Disney Dreamlight Valley is a life simulator developed by Gameloft. In this game, you are tasked with rebuilding a village, meeting and befriending a variety of Disney characters, and complete quests similar to RPG quests.
One may drum up similarities between the game and Nintendo’s Animal Crossing, which also featured similar life sim mechanics, and to be honest, I did too when I received my copy for the Nintendo Switch. But after playing the Dreamlight Valley for a while, there are key differences that make this game more than an Animal Crossing with Disney’s skin applied.
Disney Dreamlight Valley Plot
Without spoiling too much, your playable character falls asleep at your rural home and enters the titular “Dreamlight Valley”, where it was full of Disney and Pixar characters co-existing in harmony, until the disappearance of their ruler. Then Night Thorns began growing around the valley, causing the residents to lose their memories, some characters had taken refuge in their home realms. You are then tasked with restoring the valley and getting rid of the Night Thorns.
Unlike Animal Crossing, Dreamlight Valley is a more story-driven affair, and Disney does not pull any punches when it comes to storytelling and featuring their vast IP. Their beloved characters are featured left, right and center. You can unlock quests for each character while befriending and recruiting them. Some feel well fleshed out rather than being mere product placements or nostalgia bait, while others have a more fleeting presence and rarely matter to the main storyline once you complete their quests.
The general gameplay revolves around rebuilding the valley, befriending the characters, and driving away the Night Thorns. To do that, you need to upgrade the village to unlock more realms, meet new characters, perform their questlines, and invite them to inhabit your village to become your neighbours.
At first you mainly help the residents that suvived through “The Forgetting”, and explore each themed Realms which can unlocked using Dreamlight to meet and help other characters, rinse and repeat.
You are expected to complete each character’s fetch quest, which are themed to their own movie, evoking tons of “I know that reference” moments while gaming. My gripe with the gameplay is the variety of quests available. Once you peel off the veneer of movie references, the quests are quite similar to each other.
Star Path & Live Service Shenanigans
Disney Dreamlight Valley has its own answer to battle passes from other games — Star Path. It is available to buy using Moonstone, which costs real-money, and you can access exclusive cosmetic items inspired by a specific area. This might irk a lot of people, considering that this is an all-ages game which costs money to buy, you can still earn Moonstone through gameplay, albeit slowly.
Also, Dreamlight Valley is a live service game, a game model that is designed to keep players engaged and play for as long as possible. For this to work, the developers have to keep adding content to retain its player base (and constant monetisation) instead of a complete game on launch. This also makes the game to be a constant online experience, so no offline play here.
Performance On Nintendo Switch Is Not Great
Disney Dreamlight Valley does not perform well on the Nintendo Switch. It stutters a lot, and sometimes textures load slowly. Graphics are not great either. I’m not quite sure whether this is an issue with optimisation or the now-dated hardware on the Switch.
Fans of life simulator games such as Stardew Valley and Animal Crossing will be delighted by Disney’s answer to this genre. You get to relive the nostalgia of your favourite franchises, and interact with a bevy of Disney characters, with more to be added in the future.
On the flip side, the constantly online live service model despite being a single player game would mean you are at the mercy of your internet connection in order to enjoy this (note that Animal Crossing and Stardew Valley can be played offline).
If you plan to get the game, I would recommend you to play on Steam or other platforms, as it is choppy on the Nintendo Switch. Currently it is on early access for RM51 on Steam, so do expect some bugs and incomplete content. The developers have confirmed that the Early Access will take a minimum of six months, subject to development progress.