Disney Dreamlight Valley Early Access Review

Not taking the Mickey
Disney Dreamlight Valley header

The story of Disney Dreamlight Valley, as you would expect from a Disney property, is simple but ever so slightly verging on the weird. Your character falls asleep in the real world and awakens in Disney Dreamlight Valley, a world of Disney characters that has been plagued with a curse called The Forgetting, causing the denizens to forget their friends, and even who they are. This spread through the area via Night Thorns that contaminated and destroyed everything.

After a quick – or very long if you’re me – jaunt through the character creator, you’re discovered by Merlin and tasked with using the magical powers you have for some reason to purge the Night Thorns, bring the denizens back to the valley that have vanished and restore the valley to its former glory. Along the way, you’ll meet and befriend recognisable faces from both Disney and Pixar, helping them with small tasks and finding them a home to live in the valley. 

Unlike previous Disney games of this ilk, it’s more than just popular films like Frozen getting a showing, although Elsa and Anna do appear. Characters and locations from more modern classics such as Moana and Ratatouille appear in game, and you get to befriend some Disney villains too, because we all know most of the villains of the Disney canon wouldn’t have been as evil if they had just had a friend, right?

Disney Dreamlight Valley Mickey & Merlin

How you go about saving the valley is entirely up to you once you clear the opening tutorial. There’s ongoing story quests, but you can ignore these for hours on end while you harvest heads of lettuce if you so desire. That said, this will mean you don’t get to unlock the other themed biomes in the game, so I wouldn’t recommend doing this unless you really like lettuce.

The variety of activities here is incredible with the player gaining all of the main tools within the first hour of gameplay (shovel, pickaxe, fishing rod, watering can) and then having the ability to furnish the valley from the off. You lack the resources to do it, as you unlock crafting a little later, but the option is there at least. if you factor in crafting, cooking, farming, foraging, character customisation, fishing, mining and digging, there’s a lot to do.

Be careful of your stamina though, which drops with every action you perform. This can be regained fully by returning to your own house, but you can also top it up by eating food of any type or any meals that you have cooked up. If you eat food when you have a full stamina bar, you will become well fed too, which gives you a longer period of activity between rests and also boosts your running speed while active. Make sure you always have a meal or two on you.

Disney Dreamlight Valley Furniture

But, this wouldn’t be a game in this genre without commerce and your two shop owners in this instance are Goofy and Scrooge McDuck. Goofy runs small stalls all over the game world that sell seeds, fruits and vegetables, and will buy absolutely anything you want rid of. Scrooge, however, runs the far more upmarket store selling clothes and furniture, and doubles up as the one you pay to build houses or upgrade buildings including your own house for often extortionate fees. He’s the perfect Disney counterpart to Tom Nook

Based on what I’ve described above, it would be really easy to say that Disney Dreamlight Valley is Animal Crossing with a distinctly Disney flavour. Although this is a fairly decent summary of the game on the surface level, I would say that although this title has its flaws it improves on Animal Crossing in a lot of small ways from a mechanical standpoint.

The biggest differences is that there is quite literally always something to be doing, as opposed to daily flurries of activity, which is impressive considering that this is a ‘real time’ game like Animal Crossing. All of the rocks you can mine, raised spots you can dig up, and fruit you can harvest, and so on, all continually re-spawn. So if you need a garnet for a quest, if you wait a short time all the mining spots will return for you to find one. This applies to everything, so you can play as little or as much as you like and achieve the same goals.

On that note, there are always goals to achieve too. The daily quests for Dreamlight remain constant at the same number, with each completed one being replaced with another. The preferred gifts for each character change daily, and almost everything you do contributes towards another objective too. There’s Dreamlight quests for everything from cooking meals with certain ingredients to simply picking apples or talking to the other characters in the Valley.

Disney Dreamlight Valley Adventuring

Also, Disney Dreamlight Valley is always clear on what it wants you to do and what is available to do at any given time. The map shows any fruit and vegetables available to harvest, as well as where every character is in real time. Any item in your inventory that is required for a quest has a star next to it (pink for character quests, blue for story), and the Collection menu gives a rough location for every item you need to find. It’s very difficult to lose your way in the game.

While Disney Dreamlight Valley feels like a complete game in many ways, it’s currently still an Early Access title, with Gameloft selling access before it goes free-to-play in 2023. The irony here is that paying players have to live with a number of flaws.

The least bothersome of these is the camera, which will sometimes fling itself across the game world for a moment before returning to your character, usually when you close a menu, but there’s others that will impede your progress. Balance is an issue, so you can become soft locked out of completing quests because rare resources are overly rare. Meanwhile, the game can get hung up with assets not loading in, requiring a reset to rectify. These are teething issues likely to be repaired during the early access period, but are fairly big problems right now.

Disney Dreamlight Valley

It should be obvious from my tone that I genuinely love this game. Even so, one area that I would say this game falls short is with the presentation. The visuals are bright and colourful, with the character avatar especially being very expressive, but it’s also visually quite bland. The characters look fine and the world design is interesting at points, but it’s nothing that we haven’t seen countless times before – even in Disney Magical World 2 very recently.

Given that the story itself is a slightly darker fare than Disney normally go for, it would have been great to see a darker edge to the appearance too. A very personal gripe, and not one that diminished my enjoyment too much, but something I wanted to highlight. The music too, although nostalgic with the occasional recognisable instrumental, isn’t doing anything particularly interesting either. Mickey whistling the tune from Steamboat Willie never gets old though.

Disney Dreamlight Valley is already proving itself to be a feature-rich and engaging game, with a really addictive “one more quest” feel to it. Once the issues are fixed, and with some more characters added to the game, this could become the best Disney game in years. Now, if you excuse me, I’m off to continue plugging hours into the game until I get Stitch in my valley as they’re teased in the loading screens and I want to befriend them.
  • Always something to do
  • Perfect for Disney fans
  • More-ish gameplay
  • Several teething issues in Early Access
  • Fairly bland visuals
  • I don't have Stitch yet