that has destroyed the region and caused all the cherished characters to lose their memories—a suitably nebulous idea that initially made me scoff. Then I started to understand that The Forgetting was really just an incredibly obvious metaphor for my character growing up and leaving behind their own made-up world. So rebuilding the town and forging relationships with its inhabitants is an attempt to reclaim the innocent wonder of my character, which is (not surprisingly) exactly what I was doing by getting back in touch with these Disney characters. Gameloft, I see what you did there.

Low to High

Every action you do, whether it’s gaining money to renovate your town or Dreamlight to unlock new lands and realms, moves you closer to your goal of enlisting more characters and strengthening your bonds with them. Of course, you can improve your home, buy new furnishings and cosmetics, and all that familiar things, but as far as rewards go, nothing beats getting your favorite Disney character to move in next door. Additionally, when you interact with these folks, you’ll develop social connections that eventually open up rewards and quests. The latter can occasionally lead to your character obtaining a valuable new skill, such as the ability to dismantle massive ice obstacles or remove problematic tree stumps. I kept telling myself “I’ll stop after this one final item,” but the loop is so obscenely captivating that I found myself postponing restroom breaks and disrupting my sleep pattern.

The tasks themselves, though, can be a little dicey, even though pursuing new characters and boosting up relationships is endlessly alluring. Many of them don’t really involve much more than going outside and gathering some berries, making some furniture, or preparing dinner for someone. Even though the majority of them don’t actually take that long to finish, they’re typically so identical to one another that it becomes repetitive. As a result, it can frequently feel like busywork that artificially extends the time it takes you to unlock your favorite character.

But occasionally, rather than just being a means to an end, missions can be genuinely interesting in and of themselves. In one, I chased a magical feather to find Donald Duck, who was forever lost in an eerie, maze-like woodland, while in another, I diverted an enormous stone troll in Arendelle so that Anna and Elsa could reconcile. Sadly, there aren’t many of these intriguing excursions among the sea of considerably less exciting chores.

Again, I was going strong for the majority of my time on it, but as the trip comes to a close, the novelty of this treadmill fades. It’s hoped that this is the area that is still being improved to maintain the early access designation because there don’t seem to be any worthwhile options to advance at the moment. After being so richly rewarded up until this point, that comes as a tremendous shock. For instance, compared to earlier locations, the final two (which require the most Dreamlight to enter) are largely devoid of characters and feel empty. Even though there is a lot of content to consume at this early stage—eight distinct environments, four realms, and 17 characters at launch—if the game draws you in as intended, you can quickly grind through the majority of that material and find yourself with little else to do but check in every day to see what Scrooge McDuck has for sale.

When Disney Dreamlight Valley exits early access, I’m already eager to play it again, but whether or not I’ll keep playing before version 1.0 relies a lot on how regularly the live-service model can provide new content. Nevertheless, a game doesn’t have to provide nonstop entertainment to be enjoyable, and in its current form, it was able to keep me occupied for 90% of the numerous hours I invested in it until anticlimactic came to an end.

However, aside from that, there is some time gating that appears to be unintended and it truly puts a wrench in an otherwise well-built machine. Disney Dreamlight Valley wisely places almost no boundaries on how much you can play or accomplish in a single sitting… at least, not on design. This is in contrast to real-time games like Animal Crossing that restrict your daily progress and need you to log in every day. The same is true for fruit on trees, randomly created flowers, and more. For instance, you can mine ore to your heart’s content, and by the time you leave the region to sell off your haul and return, the deposits will have been restored and are ready to be mined again. Then again, you’ll encounter things like a task that calls for you to gather mushrooms, and you’ll discover that the only effective method to do so is to pick a couple that only appear after resetting each day. This effectively adds the same annoying time gates to an adventure that appears to have deliberately done away with them in other places, making them even more unnecessary and annoying.

Other instances where it doesn’t seem to respect your time include crops that grow way too slowly, water-based characters that swim to places I can’t reach them, and, most frustrating of all, characters who decide to sleep in their house and lock me out when I only needed to enter for a brief period to complete a quest. And as of this writing, there is still no sign of any of those damned mushrooms appearing in the sole place where they can spawn.

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A brand-new world

As the story of Dreamlight Valley’s salvation unfolds, you’ll be treated to a wonderful display of the vibrant places and characters that Disney is famous for. Each character has been so expertly reproduced and given such life that spending time with them brought back memories of scenes from the movies that I had long since forgotten. Additionally, it never gets old to watch Donald Duck lose his head and erupt into a rage without cause. Orchestral renditions of well-known Disney theme songs are playing in the background the entire time, and I couldn’t help but hum along like a sucker for nostalgia. The settings are the only true disappointment in terms of look and feel; given how gorgeous everything else appears, they’re unexpectedly cramped and badly rendered. Even though that problem has become practically synonymous with the genre at this point, it never stops bothering me while I play.

The character-customization and furnishings options you utilize to spruce up your home and town are less monotonous. Given that Gameloft intends to use optional microtransactions as its main source of income once the game exits early access, it shouldn’t surprise me that there are a lot of cosmetic items to obtain, but there are still a lot of them. Similar to how there are many and varied ways to adorn your home and town, visiting Scrooge’s store has become a morning routine (unless you wanted to make a redheaded character, in which case for some reason you can only give them ginger eyebrows).

Additionally, I’m not often impressed by how easy it is to use a user interface, but Disney Dreamlight Valley stands out in this aspect without a doubt. Everything is fairly easy to find, and the crucial collections tab lists everything, from the unlockables you haven’t yet found to the clues you’ll need to refer to for some ongoing missions.

In light of everything mentioned above, it must be acknowledged that Disney Dreamlight Valley plays remarkably well for an early access game. However, performance is frequently and ruthlessly assassinated like Mufasa (too soon? ), which occasionally causes a severe loss of development. However, I also encountered many crashes or broken states that required a hard reset and required me to repeat whatever I had done since the last autosave, which in some of my cases was 15 minutes of progress. Some problems are minor, such as graphical glitches where the world temporarily freaks out and turns neon colors for no apparent reason, the camera temporarily develops a mind of its own, or the framerate takes a dive under the sea. These problems also come up frequently, and some of them got to the point that they were intolerable by the time I had seen everything there was to see in my lovely valley.

Verdict

Disney Dreamlight Valley is a fantastic life simulation that brilliantly and satisfyingly flexes its renowned characters. It’s fun to include these instantly recognizable locals in your magical kingdom and develop connections with them through quests, even though many of them involve running errands around the village. Spending 40 hours running around with the deliciously meaty Maui from Moana and preparing meals with Remy from Ratatouille was a continuously delicious treat, even with a tonne of problems and a missing final act in this early access stage.

FAQs

Will there be additional characters in Disney Dreamlight Valley?

Woody and Buzz, two iconic Toy Story characters, will be included in this Realm update for Disney Dreamlight Valley. Once you finish a number of missions and chores in the Toy Story Realm, both characters should be able to be added to your village.

How do I get to Disney Dreamlight Valley’s Minnie Mouse?

You must increase your friendship with Mickey Mouse to Level 8 in order to save Minnie Mouse. By conversing with Mickey, giving him gifts, and generally “hanging out” with him, you can deepen your friendship with him.

How is Elsa Dreamlight Valley accessed?

Players must have 4,000 Dreamlight once the second floor of the Dreamlight castle has been unlocked in order to enter the realm of Frozen. After entering the realm, players must advance through it sufficiently to unlock Anna; doing so is a requirement for obtaining Elsa in Disney Dreamlight Valley.

Stitch is located in Dreamlight Valley.

You may have questioned if Stitch appears in Disney Dreamlight Valley if you’ve played the game. Sadly, the response is no. Stitch is not currently available in Disney Dreamlight Valley.

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Alex Hoffman-Ellis is a nerd who love technology and computers. He has been building computers for over 5 years now, and have always loved the challenge of learning how to make them faster, better, and more efficient. He's here to share his insights on these as a journalist, a designer and a technologist with love for writing and tech stuff. Words from Alex Hoffman: “Technology is best when it brings people together.”